Some of the best things in life are dogs and the ocean. So if you’ve got a waterside vacation coming up soon, you might consider combining these two things to make for one epic weekend. Like most people, most dogs love the water. But that doesn’t mean you should just let your dog off his lead once you get to the water’s edge, so to speak. Dogs don’t always know what’s best for themselves, so it’s our responsibility as pet parents to ensure their health and safety near bigger bodies of water.

With a bit of planning and the following advice, you can ensure that your beach day with your dog stays as relaxing as you’ve planned it.

Research Dog-Friendly Beaches

First and foremost, check to make sure your selected beach is dog-friendly—unfortunately, not all of them are. Dog beaches are better planned and equipped to handle dogs (including their waste) and usually only have beachgoers that are comfortable and happy around dogs, unlike their regular beach counterparts.

And just because a beach is labeled “dog friendly” doesn’t mean that just any dog should show up, either. Some dog beaches may be fenced in, but many are not, which means your dog needs to be well-trained to be off-leash. There are other considerations as well. Research your local dog-friendly beaches here: We recommend you research your local dog beach and check the “About Us” or “FAQ” pages to find out more.

Dip a Paw in First

As we mentioned before, most dogs like water and some dogs automatically know how to swim—that also means some dogs do not. If your pooch hasn’t been exposed to swimming before, it’s important you ease into swimming. In our earlier article about water safety for dogs, we describe in more detail our guidelines for slowly acclimating your dog to swimming, but the highlights are: find a shallow area with easy entry to and exit from the water; make sure that place is free of significant distractions like other dogs; and never, ever, force your dog to go into the water.

Two dogs running on the beach around sunset

Pack Right

Maybe not surprisingly, you will probably spend most of your time at the beach out of the water. So it’s important to pack right for the day. That includes a few things specifically for your dog’s comfort:

1. Hydration

Proper hydration is important on two levels. Primarily, you’re probably at the beach on a hot day, and your dog’s inability to sweat makes serious heat a much bigger issue. But also quite important is to not let your dog ingest salt water. Chances are he won’t want to anyway, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Salt water is extremely unsafe for dogs because it can cause toxicity.

We recommend bringing a collapsible dog bowl and lots of fresh water for your dog. Keep the bottle and bowl in the shade too, so it will also help cool your pooch down.

2. Waste Pickup Bags

Dog waste that hasn’t been cleaned up is not welcome at any beach, even a dog’s beach. A Bags on Board fabric bag dispenser is a great way to show off some style while scooping poop and comes with a handy button strap to attach to a leash or your beach bag so you won’t lose it.

3. Sunscreen and Shade

Did you know they make doggie sunscreen? Did you even know that dogs can get sunburned in areas where fur is thin, like noses and ears? If you can’t find dog sunscreen (they come in wipes or sprays, usually), at least have a big umbrella under which your dog can lay to beat the heat.

4. Toys

Change up activities every once in awhile with a new beach-friendly toy like a frisbee or tennis ball.

5. A Life Vest

If you have a dog that tires himself out easily or is small enough to lose sight of in the water, definitely consider a life vest. It’ll keep your pooch afloat and if you buy one in a bright color, it will make him that much easier to spot in the water.

6. Clean-Up Supplies

After a long day of fun at the water’s edge, it’s important to clean your pooch up right. It starts with a rinse-off with clean water head to toe. Remove their wet collar before you do, to prevent hot spots from forming. Salt and sand are irritants, so at least rinse—and perhaps spray shampoo—your dog before he gets in the car. Be extra attentive when rinsing the nose and eye areas, otherwise sand or salt left there may irritate the skin and cause your pooch to scratch sand into sensitive places.

Finally, once he’s rinsed and towel dried, get ready for the ride back by dropping a training pad or two on your car seat to soak up any excess moisture that was hidden inside his coat. The pads will protect your car’s interior from that moisture.

So that’s it—a recipe for a great beach day with your dog. Do you have any other suggestions or tips? Share them with us in the comments!