Everyone knows about taking your dog to the seaside. Most dogs love it, even if a few won’t go anywhere near that ‘terrifying enormous cold blue thing’. However, the opinions of non-dog-owning beachgoers are very sharply divided! Some are happy to see animals enjoying themselves in the sunshine, and others are concerned about less conscientious pet owners allowing the beach to be fouled. Many beaches in this day and age now clearly mark whether they are ‘dog friendly’ or not, or whether they have specific areas where you can take your dog and participate in some fun.
So, what is a dog owner to do? It’s not exactly seaside weather right now in the UK, but the summer months aren’t far away and by all reports they are going to be getting steadily hotter year on year. What shall we do to get our pets some exercise and enjoy some time in (or at least near) the water?
Well, there are a surprisingly large number of specifically dog friendly beaches, water parks and other splashy attractions opening. Better still for those of us in the more landlocked counties, some of these parks are many miles from the seaside. Watersports with your best friend can be stimulating for both of you, so get afloat.
Here are just a few of the more organised canine water sports events popular all over the UK – again, mostly in the summer but depending on whether you care about the weather – most canines don’t!
Call it Dock Diving, Dock Jumping or the more formal Canine Aqua Sport title, it is all the same – dogs running down a pier at full speed and joyfully leaping into deep water. Many organisations run regular competitions every summer, where dogs can run down a purpose-built deck into a large swimming pool or body of water, depending on the location. Participants compete for jump distance, jump height and sprint speed.
Or, as it’s called at home, throwing a stick into the water for your dog to fetch. This is a classic, and really wouldn’t need a special entry, except there are now organisations that run competitions, typically based on which dog swims out and retrieves the stick or other item the fastest. Closely related Dog Diving involves retrieving weighted toys for the bottom of a pool or body of water.
Surfboards designed for dogs are widely available, as well as lifejackets and a range of other necessary equipment to keep your dog safe. It is a good idea to get your dog a bit of professional training before you attempt this, and of course this is only possible for dogs who are quite string swimmers.
If Rover isn’t quite up to surfing yet (if you’re not sure, he probably isn’t), paddle boarding can be a good way to start. It will teach the animal how to balance on the board and can make for a very tranquil afternoon in any lake without actual ‘surf’ to surf.
Fun in the sun with like-minded individuals and dogs who like the company of other canines, makes these events a sociable time. Dog Aqua Centres have a ‘free for all’ afternoon, when adults and dogs can all join in together, if you enjoy that kind of entertainment.
Well, there are a wide (and growing) range of indoor and outdoor dog water sports sites and venues, and the ones in your area are just a Google search away. We can give you a few good examples of dog friendly public beaches, though:
Right in the heart of metropolitan London sits beautiful Hampstead Heath – and a dog pond dedicated to our 4-legged friends. Fair warning, though, the attached woodland is massive (especially for a Londoner) and you could conceivably become lost. This makes it an excellent choice for a day out with the dog(s) even when it’s a bit too brisk for a swim.
Better still, quite a few dog-friendly pubs, restaurants and other attractions have arisen over the years to cater to the dog-pond crowd.
Not only did a pub in this spot win ‘Best Café/Restaurant’ in the Kennel Club’s Be Friendly Dog Awards for 2015, most of this stretch of prime seaside is particularly dog-friendly.
The pub itself welcomes dogs, of course, and features something that strangely enough many seaside establishments don’t have – a dog wash booth to get all the sea water, sand and other detritus off your happy pooch after a frolic. It keeps both the pub and your car clean!
Neither of these anywhere near you? Fear not! Dog-friendly water sports and events are becoming more common every year. Search online, and you’re sure to find something near you!
One thing we really do have to stress is safety, though. It is just like the seaside – if you dog is a poor swimmer, please don’t take them dock jumping, dog diving, or any similar activities. It just isn’t safe, and it isn’t going to be much fun – for either of you!
Each facility will have their own safety guidance, and you should read this very carefully before participating.
It is risky to take certain categories of dogs into a body of water. Brachycephalic dogs (flat faced, short nosed) such as pugs or bulldogs may struggle with water and swimming, and in fact it could be dangerous for them in terms of breathing and taking in water. If you are unsure, check with your vet before taking a chance.
Some dogs also suffer from skin conditions which could be exacerbated by salt water or chlorine in pools. Again, take precautions and if you do decide to take them swimming, ensure that salt water or chemicals in swimming pools are washed off their skin and fur after they participate.