Nothing says summertime like a sandy beach under a sunny sky, with ocean waves lapping on the shore as people sunbathe and play. How about bringing your dog along for the fun?
Taking your dog to the beach should be a positive, fun and healthy experience for both pet and parent, says Lauren Greer, social media manager for pet-travel website BringFido.com.
“The beach is a great place for dogs to exercise,” Greer says. “If the beach allows dogs to run off leash, Frisbee, fetch and splashing in the waves can be quite a workout.”
Below, find eight activities you can do with your dog (even ones who don’t like to swim!) on the beach:
8. Play Fetch
Jonathan P. Klein, a certified dog trainer and behavior consultant in Los Angeles, says a game of fetch can be especially delightful for dogs when played on the beach.
“Some dogs just so naturally love the water that retrieving in and out of the water is irresistible,” Klein says. “I had a dog that would chase a ball as many times as I would toss it in water, but was only interested on land for a few repetitions.”
You could play fetch with Frisbees, too. If your dog likes to catch flying discs, the beach is perfect, so long as it isn’t too crowded and you’re cognizant of other humans sharing the beach, Greer says. “You don’t want Fido pouncing over a sunbather to catch a Frisbee.”
7. Go for a Swim
Ball or not, many dogs just love to splash in the waves. If your dog is new to water, particularly the waves and currents of the ocean, Klein recommends introducing her very slowly.
“If dogs aren’t used to the waves, then they don’t know to expect them and get out of the way,” he says. “So a gentle and safe introduction is important.”
Once you’re in the water, stay close to shore to minimize the risk of encounters with ocean creatures and make it easier to come in from the current.
6. Take a Walk
Have a dog who hates the water? Don’t push any water games and instead, take a nice, easy stroll together to watch the sunrise or sunset.
“Often just being with the owner is all the fun [for the dog],” Klein says.
Before you go, make sure the beach where you want to take your pup is dog-friendly. Some beaches only allow dogs during certain seasons or times, and some require leashes. Pay attention to signs on the beach, as fines for breaking the rules can be hefty, Greer says.
5. Pack a Picnic
If the beach isn’t too crowded and if it allows both food and dogs, consider packing a spread for both people and pups to enjoy. Bring along some dog-friendly fruits and veggies or make your dog a homemade, dog-friendly snack, like watermelon sorbetor ginger treats.
4. Watch Wildlife
Many dogs will enjoy looking at the sights and sounds of the beach, including the natural wildlife found there like seagulls, fish and whales. Keep your dog on leash for her protection and be sure to keep her away from the inevitable (and often tempting to dogs) washed-up, dead wildlife. Greer also recommends steering clear of any beaches that are known to have a lot of jellyfish.
3. Do Some Digging
Do you have a dog that enjoys digging? Let her do it harmlessly by burying something in the sand and letting her unearth it, Klein says. Just be mindful of other beachgoers and their pups.
Like humans, the sun and sand can harm dogs if they get too much of it. Greer recommends avoiding beaches in the middle of the day, when the sun tends to be hottest, as hot sand can hurt your dog’s paws.
Pack plenty of fresh water for you both to drink and, if you plan to be at the beach all day, bring a tent or umbrella to provide you and your dog with plenty of shade and protection from the sun, Greer says. And of course, clean up after your dog, even if she relieves herself in the water or sand, she adds.
2. Explore the Area
Take a run up and down the sand dunes, or use other natural obstacles along the shore line and set up an agility course for your dog. Looking for something more low-key? Take an on-leash exploratory walk and let her sniff all the new smells of the area.
Before you head off, make sure the beach is clean, as trash and broken glass can be hazardous to your dog.
1. Take a Surf Lesson
Yes, your dog really can take surfing lessons at some beaches! Dogs also can jet ski, stand-up paddleboard, canoe and kayak, Greer says. It is important for dogs doing water sports to wear a life vest, Klein says, adding that he knows many people who have taught their dogs to ride a skateboard, then transitioned them to skim boarding or surfing.