Keeping you dog safe at the beach

Taking a dog to the beach multiplies the human fun as well. A happy dog running along the surf’s edge, rolling in the sand, and playing with other canines is a thing of joy. But, before you take Fido to the beach, here are some safety considerations.

1. Identification. Make sure your dog is micro-chipped or has a collar and tag that can’t possibly slip off. In addition, put a water-proof i.d. tag on the collar with your cell phone number (that’s a good number to have on the permanent tag as well).

2. Vaccinations. Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations for any encounters he may have with other dogs. Also, in the unhappy event of a bite to human or dog, you will want to be able to prove that he has been vaccinated for rabies.

3. Obedience. Do not take your dog off leash unless you are positive he will come on command. We had the scary experience once of letting a well-trained dog loose at the beach only to have her chase a sea gull in the rough winter surf on the Washington coast. We were literally stripping off our clothes wondering if we would survive a swim in the icy water when miraculously the bird turned and came back onshore. Our dog followed. That was the last time we took her leash off. You must also be certain that your dog will come to you if spot an aggressive dog or other danger. Thankfully, our dog came to us on command when we saw her going toward an injured sea lion on the beach.

4. Friendliness. It goes without saying that any dog that is the least bit dog aggressive should never be taken off leash. Also, you must be certain that your dog is friendly to any humans he encounters. He must also not be so friendly that he jumps on people or topples over small children.

5. Pick up Poop. You don’t want to step in it; no one else does either. Please carry a bag (often provided at way stations on the beach) to dispose of your dog’s waste. Kicking a bit of sand over the pile is not disposing of it.

6. Watch for dangers. Look for broken glass, metal, or any other object which could cut your dog’s feet. Also be careful around the water. Not every dog is a good swimmer and sometimes beaches drop off suddenly. If there are sea lions in the water, be careful. Your dog may look like lunch to them. One man told me the sad story of having his Labrador retriever snatched right off a dock in Alaska.

7. Sun and Water. Dogs, especially ones with little hair, can get sunburned. Any dog with a pink nose can get sunburned. Also be aware that your dog will be thirsty after a romp on the beach. Salt water will make him throw up. Carry fresh water for him.

8. Read the signs. Often there are rules such as “Dogs Must Be on Leash” that must be obeyed. And sometimes there are specific warnings. Our dog once drank from a freshwater stream running on to the beach. She became very ill with diarrhea and it was then that we saw the newspaper article about contamination of the runoff in the area.

9. Take towels. Motels don’t particularly appreciate having dirty dogs use their fresh towels. Take your dog’s special beach towel and rinse him off and get him dry before going back in the motel. You’ll also want to cover the car seat with a towel on the drive home as there will always be sand after a day at the beach.

10. Have Fun. There is nothing more delightful than walking a dog on the beach. They enjoy it, you enjoy it, and onlookers will enjoy watching joy in action as well. Think ahead, be safe, and head to the beach.

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