One of the the world’s simplest pleasures is spending a day with your dog in the great outdoors. Whether it’s a forest trail, or a mountain lake, each habitat has its own specific set of rules, so when you’re planning on a trip to the beach, it’s important to know the local laws beforehand. Some, for example, only permit leashes 6 feet or shorter, and a handful of southern locales don’t allow dogs after dark when sea turtles are laying their eggs. Most of us know to scoop the poop, but there are a few other rules you can heed to make a day at the beach, well, a day at the beach!
1. The cardinal rule: pay attention!
It’s easy to get distracted by the scenery, or caught up in a conversation, but take an eye off of Bowser for one second, and the next thing you know he’s odd man out in a volleyball game, or humping a sandcastle. Some beach goers will welcome a wet nose, but others want to lounge in peace. And just because it’s an off-leash location doesn’t mean that everyone should tolerate unruly behavior, so it’s especially important in this situation to have complete verbal control over your dog.
2. Respect and protect the environment
Each coastline has its own unique habitat and wildlife, and it’s important that dogs don’t disrupt other “residents.” While it’s kind of the quintessential image of doggy freedom, don’t let pup chase birds on the beach! Many of these birds use beaches as stopovers during their migrations, so they need to preserve their energy. Also keep them away from nesting shorebirds.
Another favorite pooch pastime is digging holes in the beach, but this is a big no-no. It poses a hazard to other beach goers, especially little kids, and can become death traps for baby sea turtles making their way to the sea!
3. Pack right, but pack light
The only real essential is plenty of cool water to keep everyone hydrated, and to keep your dog from drinking seawater, which can make him ill. Some optional items include protective sun gear, such as sun guard shirts, zinc-free sunblock, or even goggles to protect their eyes from the sand.
What’s more important is what not to bring. Montrose Beach in Chicago is explicit in its list: no kites, whistles, prong collars, or muzzles, and a maximum of three dogs per person. The most common infraction is people feeding other people’s pets; some have allergies, and others get food aggressive, so leave the treats at home.
4. And finally, be a good watch dog
It’s a good idea to scan the scenery when you first arrive in order to avoid hazards such as broken glass, fish hooks, boat parts, or dead fish that might harm you and your pooch. If your pup is a swimmer, make sure you check with lifeguards for water conditions, as dogs can be easy targets for predators including sharks and jellyfish. AH!
A good rule of thumb: leave only footprints, and an adorable trail of paw prints, behind, and you’ve done your job.