Dogs and Beaches and a Coastal Lifestyle
At a time when dog videos are considered internet gold, it’s not wrong to assume that every pup out there has the natural ability to jump on his owner’s board and get a decent wave without much struggle. Although some breeds are inherently strong swimmers, most need a strategic introduction to the ocean before picking up their very own foam board and GoPro.
Where to Start
Think about the world’s best watermen for a moment; chances are their earliest memories are filled with visions of the ocean, ocean and more ocean. Your four-legged friend is really no different. Sure, their earliest days will be filled with your love and soothing personality, but if you plan on having a true coastal loving pooch, you might want to introduce the sand and waves into their life shortly after picking them up from the shelter. That’s right… I said shelter!
It’s OK to start small. Baby steps are perfectly acceptable when helping your pup develop trust with the ocean. Look up “dog friendly beaches” in your area or introduce them to the water in an area free of crashing waves and screaming children. I don’t know which is more terrifying to a dog, but I can guarantee that an overcrowded beach with unruly small human beings trying to grab my tail would be my vote. Like you and I, dogs need peace and comfort when adjusting to a foreign environment. Hit your local pet-friendly beach in the early morning or late afternoon for the best chance of providing that optimal setting.
Dogs can’t regulate their body temperature like we can, so keeping them out of the harsh sun is a smart move. You can compare this process to a first date, if you screw it up for them on day one, they likely will take longer to adapt the next time around.
Be Their Guidance
As your pup’s association with the ocean and waves begins to develop, give them the tools that they need stay safe. That means learning how to swim. Even if you were blessed with a Labrador Retriever, they still need the training and tools to prevent a life-altering experience. The bay or harbor is a great spot to get them swimming on a weekly basis, before introducing any form of waves or whitewash. As their owner, you really are their guardian – so please take the time to monitor their progress and stress level before allowing them to charge the waves in search of their favorite toy that you just hurled into the water.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen dogs chasing their ball into chest high shore break, only to get smashed by a rogue wave and listen to their owner say, “don’t worry, she does this all of the time”. Imagine someone throwing a bag filled with your life savings into the water at The Wedge and saying go fetch…
Train Them on Bad Habits
Training your dog to adjust to a coastal lifestyle isn’t entirely about swimming. Let’s face it, dogs want to eat or drink everything that they see and salt water most definitely shouldn’t be on their menu. Like a child, this is probably a lesson that they will have to learn once, and only once. My first-hand experiences have proved that ocean water is very distinctive in taste and quality for consumption. It took me a solid month of weekly beach visits to help my pup understand that she wasn’t allowed to drink sea water. This lesson isn’t solely based on health concerns but mainly due to the horrifying reaction that sea water has on a dog’s intestinal tract. Take my word on this, some things cannot be “unseen” in life…
Teaching your pup to embrace a coastal lifestyle is a rewarding process that creates a life-long bond with your furry best friend. If you surf, paddle or swim, think back to the early days and how your parents introduced you to the ocean. Introduce them to the water in a calm and safe setting, teach them to swim in the ocean environment, and train them NOT to drink the water.