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Before You and Your Dog Head Out to the Beach

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Do your summertime plans involve enjoying water sports and activities such as swimming, and/or boating? Are you planning to include your inquisitive canine in your beach adventures?

First, pet parents will want to make sure their dogs will find the beach a pleasant place to be. Also, whether on or off leash, dogs will likely encounter other dogs, so make sure your own dog is comfortable being around other canines — even if it’s from a distance. Is Fluffy outgoing and social or more of an introvert?  Depending on your plans, you might ask yourself, “Is the kindest, safest option to make other arrangements, such as doggy daycare or a puppy playdate with pup pals she already knows and enjoys spending time with?” 

However, if your pup will be joining you, advanced preparation is the key. Specifically, it’s important to consider the following: local beach regulations, checking in with your vet, training life skills for water safety, and teaching or refining relevant cues. So, let’s dive in!

Find Out About Local Beach Rules and Regulations

  • Please comply with all laws as outlined for each particular beach. Are dogs even allowed on the beach and/or nearby trails? 
  • Make sure your dog is up to date on all legally required vaccinations, and that they are licensed.
  • Are leashes required? Use leashes if they are required, and it is stated as such. If it’s an off-leash place, and you aren’t able to take your dog off-leash, consider finding an alternative outdoor adventure that you can enjoy together, or making other care arrangements for your canine. 

Check in with Your Dog's Vet

  • If you’d like to take your dog swimming, clear it with your veterinarian first and confirm that this fun-in-the-sun activity is age and breed appropriate for your dog.
  • Also, make sure your dog is cleared by the vet, health wise, for venturing out onto the sandy shores. Bring dogs to public places only if they are healthy. If your dog is sick or injured, ask your vet what the best forms of exercise and enrichment should be.
  • Has your dog been spayed or neutered? Unaltered dogs can tend to wander more, listen less, and are often targeted more by other dogs. 

Teach Life Skills for Water Safety

Teach dogs behaviors they will need to make the outing successful. Aside from the activities themselves, what will be involved for your dog? Knowing how to safely get in and out of the water? Wearing a life vest? 

For dogs who enjoy getting in water, make sure they know how to swim. Humans will need to know how to swim too, in case they need to go rescue their dogs! Not all dogs go into the water, but some do. And sometimes it’s not intentional! Always supervise your pets around water.

Also, I recommend very gradually, over a period of time, getting Fido used to a life jacket. Even if he has demonstrated in the past that he loves water but doesn’t really like to “get dressed up,” reward-based training methods can help create new happy associations with water safety skills and gear.

When it comes to encouraging dogs to love wearing a life vest, you can rehearse playing dress-up. Throughout the process make sure to keep the lines of communication open by watching your inquisitive canine’s body language for any signs or signals that it might be best to slow things down or take a break. (When training ‘cooperative care’ skills like this, pets are in control of their own choices and own environment.) 

The goal is for Fido to say to himself, “Wow! Every time that article of clothing touches my body, I get a party!” So, remember to keep up the enthusiasm, patience, praise, and love along the way. Keep repeating this process until the dress rehearsals mimic the real-life procedure you’ll follow before you safely head out on your aquatic adventures together. 

Brush Up on Rusty Cues or Teach New Ones

Remember, the more responsible dog guardians are, the more places we can bring our pups. So, make sure you and your dog are up to speed with these much-needed behavior cues: 

  • Coming when called (or recall). Make your body language and tone of voice joyful and enthusiastic. Send the message that Fido is the most wonderful pup in the whole world and that you’re his number one cheerleader! 
  • Responding to his name (and/or eye-contact/watch me) so he is reminded who is there with him. Please note: When you’d like your dog to answer to his name, call his name only if you’re willing to bet one hundred bucks he’ll respond. Then say his name once; repeating only teaches him that it’s okay to ignore you the first few times. 
  • Leave it. Leaving things alone when asked is essential because rolling in stuff and scavenging beach picnics can be fun. After all, exploring and scavenging are normal canine behaviors! The key here is a heaping helping of praise with a side order of environmental management. You know what your fur kid finds reinforcing. Don’t hold back. Be generous when coaching, practicing, and rewarding this cue!
  • Trading or dropping things when asked to should be a solid behavior because rocks (and other dangerous outdoor items) can seem fun to pick up and chew on.
  • Loose leash walking is great for walking nicely to get from the car (or sidewalk) to the sand. If you and your canine buddy are struggling with leash manners, try your best to address any underlying issues. It’s helpful to think about why your dog might be pulling. Is Fido frustrated, frightened, anxious, experiencing overarousal or releasing pent-up energy? Is he getting enough mental and physical exercise? How can you help him out?
  • Greeting politely should be heavily reinforced because it’s an awful lot to ask of dogs to consistently maintain self-control and bulletproof training around exciting or unfamiliar people and pets. 
  • Body handling can be rehearsed with the goal of teaching your inquisitive canine to not only tolerate, but actually like cooperating with you. To practice, feed morsels of Fido’s meal when drying him off after a swim or bath: a few playful pats and swipes with the towel, then a few snackies. Repeat until he’s dried off. Keep in mind that the toweling comes before the treats each time. This sequence will help create a positive conditioned response. Everybody wins! You and your canine pal harness summertime fun together – and a drenched Fido doesn’t use your couch or rug to dry off when you bring him inside afterwards. 
Golden sitting to greet politely and get pet

If you have questions about any of these skills, please get in touch. love-of-dog training approach can help you keep your dog safe while having tons of fun-in-the-sun this summer! And say tuned; our next post will cover ‘Keeping Pets and People Safe While at the Beach.’

Here’s to enjoying many wonderful adventures with your inquisitive canine!

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