There’s nothing I love more than visiting a beach or lakeshore when I travel. Growing up on Cape Breton Island, I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and they were an important part of my life in all seasons. Windswept winter walks, early autumn shell collecting, ice cream filled summer afternoons, and late spring bonfires are the scenes of my childhood.
It’s only natural that when Ryan and I adopted our beloved black lab mix, Chester, we expected him to be a water baby as well. Don’t all dogs love the water? And he’s (well, mostly) a lab – those webbed paws are perfect for some ocean fun! Much to our surprise, however, Chester seemed hesitant and, well, downright uncertain during his first few times to the lake.
A skilled swimmer, he just didn’t seem to see the point in all this water business. He would dutifully follow us out into deeper water and resign himself to paddling beside us, his big paws frequently scraping our legs as we swam side by side. I think we even heard him sigh once – clearly, swimming was nothing more than another one of his masters’ silly chores!
While we were disappointed, deep down we weren’t that surprised. When we adopted Chester from the local Humane Society, his detailed description indicated that play wasn’t his strong suit and that he was uncertain in new situations. He had made considerable inroads in the play department – you should see him with a squeaky ball! – but perhaps expecting him to have fun in the water was just too much to ask. We contented ourselves with the knowledge that he COULD swim if he needed to, and we didn’t push the matter.
Fast forward a year and the three of us take a road trip to Nova Scotia, the salty scene of my childhood. A chance visit brought us to MacDonalds’ Cove Preservation Site in the tiny community of SeaFoam. It’s a very small beach, with a dilapidated, out of commission pier forming part of the boundary. As we enjoyed a picturesque walk along the sandy shores, we were puzzled to see Chester do something we had never seen before. He was running back and forth along the shoreline, a manic look of concentration on his face. He was chasing the waves!
As tiny waves just a few inches high rolled up on the beach, Chester was going crazy trying to catch them. Looking part infuriated, part enthralled, this crazed run continued without interruption as, time and time again, another wave eluded him! He even tried to dig into the sand where a wave had recently crashed, and once a solitary bark was sounded to let the waves know who was really in charge.
From that point on, Chester had decided he was a water baby afterall! Chasing balls and sticks into the water, happily going for a swim, and always content to confront his arch enemies, the waves, during his unceasing shore runs, it was clear we had a water dog on our hands!
I’m so happy that Chester has learned to love water and, when we travel, we always make a point to stop at a lake for him to enjoy a few minutes of wave chasing. Of course, water safety is important for dogs as it is for humans. Here are some important dog water safety tips for having a comfortable and healthy experience.
- Don’t force dogs into the water. Instead, expose them to all different kinds of beaches – from busy doggy beaches to deserted lakeshores – and let them get comfortable in different settings. Never scold your dog for not going in the water.
- Protect their paws. If the hot sand hurts your feet, it will likely hurt theirs as well. Walk in the shade and have a blanket for them to lie on.
- Dogs need sun protection too! Setting up a beach umbrella will provide a shady place of respite. Apply child-friendly – or dog-friendly- sunscreen to their ears and nose and provide extra protection for fair, short haired dogs.
- Water everywhere and not a drop to drink! Chester occasionally likes to sample the lake’s finest, but we don’t encourage it. We bring a collapsible water dish with us and frequently offer him drinks.
- Safety first. Never swim out beyond your ability and make sure you stick by your dogs if they swim out. Enthusiastic dogs can easily tire out and you don’t want to be in over your head (in more ways than one!)
- Dog free zones. Respect the signage about dog free beaches and be sure to keep your dog leashed at all times and clean up after him.
- Speaking of leashes: Leather leashes and collars will be ruined by the water (especially salt water!) and retractable leashes will cause chaos when other dogs stop by to visit. A sturdy, 6 foot nylon leash and collar are perfect for the beach.
- Plan for fun. Sure, nothing can compare to the delicious delight of rotting kelp or splinter prone drift wood, but it never hurts to bring a backup toy. We have a brightly colored, floating foam stick with a rope attachment. It’s great for playing fetch and tug, is easy to see in the water, and the long rope makes it easy to grasp.
- Dogs in boats. Chester discovered the fun of ridding in a power boat last summer. He was so unsure at first, but became addicted after this first ride. Just like a human, a dog should wear a lifejacket while in a boat or canoe.
- Year round fun. A lakeshore walk is lots of fun no matter what the season. Exercise extreme caution in winter. Every year in Canada, there are tragic reports of dogs who fall through thin ice and owners who perish trying to rescue them. If the ice is not safe for you, it’s not safe for your dog.
Vanessa Chiasson is TurnipseedTravel – an ocean loving Maritimer now settled as a freelance writer in Ottawa. Her diverse travels include Paris, where she ran a marathon, the coffee farms of Hawaii, and the national parks of Malawi. Next up? A round-the-world trip with 9 stops, including Turkey, Myanmar, and Australia.
TurnipseedTravel.com is passionate about great value -getting the absolute most for your hard earned dollars and days off. Our value travel philosophy tells you where to save, when to splurge, and how to make every moment count.
If you enjoyed these Dog Water Safety Tips for Sumer Travel, you may also enjoy these other pet travel related posts.