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“Oh we do like to be beside the seaside...” True for a lot of people and a lot of dogs as well! A day at the beach can be great fun for human and canine alike, and thousands of dog lovers every year flock to the UK’s beaches and resorts to enjoy a day out with their pet. If you’re thinking of taking your dog for a day out or a holiday to the beach in either summer or winter, read on to find our top tips for keeping your dog safe and healthy, and making sure that the whole family has a great time.
A large number of popular beaches and resorts have restrictions as to whether dogs are allowed to use them- some beaches specify that dogs must be kept on a lead at all times, whereas on some beaches, dogs are not allowed at all. Restrictions are often relaxed outside of peak season, with some beaches only allowing dogs to enjoy them during the cooler months when they are less busy. Check the area and the beach you are thinking of going to before you set out- you don’t want to spend a couple of hours driving only to have to turn back and go home!
This might seem like a funny question, because all dogs can swim, right? Wrong! While all dogs can theoretically swim in so much as if you put them in water, they would instinctively be able to paddle, not all dogs have the conformation and build for swimming. Breeds with large heads such as bulldogs cannot swim, because the sheer weight of their head in relation to their body tips them forwards in the water and makes them unable to breathe. Also, brachycephalic dogs (those with a short, squashed face and muzzle) may have problems in the water in terms of being able to keep their nose above the waves and able to draw in enough oxygen. Even if your dog can swim, remember that tidal waters, even shallow areas, are rather different than still lakes and ponds. Check the details of the tides and the current in the area which you are visiting and avoid any areas with strong currents or rip tides. If the sea is not safe enough for you to swim in (should you wish to) then it’s certainly not safe enough for your dog. If your dog does not like to swim, do not force them. Some dogs will be happy to paddle; some will avoid the water altogether. If your dog does enjoy swimming, keep an eye on them in the water at all times and make sure they don’t swim out too far.
Whether you intend to let your dog go into the water or not, it’s important to keep an eye out for their safety. Don’t let them pick up or eat any of the random detritus they might find on the beach, be that discarded food or random sea creatures! Make sure that your dog is protected by a suitable flea treatment or collar, as sand fleas are rife on most beaches and can easily latch onto your dog. If the weather is hot, make sure that you provide some shade and a resting area for your dog out of the sun, and that they do not become overheated. Similarly if the weather is cold, the breeze coming in off the sea can make it moreso, so keep an eye on your dog’s comfort and temperature, particularly if they get wet. If the sun is bright, even in the winter, you may need to apply a sunscreen to sensitive areas of your dog’s exposed skin if they are prone to sunburn. Finally, be careful of potentially dangerous objects embedded within the sand just under the surface, such as sharp shells and glass. If the beach appears to be particularly littered with sharp debris, move on. Remember to check your dog’s paws for any nicks or injuries when your day comes to an end.
Taking a supply of drinking water and a suitable bowl for your dog is important, as sea water is not good enough to drink- but this may not stop your dog from trying! Keep your dog hydrated and offer fresh water regularly. Around the car park area of some beaches a fresh water tap may be provided, but play it safe and take some water from home with you too.
It goes without saying that when on the beach, just as when in any other public place, you must clean up after you dog. Bag up any poop and dispose of it in the appropriate dog waste bins- usually dog-friendly beaches will have plenty of them around, but you may have to take your bags home with you for disposal. Obey all local signs and bylaws regarding where you can and cannot take your dog, and if they need to be kept on a lead. Remember, the behaviour of dog owners today is what will shape the policy regarding dogs being allowed onto the beach in years to come- don’t ruin it for everyone by careless or thoughtless behaviour.
The beach is great for playing with your dog- take some toys with you and do not encourage your dog to pick up sticks or rubbish from on the beach. Pick brightly coloured toys that won’t blend in with the sea or the sand so that you can spot them easily if lost! If your dog is a fan of the water and likes to play and swim, take some floating toys for a game of catch in the water. Remember to rinse off toy used on the beach once you get home as seawater can contain pollutants and toxins which might be ingested if left to soak in.
When you are ready to call it a day, offer your dog water and cool them down if they have been running about energetically. Saltwater can be irritating to the skin, particularly if left to dry on the coat, so rinse off your dog’s legs in fresh water and dry them thoroughly before taking him home. If your dog has been swimming, rinse them off as best you can and dry them for the journey home. When you do finally get home, you may need to bathe your dog properly with hot water and a suitable shampoo to remove the salt and any pollutants from the sea from your dog’s coat. Have fun!
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