Fun at the Beach—With Your Dog!

Taking your dog to the beach this summer? Once you’ve factored safety into your plans, there are plenty of fun activities you can enjoy together.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beach. The question is, should you take your dog? If he’s the active type who likes people and other dogs, there’s no reason why not. You’ll need to find a dog-friendly beach, of course, and ensure your canine’s safety and comfort while you’re there. But once you’ve checked those boxes, you can relax and enjoy with some dog-centric beach activities!


The first step is to take a close look at your dog’s behavior, needs, and personality to determine if she’ll take to a beach environment. Does she enjoy being around people and other dogs? Does she like the water, and having sand between her toes? Is she a sun-seeker, or does she prefer shade and cool days?


This can take some time, but itʼs an important step. You don’t want to arrive at a beach only to find that dogs are not allowed. Even though you may have seen a dog at a particular beach, that doesn’t mean it’s canine-friendly; service dogs always have access to public spaces, while some people simply ignore the rules. Also know that the beach may only permit dogs at certain times or seasons.

The internet is a great place to start when looking for a dog-friendly beach. Search for beaches in the area you want to visit, then go to the city’s website and look up the beach. Most of the time, you will find a policy section that details the rules pertaining to that particular beach. If not, a simple email or phone call should get you the info you need.

Tip: Certain breeds may like the beach more than others. Most Labs and retrievers will love it, for example, but some smaller breeds may find it daunting.

Keep in mind that some beaches allow dogs off-leash, while others are on-leash only. You’ll need to balance the pros and cons of each. You may think an off-leash beach is best, but not all dogs are friendly and play well with others. If your own dog is fearful or shows aggression around other dogs, an off-leash beach may not be the best option for you.


  • Beach sand can be very hot! On your way to the water’s edge, protect your buddy’s feet with dog boots or socks. If your dog is small enough, carry him or use a buggy to get him across the hottest stretches of sand.
  • Even the most sun-loving dog needs access to shade. A beach umbrella or pop-up cabana is essential.
  • Bring plenty of beach towels to lie on and dry off with, for your dog as well as yourself.
  • Other necessities for a trip to the beach with your dog include:
    • Plenty of fresh water and a bowl
    • Healthy treats
    • Poop bags
    • First aid kit
    • Waterproof toys
    • Harness and leash
    • Doggy lifejacket


  1. Look at the water conditions: If you plan to take your dog into the water, look at the conditions before taking the plunge. Can she swim? Are there strong currents and waves? A life jacket helps keep your dog safe and her head afloat. If the rules permit it, a long leash attached to the top part of the life jacket is a great safety option.

Top: Once you’re at the beach, be sure to follow the rules, including picking up your dog’s waste. Too many people failing to do so could result in dogs being permanently banned.

  1. Consider marine life: If you’re at the ocean, know that stingrays and jellyfish may be a hazard, not to mention sharks in some parts. Do some research on your destination to find out what forms of sea life you may encounter either in the water or along the shoreline. Freshwater lakes may also present risks you should be aware of, such as algae or zebra mussels (the shells can cut your dog’s feet — and yours).
  2. Be aware of water intoxication: Also known as hyponatremia, water intoxication occurs when too much water is ingested. Your dogʼs kidneys cannot flush it all out so it dilutes the sodium in the bloodstream, causing cells to swell. Retrieving toys in water can lead to water intoxication because the dog is consuming water when he grabs the toy. Symptoms include lethargy, weakness, seizures, vomiting, and abdominal distension. Water intoxication can quickly become fatal, so seek emergency veterinary treatment if you see any of these signs in your dog.

Tip: Saltwater poisoning can also occur, so don’t let your dog drink ocean water. Providing fresh water from home prevents dehydration.

  1. Be careful of heat stroke: All dogs can get heat stroke, but some breeds are more at risk, as are dogs with certain health conditions. Short-nosed, flat-faced breeds are at higher risk because their airways are short and they cannot cool themselves quickly enough. Dogs that are overweight or older, have a heart condition, thyroid disease, lung disease, or a collapsing trachea are also at higher risk for heat stroke. Signs include excessive panting, rapid pulse, loss of balance, drooling, and fever. Immediately cool your dog with cool — not cold — water, particularly on the head, armpits, and groin. Seek immediate veterinary care.

Now that all the preparations and precautions are out of the way, it’s time for the fun part! See below for a list of beach games and activities you can enjoy with your dog. Then, when it’s time to go home, rinse her off to remove any sand or salt water, or give her a bath. Be prepared for a tired but happy dog!

Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (


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