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Ten tips for taking your dog to the beach

Lorna Cowan / 06 June 2016

Everyone loves spending a day on the beach – our dogs included. However, before you and your four-legged friend set off to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, read our good dog owner beach guide to ensure a happy and safe day out.

Two dogs chillin' on the beach
A day at the beach can be a fun day out for dogs, but make sure your dog is always happy and comfortable

Check beach restrictions

You may have the beach all to yourself on a cold winter’s morning, but that won’t be the case during the summer months. As a result, some beaches only allow dogs at certain times of the day (usually early morning and in the evening), others stipulate that dogs are kept on leads, and some beaches ban dogs altogether between May and October. 

Check in advance on local council websites, on notice boards or online at The Beach Guide.

Keep your dog under control

If you’re on a dog-friendly beach that allows dogs to be off the lead, be considerate and keep your four-legged friend under control. Children are building sandcastles, families are enjoying picnics, not everyone wants an excited dog to bound up to them - even if it’s ‘only being friendly’. Also make sure your dog doesn’t chase any birds or wildlife.

Find out about dog owners and the law

Take note of tide times

A day at the beach won’t be much fun if high tide means you can’t walk along the sand, so look at tide times and plan your visit. A comprehensive list showing the time and changing height of high and low tide can be found online on the BBC’s weather website.

Bring plenty of poo bags

It should go without saying that you need to pick up your dog’s mess on the beach, even if it buries it under sand, or goes at the edge of the sea. Bring plenty of poo bags along. A combination of heat and drinking sea water may mean that your dog goes to the toilet more frequently than normal, so be prepared. 

If there are no dog waste bins nearby, take your poo bags home. Keep the beach clean for everyone to enjoy.

Don’t force your dog to swim

Your dog may love splashing around in a river or lake, but that doesn’t guarantee it will swim in the sea. The sound of waves breaking can be frightening, so for a first visit, try to go on a calm day and don’t force your dog into the water. 

If your dog does swim, keep watching it at all times. Strong currents or rip tides can be dangerous, and if the beach slopes suddenly your dog could panic when it’s out of its depth.

Find out about caring for your dog during hot weather

Have fresh water on tap

Your dog will drink salty sea water and get sand in its mouth (especially if there is a ball involved) so take along fresh water and a bowl – collapsible ones are easy to carry. Try to stop your dog drinking sea water when it’s thirsty. The salt can make dogs vomit and sea water may be polluted, sometimes with harmful chemicals or sewage. 

Check the quality of bathing water – handy if you want to swim too – at GOV.UK.

Watch out for hidden dangers

Sharp shells, fishing hooks and lines, jelly fish, crabs, washed-up debris and dead sea creatures – there is often plenty of harmful items on the beach, sometimes lurking under the sand, that your dog could eat or injure itself on. If your dog is off the lead, keep a watchful eye on it and at the end of the walk check its mouth and paws for any cuts or grazes.

Pack the sunscreen

Don’t laugh, dogs need sunscreen too. Sadly, there has been a recent increase in the number of cases of skin cancer in dogs, and those with thin or pale fur at more at risk. Sunscreens made for babies or sensitive skin are normally fine to use as long as they don’t contain zinc oxide. Check with your vet if you have any concerns. 

Apply the sunscreen to your dog’s nose and ears and if they like lying on their backs in the sun, rub it into their belly and groin area.

Find out about taking a dog-friendly holiday in the UK

Provide some shade

You would never walk barefoot on sand on a scorching sunny day, so think of your dog’s paws. If it really is that hot, try to walk in the shade or in the sea. And if you’re spending a few hours on the beach, make sure there is a shady spot to rest – take along a sun umbrella or pop-up tent. 

Remember too that sand is more exhausting to run on than grass, so your dog may tire more easily. Watch for signs of overheating, such as excessive panting, diarrhoea and staggering around.

Rinse and rub

Give your dog a good rub down and remove salt and sand from its paws when you get home. Salt water can irritate the skin so if your dog has been swimming you may need to also give it a quick wash with some fresh water. If you’ve got a car journey to get home, make sure that you dry your dog before you set off so he doesn’t get too cold.

Find out about travelling in the car with your dog


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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