By Dr. Becker
Nearly 70 percent of dog owners say they have missed out on spur-of-the-moment trips because they couldn’t find someone to care for their dog.1 An alternative (aside from finding a reliable pet sitter) is to make arrangements for activities that you and your dog can enjoy together… like going to the beach.
Not all beaches allow dogs, but many do. You’ll need to check ahead of time, as some have certain dog-friendly areas or only allow dogs on leashes or at certain hours of the day. Some beaches take it to the next level, offering fenced in “dog playgrounds,” pet-friendly restaurants, and even special showers where you can help your dog rinse off all that salt and sand.
So if you enjoy going to the beach, don’t miss out on the opportunity because of your dog; with a bit of planning you can find a dog-friendly beach and, if necessary, nearby dog-friendly accommodations for a day-trip or extended getaway.
8 Dog-Friendly Beaches
Dog-friendly beaches can be found across the US. Here are eight options, recently featured in VetStreet,2 where you and your dog can have some fun in the sun, surf, and sand.
1. Algiers Beach, Gulfside City Park, Florida
This beach on Sanibel Island allows dogs as long as they remain on a leash (leashes cannot be more than eight feet long). Owners must also clean up after their dogs. The beach itself is tropical with a nearby nature preserve and picnic areas. Pet-friendly restaurants and accommodations are available nearby.
2. Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Illinois
Montrose Beach has an area where dogs are allowed to roam off-leash. Owners are expected to clean up after their dogs “immediately,” and dogs must be leashed in the entering and exit area. To visit Montrose Dog Beach, your dog must also have a current Chicago Park District DFA (dog friendly area) tag.
3. Cannon Beach, Oregon
This beach is about an hour from Portland, Oregon. It welcomes your dog either on leash or off-leash, as long as you can keep him under control with your voice. Rock formations at this beach make it a unique destination, and there’s a nearby state park (Ecola State Park) if you also want to do some hiking.
4. Galveston Beaches, Texas
Dogs are welcome on all Galveston Island beaches, as long as they are leashed. Here you’ll find long stretches of beach, bird watching, and nearby Galveston Island State Park for picnics or camping (where leashed dogs are also welcome).
5. Block Island, Rhode Island
Block Island public beaches allow dogs on leashes. The beach is wide and long (17 miles), perfect for a long walk on the beach (and keep a lookout for local landmarks, including lighthouses and bluffs).
6. Nags Head Beach, North Carolina
Dogs are welcome at Nags Head Beach as long as they are leashed. Many shoreline sports are available here (sailing, etc.) and there is a nearby town called Kitty Hawk to explore.
7. Marconi Beach, Massachusetts
Leashed dogs are welcome at Marconi Beach, which is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. It has smooth sand, dunes, and bluffs, making it a favorite spot for people and dogs alike.
8. Huntington Dog Beach, California
A section of Huntington Beach (about an hour from Los Angeles) allows dogs as long as they are leashed and owners pick up after them. The area is described as a great “dog community” for owners and dogs to socialize, and, if you visit in September, you can watch the annual Surf City Surf Dog competition.
Beach Safety 101: Be Sure Your Dog Stays Cool
It might seem like a given that your dog will go in the water to cool off, but not all dogs enjoy water, and if your dog is on a leash he might not have access to water on the beach at all.
So, as with any outdoor activity, it’s important to watch for, and prevent, overheating in dogs while you’re at the beach. Some pets are at higher risk for heat-related illness than others, including brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat faces and short noses, such as English Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Pekinese, and Shih tzus), older pets, puppies, dogs that are ill or have a chronic health condition, and dogs not used to warm weather. Signs that your dog may be overheating include:
Heavy panting or rapid breathing Elevated body temperature Excessive thirst Weakness and collapse Glazed eyes Increased pulse and heartbeat Vomiting, bloody diarrhea Seizures Bright or dark red tongue and gums Excessive drooling Staggering, stumbling Unconsciousness
When you’re at the beach, I recommend having a shady spot for your dog to retreat from the sun (such as a beach umbrella). You’ll also want to bring a large towel or blanket for your dog to lie on, as sand can be extremely hot and may burn your dog’s paws. Fresh water and a bowl for your dog to drink from are also musts on any trip to the beach. It’s very important to offer your dog plenty of fresh water at the beach, not only to prevent dehydration but also to discourage him from drinking seawater.
Doggy Beach Gear: Sunscreen and Life Vests
Did you know that dogs can get sunburn, too? This is especially true if your dog has a pink nose or is:
If your dog is hairless, you might want to keep a t-shirt on him while you’re at the beach. Other dogs that will be spending a lot of time in the sun may benefit from a dog-safe sunscreen. Do not apply “human” sunscreen to dogs, however. If it contains zinc, it will be toxic to your dog if he licks it off his fur. You can apply sunscreen on your dog’s ears, nose, inner back legs, and belly. Along with sun safety, you'll need to be prepared for water safety.
Not all dogs can swim well, so don't assume yours can unless you know it to be the case. Your dog should wear a life jacket, especially if you'll be boating or allowing your dog to swim in open water. A life vest is especially important for brachycephalic or short-legged breeds and puppies. Even with a life vest, be sure to supervise your dog carefully when he’s in the water; rip tides, waves, deep water, and marine life (from sharks to jelly fish) are all potential hazards. If your dog doesn't always respond to commands when you call him, don’t let him off leash. And if you’re going to be boating, attach a rope to his life jacket so you can pull him to safety if necessary (this is also a good idea if you're letting him swim in a river).
Be aware that swimming can lead to water intoxication (which can cause excessively low sodium levels, or hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition) if your dog ingests too much water. Symptoms include lethargy, weakness, confusion, vomiting, seizures, and coma – if you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary care immediately. Finally, after your dog has been swimming in salt water, it’s a good idea to give him a rinse with fresh water. As mentioned, some beaches do have shower areas for dogs, but if yours doesn’t, give him a good rinse when you get home so the salt water doesn’t irritate his skin and paws.
Beach-Going Etiquette for Dogs
When bringing your dog to the beach, most of the same rules apply as when bringing your pet to a dog park. Most doggy beaches depend on owners to help keep them clean, so be sure to bring waste disposal bags with you and promptly clean up after your dog. It’s appreciated if you also fill in any holes your dog has made in the sand, and also prevent him from chasing or disturbing local birds and marine life (such as crabs or sea turtles).
If your dog is aggressive, ill with a communicable disease, or a female in heat, avoid visiting the beach or any other public dog space. And, of course, if you notice your dog becoming over-aroused (engaging in fast-paced, noisy type play that may cross the line from fun to fighting at any instant), call him back to you for a break. By following these basic rules of doggy manners, beaches remain a pleasant place for dog owners and non-owners alike, which means dog-friendly beaches are apt to stay that way… and more may follow suit.