We're lucky to have so many beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers in Britain. They're wonderful places to enjoy with our dogs, especially when the sun's shining.
However, there can be hidden hazards for your dog. Here are some things to bear in mind if you're planning a seaside trip with your pet pooch and how to keep them safe.
Are dogs allowed on the beach?
Before you head out onto any beach, check if dogs are welcome. You'll be able to find out online or by checking for signs when you arrive.
Some beaches only allow dogs at specific times of the year or in certain areas. This can be a bit annoying for dog owners who want to enjoy the beach but remember that it's so everyone can enjoy the seaside safely.
Always clean up after your dog when you visit the beach together, just like on any other dog walk. Dog welcome beaches usually have poo bins readily available. It helps keep the beach clean, safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Swimming is great exercise for dogs and can help them cool down on a hot day, but make sure they stay well hydrated with fresh water, so they’re not tempted to drink sea water. Most of the time it's a safe, fun activity for your dog but it's important to be aware of the dangers and what to do in an emergency.
Not all dogs are natural swimmers and can even be a bit scared of the waves. But, if your dog's keen to dive in, they'll need to get the hang of how to swim. The sea isn’t the best place for them to take their first dip. Read more about keeping your dog safe in and around water.
Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, the sea can be unpredictable. There are lots of strong currents, undertows and rip currents – even a calm looking sea can have hidden dangers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let you dog swim, but a bit of caution can help keep them safe:
- Check if the beach has a lifeguard on duty. They are professionals there to keep you and your dog safe.
- Look out for signs or flags warning you not to swim. A sign showing a white circle with a red line through it or a red flag means you shouldn’t swim (and neither should your dog!)
- Don’t let your dog swim if the sea looks dangerous – for example, if the waves are very big or if you know the tide is turning.
- Dogs can struggle when swimming in very cold water, so be aware not to let your dogs in the sea if it’s very cold.
If your dog does get into trouble, don't go into the water to help them. Call 999 and ask for the coastguard. It's natural to want to protect your dog but going into the water could put your life in danger. Staying on the beach will mean the coastguard can focus on rescuing your dog.
It's likely that any day out to the beach will be loads of fun for you and your dog. However, there are a few things that could ruin your day. Knowing about these beach hazards can help you avoid them:
- Keep cool: The weather might feel cooler in a sea breeze but temperatures can quickly soar. Protect your dog from heatstroke by making sure they have a good area of shade to sit in and fresh water to drink. Avoid visiting the beach during the hottest part of the day, early mornings and later on in the evenings are best in the height of summer and be ready to head home if your dog has had enough.
- Broken glass or sharp objects. Sometimes these can be hidden in the sand or amongst pebbles. Your dog can step on them and cut the pad on their foot. Having a first-aid kit to hand is very useful, make sure you keep the cut clean, wash it well with lots of fresh water and cover the wound before you take a trip to the vet.
- Sand: Swallowing sand can cause stomach problems for your dog. The sand can compact in their stomach and cause a blockage. Be careful if you're throwing toys for your dog as they can accidentally swallow sand while they're playing. Choose toys that pick up less sand – for example, a Frisbee will pick up less sand than a fuzzy beach ball.
- Seawater: Drinking salty water can give your dog a nasty bout of sickness and/or diarrhoea - and in some cases can make them seriously ill, as it can make them really dehydrated. Stop them drinking from rock pools or puddles on the beach and always bring plenty of fresh water with you. Make sure you give them regular drinks from the beginning of your trip all the way through to the end. If your dog's been in for a dip, give them a rinse with fresh water when you get home so they won't lick any salt from their fur. Also, make sure that you clean their ears after a dip in the sea, as seawater left in ears can cause infections to brew.
- Tides: Always check the tide times before you visit the beach, especially if you'll be in an area where you could get cut off by the tide.
Britain's coast is famous for its cliffs and these beautiful spots are visited all year round. They can provide a wonderful, rugged walk for you and your pooch.
Pay extra attention if you're walking your dog near a cliff. Look out for signs warning you about crumbling cliff edges and stick to the path. It's probably a good idea to keep your dog on a close lead, especially if they're likely to chase anything.
Dogs and coastal wildlife
Most dog owners know about staying safe around farm animals and other wildlife – but what about at the beach?
The British seaside is home to all sorts of animals, from birds and barnacles to seals and starfish. Here’s how you can stay safe:
- Birds. Look out for signs asking you to keep out of certain areas. Birds that nest on the ground need a bit of extra protection and people are asked to keep away from them while they're sitting on eggs. Keep your dog on a lead between March and August on these beaches so they can't disturb the birds.
- Seals. If you're in area known for seals, keep your dog on a lead. This is especially important when there are seal pups around – mother seals can be very protective of their babies.
- Jellyfish. Jellyfish can give a nasty sting to people and dogs, so check the water before swimming and don't let dogs sniff around washed up jellyfish on the beach as they can still sting, even when they're dead!
- Seaweed. If your dog eats seaweed stalks they can cause a blockage in your dog's stomach or gut. This is an emergency situation and your dog might need a serious operation to remove the stalk. Dried seaweed can also cause a problem as it expands when it's eaten – at the very least your dog will have a stomach ache!