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What Every Dog Owner Must Know Before Taking Their Pooch to the Beach

Published: July 21, 2009 | Updated: July 21, 2009

There is something ineffably soul stirring about a trip to the beach shared with a dog who loves it as much -- or more than you do. Sadly, it's becoming more and more rare to find a beach where dogs are allowed, on or off leash, and finding a quiet strand, away from the madding crowd, will take some searching, but it's well worth it, and once you've found it, well worth the effort to keep it's whereabouts to yourself.

Running on sand is fabulous exercise for both of you. It's labor intensive, but easier on the joints than jogging along on harder surfaces. The seawater is marvelous for almost any sort of skin irritations or conditions your dog (or you) might suffer from, as well as being soothing to the soul of man and beast.

If your dog likes to swim in the ocean, you might want to give thought to getting him a life vest. They're available to fit any size dog, from many different places, and are especially easy to find through the internet. Absolutely take a long lead. This is one place an extendable (flexi-lead) leash can be handy. You can keep it semi-taut so that it doesn't snag or tangle when your dog is swimming, but it's there to haul him back if necessary. A harness is a good precaution as well, since most collars will stretch when in the water for any length of time at all. A nylon harness will stretch as well, but won't slip off as easily as a collar that merely has to slide over the head. It's all too easy for dogs to get caught up in the moment, swimming after something floating on the water, or just getting caught on the other side of a wave and losing their bearings. You need to be able to reel your dog in to safety if that happens. Harness and a long, strong leash.

Take plenty of fresh water for your dog. It's no better for a dog to drink salty sea water than it is for you, and having to clean puke out of the car seat on the way home isn't the way to end a day at the beach! Don't forget snacks and meals for him either. You know how hungry you get when you've been cavorting in the waves and rollicking in the sand, so you can figure that he's going to be at least as ravenous as you are -- and probably more so since most dogs throw themselves into the day headlong and without any reservations. (You know how dogs are, they never think to call ahead!) If you're spending the day, bring something that will create shade for the two of you and take rest periods.

You may have to convince the dog to take a break and chill out occasionally, but a bag of goodies can be quite persuasive. Be aware that there are dogs who are susceptible to getting sunburned and need sunscreen protection applied at regular intervals. Some of the spray types are a good choice, only take care when applying them not to spray in your dog's eyes or nose. If you get some in his mouth he'll likely never let you get near him with a spray bottle again, or anything that remotely smells like the offending sunscreen.

Keep an eye out for jellyfish, if you're at a beach where they wash up. You don't want a stung dog. That could ruin the day for both of you, and possibly future days at the beach as well. As with any trip, be aware of your surroundings and what your dog is doing at all times and you should be able to have a wonderful experience. And after you've invested one good day at that perfect beach with your dog, you may find yourself daydreaming and planning to escape more often, and find yourself reciting John Masefield's words to yourself: I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume and the seagull crying . . . Sea Fever.

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