As the temperatures rise, so too does our desire to hit the road and set up for a family day at the beach, full of smiles, sunscreen, hot chips and of course the abundance of water (and sand!). Just like children when they first encounter water, it can be very exciting, but may also be an unsettling first experience for your pet. Here are some handy tips to help you and your pet have the perfect day at the beach.
1. Preparation is key!
Before heading out to a fun day at the beach with your four-legged friend, get an idea of the weather first and make sure the day is not going to be too hot. It’s important to avoid the hottest time of 10am-3pm in the summer. Discover your closest dog-friendly beaches, and learn what toxic critters might lurk on the beach in your area. Bring plenty of fresh water (and don’t forget the bowl!), an umbrella for shade and a long lead with you. Some dogs may also benefit from doggy sunscreen or a sunsuit, if they have delicate pale or pink skin.
2. Slow and steady
If your dog has not been to the beach or in the water before, introducing this new experience in a slow and positive manner is really important. Start off at a distance from the water, rewarding them for calm behaviour and slowly move closer towards the water. Allow them time to take in all the different sensations, the smells, the sounds, the feeling of the sand, and eventually the water touching their paws. Always start and end on a positive note, with plenty of praise, treats and games to ensure you are all having fun! If your pet doesn’t feel like going in the water, that’s ok! As long as the experience is positive for them overall, they may be brave enough to try it next time. Ensuring the trip is safe and fun will set you and your pet up for a sea of success.
3. Make it fun
Water games can be fun for the entire family. Some dogs enjoy playing fetch, retrieving floating toys or simply splashing with other dogs in the shallows. Other pets may just like to use their nose investigate the new environment. Encourage your pet to explore within their comfort zone, just make sure to keep an eye on them so that nothing interrupts your fun experience! Don’t let your pet swallow seawater, pick up things they shouldn’t, or crash another beach-goers uninvited.
4. Forget the forceful behaviour
Not all pets like going in the water, especially if it is a new experience for them. Never force your pet to do something they are uncomfortable with and don’t throw them into a body of water. If your pet decides they want to move away from the water, let them. Again, some dogs prefer to stay dry and play other games on the sand, whereas retrieving-type breeds are more likely to enjoy a swim.
5. Teach them to swim
Contrary to popular belief not all dogs know how to swim, and you may actually need to teach them! Start swim training in bodies of water with a gentle slope where your dog can touch the ground and slowly go out further. Be calm and reassuring and keep training sessions short. You can extend the distance and go a bit further at subsequent sessions, but don’t force your dog to do something they are not comfortable with. Lots of praise and rewards make their experience with water a positive one. Once they are comfortable submerging their body they may start to paddle. Some dogs may need a little help, and you should hold and support their body. Floatation vests are available too, for extra safety.
If you have questions about water and sun safety, or if you want to find out more about dog-friendly beaches in your area, speak with your local Greencross Vets.
P.S. Remember, WebVet is available 24/7, anywhere, anytime! If you need vet advice while at the beach, you can speak with a vet via video call with WebVet.