Warm weather has finally arrived and this means hibernation is over and I thought I would give you some ideas on how to cool off with your dog and the most fun place to be is the beach! So many dog owners have been waiting for this time of the year but we need to know how to best prepare our dogs for the beach, especially if this is their first Summer but more importantly, how to ensure everyone has fun, how to respect the beach and how to keep an eye out for hazards.
Let’s first look at the places you can go to where you and your dog can cool off!
Dog beaches are popping up everywhere in Melbourne and it isn’t that beaches are suddenly appearing, but instead councils are being kind enough to open up more stretches to dog owners due to their popularity. In fact we have the most amount of ‘off leash’ dog beaches than anywhere else, especially on the western side. There are a number of dog friendly beaches in Port Melbourne, Williamstown, Altona and right down to Campbells Cove and Werribee South and if you want to go that little bit further, Geelong and the Surf Coast also have great dog beaches. Most of our dog beaches are also set far back from main roads or have some fencing around them to keep the dogs safe. To find out exactly what beaches are dog friendly, check with your local council or Google Maps as they will tell you which stretches are fine and if there are any curfews attached to them.
Here are some pointers regarding taking your dog to the beach.
- Take note of curfews and whether there are specific hours your dog can and cannot go on the beach. It might be a shared beach meaning both people and dogs can use that stretch but possibly at different times. All beaches are well signed at the entry and exit points so read the signs before you go on the sand. You will also need to take note if your dog is allowed off leash or if it must remain on leash at all times. Rangers do patrol the beaches as it warms up and will issue fines if the rules are not followed
- Always ensure you bring your poop bags with you, there is nothing cool about burying your dogs poop in the sand and someone will step in it or dig it up. Please be prepared, collect it and bin it!
- If the beach is a specific off leash dog beach, you must still manage your dog when it is off leash so this means you need to have very good voice control. If your dog does not come back to you when called, runs and jumps on other people, annoys dogs or displays aggression towards other dogs, then it should not be off leash at a dog beach.
- It is not okay to allow your dog to rummage around through people’s towels and eskies or pee on their stuff so please ensure your dog leaves other people’s stuff alone.
- If your dog drinks the salty ocean water, be aware that it will have a dramatic effect soon after so this means, diarrhoea and possible vomiting. Whilst there is not much to worry about here, you do need to think about it if you drove your dog to the beach. My suggestion is to wait for about 30 minutes after your dog’s last swim, give it plenty of fresh water and if nothing is coming out, as in runny watery poops, then make your way home! If you start smelling foul smells or your dog seems agitated while you are driving, pull over and get your dog out fast!
- Ensure you bring fresh water to the beach so your dog can drink as salt water will dehydrate your dog and even though they know this, when they swim they might still swallow some. Swimming is also a high calorie burner so bring some snacks for your dog too as it will get hungry
- If you cannot walk on the sand barefoot, neither can your dog so you will either have to carry it to the water’s edge or reconsider the whole idea. Dogs can burn their feet easily on hot sand. Before walking your on the sand, place your hand on it palm down and leave it there for half a minute. If it feels fine, then off you go but if it starts to become uncomfortable, then it is not fine
- If you do have a dog that likes to go and annoy all the other dogs on the beach, teach it instead to go and fetch its floating toy in the water. To see some suggestions, click on the links below. The links are of the products sold at a particular local pet store in Melbourne, however you can purchase them from most pet stores. Kong and Aussie Dogs make a huge variety of high quality floating toys that your dog can fetch while swimming. Just make sure your dog brings the toy back otherwise you will end up in there fetching it instead! So maybe try tossing is close to you first and see if your dog brings it back. If your dog starts to really enjoy the game, gradually toss it further and further but sometimes toss a few easy ones in there too. If your dog starts to show signs of being tired, then end the game and let it rest or it will begin to refuse to fetch the toy
- If you have a dog that gets obsessive about swimming and stays in the water for hours and hours, be aware that they can strain their tail muscles and you might notice that their tail is limp for a few days. If the tail does not regain normal movement within 48 hours, please see your vet as they may need anti-inflammatories. Their tail will not be broken but it will be very, very tired!
- If your dog has never been swimming before, the best way to teach it to swim is to encourage it to follow you in and just wade. Please do not carry the dog and drop it in the water or toss it off the pier. This will only terrify your dog and turn it off water for the rest of its life. Just wade in slowly and allow your dog to adjust to the depth and the movement of the water and praise it for being so brave. If your dog needs a break and wants to come out, allow it and then try again later on. The more in control the dog is with learning to swim, the better at building confidence. If you have a friend with a dog that loves swimming, tag along with them as that too will encourage your dog to swim because it will be more distracted; and don’t forget to try a floating toy for it to fetch
- Note that some breeds are really not great swimmers and whilst all breeds have the natural ability to swim, if they panic they will sink and if they don’t have the right body shape, they will sink and can drown. Breeds such as Bassets and Dachshunds are not great swimmers because they have very short legs so they cannot stride well enough to keep them afloat. Other breeds like Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Pugs and Bull Terriers tend to swim vertically rather than horizontally because they have very big chests which act like a buoy. Either way, to assist these dogs you can purchase floating vests that can make it easier and safer for them. Click here for link to Dog Flotation Devices.
- When you swim with your dog, make it fun, splash around with them, wade together and play with those toys mentioned above. You can even try to get your dog to dive off the rocks into pools to get their toy and some dogs absolutely love this game. Both Lisa and I have Jack Russell Terriers and they love diving into the water to get their toys. Just remember they will get tired so when they have had enough, out they come for a rest
- Dogs have sharp claws so if you are swimming together and they come up against you or try to climb on you, they can scratch you quite badly so be careful and try to persuade them to head to the shore instead
- Always give your dog a good hosing with fresh cool water to get the sand out of its coat after you have been to the beach. Sand can be very irritating and abrasive so gently wash the sand out and allow them to then dry naturally
- If there are signs stating to keep your dogs off the beach or a section of the beach due to rare birds nesting, please obey those rules. Whilst these little birds might not mean much to some, they mean a lot to those that appreciate nature, those that are trying to conserve nature and the actual status of those birds is critical. Some species like the Hooded Plovers, are declining dramatically and in tiny numbers because dogs smash the eggs or kill the chicks. We need to accept that these beaches are all these birds have as their nesting grounds so if those signs are around, please stay away. The repercussions could be that the council then bans dog owners from using that beach
- Always be aware of what is washed up on the sand as our beaches unfortunately are also homes to some nasty critters such as Blue Ringed Octopuses, Puffer Fish, Blue Bottle Jellyfish and even Cone Shells. Whilst these creatures too naturally inhabit the beaches, we need to prevent dogs from licking or eating them as they are highly toxic. If your dog goes over to investigate anything on the beach, I suggest using your ‘Leave It’ word to get it to come away and if it does ingest some, head straight to your emergency vet clinic
- If you are a rockpool scrambler, remember that if your dog follows you, it is barefoot so if you are walking over barnacles and rocks and abrasive surfaces, your dog’s sensitive pads will become quite sore and possibly even cut up. Always be mindful that your dog does not wear thongs when it goes to the beach
- Heatstroke is also something to watch out for on those super hot days. Dogs sometimes just don’t have enough sense to take notice of these things and can run and run and run and literally cook themselves. Try to head to the beach in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. If it happens to be a particularly hot day with northerly hot winds, this will almost guarantee overheating so avoid taking your dog to the beach on these days. Aim for temperatures below 30 degrees to be safe
- Keep an eye out for fisherman and their rods as they often have long lines in the water and if your dog runs past them, there is a chance your dog can run into the almost invisible fishing line and get tangled. Watch out for hooks too as they are often left lying around
- Lastly, enjoy the sunset with your dog. Nothing beats having a great long stroll along the coast, grabbing some fish and chips at the local shops and sharing them with your best friend while the sun sets!