Checklist and Tips for Taking Your Dog to the Beach

Published August 2, 2022
Dogs with owner running around the beach

Before you slip on your sandals and hit the beach with your dog, there are a few essential items you need to pack. Along with drinking water and an umbrella, your canine friend might need a life vest, dog goggles, and pet-safe sunscreen. Set yourself and your pooch up for success on the shore with these nine dog must-haves for the beach.

Must-haves for Dogs at the Beach

Before heading to the beach with your excited pooch, there are a few essential items you'll need or should have on hand in case emergency strikes. Never leave home without these must-haves.

1. Beach Clearance

Some beaches don't allow dogs, so always read up on your beach of choice beforehand to ensure it is dog-friendly. Search for pet-friendly beaches in your area, so you're not disappointed when you arrive. It's also worthwhile to note if they require dogs to be on-leash or if they allow off-leash play. If your dog loves frolicking with other pooches, you may be lucky enough to find a designated dog beach near you.

2. Shade

It's impossible to have fun in the sun if you don't bring some shade for your canine companion. Dogs use panting as their primary cooling method, which can be challenging in warm weather and direct sun. You should always provide your dog with shade to prevent overheating. Always bring a large umbrella or canopy to the beach with you. Dogs at higher risk for heat stroke, like brachycephalic breeds or older dogs, may benefit from additional cooling precautions like a cooling pad or portable fan.

Dog at the beach resting under a parasol

3. Fresh Water

Water is essential to keep your dog hydrated and prevent heat stroke on your big beach day. Bring an ample supply of fresh water with you, along with a collapsible bowl or dog water bottle. Have water available for your dog at all times, or offer them water at least every 15 minutes. This will also quench their thirst so they won't feel tempted to drink water from the ocean or lake, which can be very dangerous. The water can also be used to rinse your dog's eyes if sand blows into them or can be poured on their body to cool them should they overheat.

4. Sun Protection

Just as you lather up with SPF on the beach, it's important to provide your dog with sun protection. Any dog can get a sunburn, but dogs with pink skin, light-colored fur, or sparse coats are at the highest risk. Apply a dog-safe sunscreen to vulnerable areas like their belly, inner thighs, nose, and ear tips at least 15 minutes before heading into the sun, then reapply as directed. Hairless dog breeds can benefit from a UV protective body suit.

5. Life Vest

Not all dogs can doggy paddle; in fact, some breeds can't swim due to their anatomy. Owners of Pugs, French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Bassets, Boxers, and Corgis should absolutely invest in a dog life vest for the beach. However, even if your dog is an avid swimmer, having them suit up is still beneficial.

Hidden hazards, such as currents or undertow, can quickly pull your dog under, and exhaustion can strike anytime. Of course, a safety vest is necessary if you plan to take your dog out onto the water, such as on a boat or paddle board. Select a comfortable, well-fitting dog life jacket in a color you can easily spot from across the beach.

Dog wearing a life vest at a lake

6. Dog Goggles

Dog goggles are beneficial for many different reasons and scenarios on the beach. If your dog engages in boisterous, sand-flying beach play, a pair of protective eyewear is a good idea to keep debris out of their eyes. UV protection is also important, particularly at high elevations or for German Shepherds Dogs, who are at high risk for sun-related eye disorders like pannus. Wearing goggles may take some getting used to, but they can help prevent uncomfortable eye conditions.

7. Rust-proof Identification

Anytime you're out with your dog, it's essential to have them wear some form of identification. If you become separated for any reason, having a legible tag with your information will increase your chances of being reunited. However, some metal tags can corrode in salt water, so if you spend a lot of the time at the beach, getting a tag made of silicone or another rust-proof material may be worthwhile.

8. Water Toys

Every dog needs beach toys, but not every toy is meant for the beach. Avoid bringing weighted toys that sink or plush items that will absorb water. Some experts report that even tennis balls can absorb enough salt water to cause a dog harm from ingestion by fetching and carrying the ball. Instead, opt for floating or waterproof toys designed for use in the water. You can choose balls, discs, bones, or more based on your dog's individual preferences.

Dog playing at the beach

9. First Aid Kit

A pet first aid kit is something every dog owner should pack on adventures, beach days included. You can easily make up your own kit using household items, including gauze, thermometer, tweezers, and Benadryl, among other essentials. That way, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing you can provide your dog or someone else's with immediate care if an injury occurs while at the beach (however, be sure not to give other owners' dogs any medication).

Dog Beach Safety Tips

In addition to having the correct beach supplies for your canine friend, you should know what to avoid to keep them safe. Implement these safety tips while playing by the ocean or lake.

  • Don't let them swallow beach water: Because ocean water contains high levels of salt, if your dog drinks enough of it, they could suffer from salt poisoning. Excess sodium in the system will disrupt the electrolyte balance, which can be fatal if not treated. Fresh bodies of water, like lakes or ponds, can be equally dangerous. Drinking algae-contaminated water can cause organ damage, while protozoan parasites like Giardia or leptospirosis thrive in standing water. Frequently offer your dog fresh drinking water to quench their thirst.
  • Avoid peak sun hours: Aim to avoid spending time on the beach between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It will feel cooler outside of these hours, plus the sun isn't directly overhead, which means your pup is at lower risk for sun damage. During these strong UV hours, the sand can also heat up to scalding temperatures and burn your dog's paw pads.
  • Monitor for signs of heat stroke: Keep an eye out for any signs of heat stroke, like panting, excessive drooling, sticky saliva, or vomiting. Immediately move your dog to a cool place and begin cooling methods if you're worried they may be overheating.
  • Stay away from wildlife: As cute as it may be to watch your dog interact with a beach creature, these wild animals may not be safe. Marine critters and sand dwellers can carry harmful parasites or injure your pup. Sea creatures can also contain toxins, so don't let your dog taste them (dead or alive) either.
  • Watch what your dog eats: Keep a watchful eye on your dog to ensure they don't eat sand, pebbles, or shells. These can easily cause a blockage in your dog's digestive tract, which can make them very ill and require surgery to resolve.
  • Clean their ears: Any moisture left in the ear canal can lead to an ear infection, so it's wise to give your dog's ears a quick clean post-swim. Use a veterinarian-approved cleanser and gently wipe out any sand or debris. You should also give your dog a rinse to prevent hot spots or skin irritation from sand.

What to Know Before Taking Your Dog to the Beach

Not every dog will love all aspects of the beach, which is why it's important to tailor your dog beach bag for your pup. Dogs who don't like walking on sand may do well with a pair of booties to protect their paws, whereas those who hate the water may be happy lounging on a towel under an umbrella. With the right dog beach must-haves and attention to safety, you and your canine companion can enjoy many fun days in the sun.

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Checklist and Tips for Taking Your Dog to the Beach