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Keep Pets and People Safe While at the Beach (and Other Aquatic Adventures)

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If your pup will be joining you this summer as you’re heading out to make a splash, some general guidelines can help you both enjoy a safe and happy time. 

Will this be a first adventure? Your pets might find aspects of a beach outing a bit stressful initially– unfamiliar sights, sounds, and scents, the water safety gear, etc. Our previous post, Before You and Your Dog Head Out to the Beach dives into the many steps you can take to prepare ahead of time for a safe and fun beach outing. 

Now, let’s tackle the “day of” items such as packing supplies, water safety tips, understanding canine communication, and a bonus advanced training tip to set you and your dog up for future successful outdoor excursions!

Pack Supplies Mindfully

When out and about, especially on beach or boating adventures, remember to:

  • Pack dog friendly snacks and plenty of water to fulfill those doggy biological needs. 
  • Carry proper elimination bags with you. (Please always clean up after your dog.)
  • Bring your dog’s life vest.

Water Safety Tips for Dogs

  • All the diversions at the beach can be overwhelming, and sometimes scary, so dogs usually need a slow introduction. 
  • Always supervise your pets around water. Getting caught up socializing with friends can result in your dog wandering off and getting into a dangerous situation. 
  • Since being on the sandy shores includes many distractions, be sure to be the life of the (beach) party! And, when calling your dog to come to you, stick with the cute little nicknames and happy voice so your dog loves returning to you when you call him. 
  • This outing is no time for teaching new behaviors; this is, however, the perfect opportunity to practice generalizing known cues. Plus, frequent rewards delivered during these training games can help motivate your dog to stay interested in you, rather than wander off, where you can’t keep an eye on him.  
  • If your pet knows a cue for eye contact (or watch me), this is a great time to use it. Help your buddy out by setting the stage so that he’s likely to want to check in with you no matter what else is going on.
  • Once Fido’s comfortable wearing a life jacket, you can make any necessary adjustments to ensure the garment fits well so he can’t trip over it, wiggle out of it, or chew it off. Of course, you also want to make certain he can move freely and comfortably in it.
  • If your inquisitive canine enjoys swimming and playing in water, ensure he or she has easy access to get OUT of the water (and knows how to), especially in a pool or coming onto a boat. 
Poncho at beach with ball

Do You Speak ‘Dog-lish’?

As a rule, when out adventuring, monitor your dog, her behavior, and her communication. Is Fluffy comfortable and does she appear to be having fun? Or, does she appear more apprehensive, showing body language that she wants to retreat to safer spaces? 

It helps to be able to recognize dog play versus bully behavior. Is your dog being asked to play? Targeted by a bully? Is your own dog wanting to play? Or being a bully themselves? Try to take a moment to “paws and reflect” and look at things from a doggo’s point of view. 

Additionally, be careful of humans wanting to say hello to your dog, or your dog wanting to go say hello to others. This caution goes double for younger kids. Not all dogs do well with kids. Some pooches might be afraid, while others might want to play too roughly. For the safety of both dogs and the public, help your pet feel safe and calm, watch for any signs of discomfort or conflict, and if they are noted, try to improve the situation for your pup.

BONUS TIP - Save Your “Come When Called” Cue!

For off-leash beach adventures, here’s a pro tip: Rather than waiting until you need to leave to ask your inquisitive canine to come to you, periodically practice calling him to you and then releasing him back to resume the fun! This way, he’ll associate running to you as being tons-o-fun, as opposed to a signal that playtime is over. Then, when you actually need to leave, just go get your dog so you don’t end up ruining your recall cue.

If you have questions about any of these skills – such as reading dog body language, creating happy associations with water safety gear, or training and maintaining a reliable recall cue – please get in touch. 

Here’s to bringing out the best in your best friend using a humane, force-free approach!

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