Planning a Day at the Beach (Plus Dog)

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe, Happy, and Calm

If you’re planning on treating your dog to the joys of a day at the beach this summer, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind before you start kicking off your sandals and sprinting toward the shore. Fortunately, most of these precautions apply in equal measure to human beachgoers, so you should already be well on your way toward ensuring a safe, pleasurable beach visit for every member of your party, pawed or not.

First Thing’s First

Long before you start packing the cooler, please (please!) make sure that the beach you intend to visit officially and explicitly allows pets. Policies can vary considerably even between adjacent beach areas, so do not assume the invitation for summer fun necessarily extends to the furry members of your troupe as well. 

Even on the calmest of days, the ocean is not hospitable to first-time swimmers, and no animal should be exposed to open water without first possessing the requisite skill set. A few dips in a nearby pool should help younger dogs start to hone their swimming skills and give any experienced swimmers a chance to shake some of the rust off before the big day. If a pool or comparable body of water is not readily available to you, filling up the bathtub–while not quite as enriching an environment–is a safe, convenient alternative that at least allows your dog to appreciate the experience of being fully submerged in water. Life vests should also find a spot on your beach day checklist, no matter how experienced your dog may be. If you have any doubt regarding your dog’s ability to handle the ocean waves, it is best to leave them at home.

Do Your Homework

Knowing the lay of the land is imperative–even if only as a timesaver–for anyone travelling with pets or small children, and it can spell the difference between basking in a beautiful, sunlit clearing and spending the whole day digging yourself out from under umbrellas, chairs, and bodies which do not belong to you. Most importantly, proper planning will allow for easy access to nearby facilities (like restrooms) and transportation and provide a clear lane of traffic in case of emergency.  

A few extra minutes spent reviewing logistics can save you and your family hours of unpleasantness and discomfort, so don’t hesitate to take another look at your itinerary before you step out the door. Remember, there is no shame in being well-prepared! Getting lost on a one-acre tract of land, on the other hand… 

Watching Your Step

Soothing breezes and bright, tranquil expenses have allowed beaches to attain something of a reputation as the public’s (and Nature’s) playground. Unfortunately, that also makes them a receptacle for all manner of waste and refuse, some of which can be quite sharp. Short of trawling the entire beach dustbin in hand, there are some modest precautions you can take to protect your family’s feet, toes, and paws. Since you’ll be limiting your dog’s activities to a relatively confined area, you should be able to perform a quick inspection for any of the usual suspects–broken bottles, loose metal, jagged rocks, and pieces of coral–without too much strain. Finding your pet a set of comfortable, unrestrictive booties can also help minimize the discomfort of trotting across sunbaked sand all day and even reduce the risk of them sustaining injury should they stumble across any debris. Naturally, you’ll also be helping them make the fashion statement they’ve been aching to unveil for the past two years, and isn’t that reason enough?

Keeping Covered

No matter how many clouds may be in sight, sunscreen remains an indispensable tool in any beach day kit, and no trip in July or August should ever be undertaken without it. Dogs are just as susceptible to skin irritation, heatstroke, and even forms of skin cancer as their “pet parents”, which makes providing sufficient, consistent protection against sunlight an absolute priority from the get-go. Applying sunscreen every couple of hours throughout your stay should help defend against discomfort and more serious health concerns in dogs and humans alike (so be sure to pick up a bottle of pet-tailored lotion or spray). Just think of it as a regularly-scheduled pit stop on the road to a safe, pain-free siesta. Additionally, investing in a “sun shirt” for your tail-wagging companion may also be worthwhile if you don’t think you will be able to limit exposure during the peak sunlight hours or remain fully-shaded throughout your stay.

Managing the Crowd  

While your vision of a perfect day at the beach may not include too many supporting characters, chances are yours will not be the only family taking in the sea air, and a few of them are liable to have critters of their own. For those of us who may be venturing out of the house with our pets for the first time in a while, the mere glimpse of another canine could be enough to derail your holiday before it begins. Helping your dog get reoriented to society is not as dramatic as it sounds, but it is nonetheless necessary for reducing their (and, in turn, your) anxiety level and giving them the opportunity to greet the outdoors with the same spirit of abandon they enjoyed all the way back in 2019. Trips to local dog parks or a brief stroll on a city sidewalk should acclimate your dog to the bustling outdoor environment and keep their nerves in check when you finally do arrive at the beach.

Water: Still Important in 2021

Fresh water–the staple of any journey–is even more vital for those of us who travel with our pets. We at SmartZYME™ can assure you that any inconvenience in hauling a few extra bottles is more than made up for in the security and relief they provide, though it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on the signs of heat stroke (insistent panting, thick saliva, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) and chill some towels and/or ice packs before you set out on your journey either.

To a dog, of course, the ocean represents the ultimate bounty–a tax-free trough that must have been sent straight from the heavens, but it is important that we humans never overlook the fact that ocean water poses a legitimate threat to beachgoing pets. Salt water may be tasty and exotic, but it is more than your dog’s stomach can handle. We’d also be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to remind you that the individuals around you are no more likely to enjoy witnessing a dog suffer intestinal distress (on a hot day, no less) than you would be. 

The Burden of Being a Dog Lover

Particularly when large bodies of water and dozens (or hundreds) of other families are involved, it pays to err on the side of caution. At no point during your trip should your dog be left unsupervised. This does not eliminate the possibility of mishaps and complications, but it does absolutely reduce the likelihood of your pet terrorizing an entire beach’s worth of people and animals. Of course, common courtesy and pet-owning protocol still apply at the beach, so be sure to pack more than the usual share of poop bags–and don’t forget to use them. It’s one thing for cats to do it in the privacy of their own litter box–it’s quite another for your dog to start fertilizing public recreation areas in the middle of tourist season. You might also keep an eye out for nearby “mutt mitts”, with which many beach areas are now equipped, in case of emergency or short supply.

Dogs Don’t Really Make Great Sailors

Endearing as it may be to imagine your cocker spaniel taming the open seas and riding the crest of a fifteen-foot wave to glory, surfboards were never intended to be operated by dogs, cats, or any other animal that refuses to wear a bathing suit, and a public beach is not the proper venue for you to start trying to prove the manufacturer wrong. If you do plan on braving the waves, you’ll have to do so without a “sidekick”…a missed photo opportunity perhaps, but still the safe call.

Don’t Forget to Rinse

One final step for all of you dog lovers: Rinse before departing. As well as sparing the interior of your car unnecessary hardship, washing your dog’s coat before the ride home can help expel skin irritants (e.g. sand and salt) and any unwelcome odors they tend to carry with them. The entire family will be better off for it, and you’ll even be able to keep the windows closed on the drive home if you so choose. 

Your Turn

There you have it. We make no guarantees, but the recommendations listed above should go a long way toward moderating the blood pressure and allowing you to truly relax in an environment that was actually made for relaxation.

To all of our fellow pet lovers, we at SmartZYME™ would like to wish you and your beach companions a very enjoyable, stress-free occasion, and we hope you get a chance to try out our advice at least once this summer. Have a nice trip!