If you have just adopted a new rescue dog, you are probably thinking about the exciting places you can take her to! Not only do you have a new best friend, but you also have a companion to accompany you on your adventures.
Keep in mind, however, that going to the beach or any other similar type of outing, may not be the best thing for your newly adopted pup. Transitioning to a new home is a big deal for a dog, and you don’t want to overwhelm or frighten her with too much too soon.
Wait at least three months before you take your new rescue dog to the beach. Make sure she is settled in and feeling comfortable living with you before you attempt any big outings like this. If your dog has been rescued from a challenging situation involving mistreatment or neglect, then you may need to wait longer–possibly 6 months to a year.
Wait Until Your Rescue Dog is Settled Before You Go to the Beach
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Bringing Your New Dog Home
When you first adopt your dog from the shelter or rescue group, she will need some time to adapt to her new home. Think about the last time you moved. It probably felt a bit overwhelming. Then imagine what it may be like for your new furry friend who does not speak your language and doesn’t understand anything about her new situation. She doesn’t know you yet and has no idea if you will treat her well and what her new home will be like. See my post about the first day from a dog’s perspective for a whimsical view of what it may be like for your pooch.
Your new dog will need to decompress, especially if she has gone through a challenging prior situation. She will need plenty of space, a daily routine, and time to learn that she will be safe and well cared for. This process usually takes around three months for a dog to adjust to a new home, which you can learn more about here.
Once Your Dog Has Adjusted You Can Venture Out
Once your dog seems to be relaxed and happily adjusted, I would not suggest going to the beach as your first outing. Instead, take your dog for walks around the neighborhood and to local parks. Then take her on short trips in the car to a larger park in another part of town. Make sure she feels comfortable riding in the car before you go on a ride longer than 15-20 minutes.
Once you have made some of these shorter trips together, you will probably be ready for the beach! Find a beach that is dog-friendly and find out if dogs need to be on a leash or can run free. I would suggest, however, that you keep your dog on a leash for the first time or two, especially if she has not had solid recall training. If possible try to find a beach that is close to home, and make it a short day for your first trip.
What to Take When You Go
As you are packing up all of your usual beach stuff for yourself, think about what your pooch may need. Some of the things you bring along for your dog will be similar to what you bring for yourself:
- Water bottle and bowl
- Dog treats/food
- Sunscreen (yes, they make it for dogs too!)
- Umbrella for shade
- Outdoor doggie cot or blanket
- Doggie booties if really hot
- Dog life vest if planning to swim
- Poop bags (always)
- Long, sturdy, leash
- Handi or alcohol wipes
- Waterproof GPS tracker if you plan to swim or your dog is off-leash
If your first outing is only an hour or two, you may not need all of these items. But always plan to take water, treats, towels, poop bags, and wipes. If your dog has a pink nose, very short hair, or no hair take sunscreen even on short trips.
Be On the Lookout for Hazards
When you arrive at the beach keep a lookout for broken glass, chicken bones, dead crabs, or fish, and steer your dog away. These are the most common hazards encountered at the beach. You don’t want your pup to cut her paws or eat something harmful like discarded bones or dead critters. Also, watch out for live sea creatures like sting rays who could harm your pet.
I suggest keeping your dog on a sturdy leash not longer than 8 feet so you can maintain control. Also, watch for off-leash dogs and avoid any dog who seems aggressive. I would suggest not allowing your dog to be off-leash initially until you see how she behaves. Eventually, you may be able to let her run freely if she has good recall training. Consider getting a GPS collar if you do let her run off-leash. Dogs can run fast and far!
Keep Your Dog Physically Safe
Make sure your dog has all of her vaccinations, especially for Leptospirosis which is a common virus that can be picked up from wild animals around water. See this great post by Animal League of Boston for a great summary of safety tips.
Don’t let your dog eat sand or salt water! This can make her really sick. If you go into the water, watch out for rip tides, high, crashing tides, and churning water. If you let her into the water, I suggest you go in with her and keep her on a leash. Dogs do not necessarily know how to swim. So, if she goes into deeper water, you may need to teach her how to swim.
Most importantly, make sure the sand doesn’t burn her paws if it is really hot. This is when doggie booties can be really helpful. Keep her hydrated and allow her to sit in the shade. If she starts panting excessively or gets lethargic, she may be overheated.
Have Fun Together!
Once you have all of the supplies you need and have dealt with safety concerns, just have fun! Going to the beach together can be a wonderful way to bond with your new pooch. Go slow and allow your dog time to sniff around and check things out. Let her have fun splashing around as the tide rolls in, but don’t force her to go into the water. Keep her close to you and see how she responds.
The first time I took my two rescue dogs to the beach, they were super excited. They were six years old when I adopted them, and I don’t think they had ever been to the beach before. At first, they were a little intimidated by the surf rolling in and kept running from it. Eventually, one of them got a little closer and tried to bite the foamy water as it churned onto the beach. It was hilarious to watch her snap at the water. She quickly learned that there was not much to bite into and that salty water did not taste very good!
They tried to eat all kinds of things like dead crabs, dead fish, discarded food, bird poop, and seaweed. And then there were the barking dogs who got them all stirred up. I had quite the challenge as I tried to navigate around all of these hazards.
But at the end of the day, they seemed perfectly content and happy after their thrilling adventure. We have since gone to the beach many times, and I think it is still their favorite thing to do.
When You Get Home
The beach will soon become a warm memory. But before you end your day and go home, be sure to brush the sand off of your dog and run a comb through her fur prior to getting into the car. Make sure you cool the car down and give your dog some water before you leave.
As soon as you get home, spray your dog off with water to get the rest of the sand and saltwater off of her coat. She may even need a good bath if she gets really dirty and muddy. Check her coat thoroughly for ticks and fleas. You should also check her ears and paws to make sure she did not pick up any burrs, stickers, or other objects.
After she has settled in for the evening, give her a hearty dinner. She will be hungry and tired and may go to bed early. This will be a big adventure for her!
We hope that when you celebrate with your new pooch by going to the beach, you will celebrate with us as well! This is Dog Tales’ 100th post, and we are honored to share our stories and practical guidance with you.
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Also, be sure to see my comprehensive posts, Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Rescue Dog and How to Heal and Comfort a Rescue Dog for in-depth articles and useful links to help support rescue dog parents. Please feel free to leave comments, like us, and share on social media.