Barkin' at the beach: Playing safe with your dog at the shore

Taking your dog to the beach requires some preparation, know-how and a little common (or canine) sense. Photo: Jack Kenner

OXNARD, CA, June 1, 2013 — Today, there are more beaches across the country that allow dogs. Since I live just a block from a dog-friendly beach in Ventura, California, I see canines and their owners having fun in the sand and surf just about every day.

I’ve visited many of the dog friendly beaches in California including the Coronado Dog Beach, famous for the annual surf dog competition at the Loews Coronado Bay Hotel coming up later this month on June 22; The Huntington Dog Beach, boasting a “mile of doggie heaven,” Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach, Leo Carrillo State Beach in tony Malibu, and Fiesta Island Dog Beach in the dog friendly city of San Diego.

It’s easy for me to run down the street daily with Bliss and spend just a half-hour on the shore but most people need to plan ahead to ensure the safety of their four legged family member. I’ve put together some helpful tips designed to help you and your dog get the most out of your day at the beach:

First off, remember that not all dogs know how to swim. My Bliss was one of those dogs that had to take swimming lessons in order to feel confident in the water. There are many articles and videos on the internet with instructions on how to teach your dog to swim, whether from the Wall Street Journal or YouTube.

Bring plenty of fresh water. Your dog is sure to work up a thirst from all that frolicking in the sun. There are many portable water bowls on the market easily purchased online.

Consider treating your dog’s nose and ears with sunscreen, especially if he has a fair coat and pink skin, as dogs with these features can burn easily. Ask your veterinarian before using sunscreen on your pet.

Canine sunscreens should always be re-applied if your dog plays in the water or rolls around in the sand. Make sure the one you use is non-toxic in case it becomes ingested.

If there’s a lifeguard, ask about the day’s conditions. Is the tide especially strong? Are there jellyfish or other potential hazards your dog might encounter? It’s a good idea to equip your dog with a pet life vest, easily found at your local PetCo —especially if the waves are big.

Don’t let your dog overexert himself. Running on sand and swimming in the ocean exhausts dogs much more quickly than a typical walk in the neighborhood. Make sure to find or bring some shade where you pet can relax.

One suggestion is the K-9 Koolee Pop-up Canopy Shelter. The ultimate portable pet cooling and shelter system was designed for pets on the go. It provides shelter from the sun and cooling from the heat without needing electricity or batteries.

Simply soak the polymer inserts in water and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Bring some beach appropriate toys. Bliss loves her Kong Flyer. She also likes to chase a ball. I use the Chuck It Dog Toy to launch the balls into the water, cooling Bliss off while jumping the waves in pursuit of the tennis ball.

Be sure to pack poop bags. It’s up to all of us to keep our beaches clean so be sure to always pick up after your furry friend.

Bring an extra towel for your pooch. I like the Microfiber Pet Towel from Dogs Unleashed. The microfiber absorbs and holds all excess water, pet hair & dander while offering a convenient and easy way to dry your pet off after a day at the beach.

Watch for signs of overheating in dogs, which include:

  • Excessive/rapid panting and drooling
  • Coordination problems
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness 

Take your dog immediately to an emergency vet if he or she experiences any of the above.

Finally, when you leave the beach, be sure to rinse your dog’s coat and check the pads of your dog’s feet for any cuts or abrasions the sand may have caused.  If you discover any, consult your veterinarian about pad care. 

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Susan Hartzler

As a consumer dog product and service expert, Susan Hartzler is up to date on the latest trends for dogs and their guardians. Dogs are her passion; so naturally, the subject is something she knows about from both a personal and professional basis.

An award winning writer, Hartzler is a contributor to New World Library’s “Dogs And The Women Who Love Them,” an Oprah pick, and Simon & Schuster’s best selling “Divinity of Dogs.” A short story she wrote about her first therapy dog, Baldwin, was published in Animal Wellness Magazine and awarded the Angel on a Leash Award from the Dog Writer’s Association of America.  Hartzler has developed a loyal following of dog lovers for her serial blog,, a personal journey about dogs and men. She and her dog Bliss are a therapy dog team and visit children in the oncology ward at County USC Medical Center. For more information, please visit


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