Dog on the beach

Making sure your dog minds his manners when he’s at the beach helps keep things fun and safe for everyone.

A growing number of beaches allow dogs – great news for those of us who love the sand and surf, and want to share them with our canine companions. But it’s important to keep in mind that even the most dog-friendly beach has rules and regulations for keeping the space safe, fun and healthy for everyone, human and canine alike. It’s important to follow these regulations, and also to make sure your dog is on his best behavior when he’s cavorting on the sand or playing in the waves.

Behavior basics for the beach

  • Rules can differ from beach to beach, so check them out carefully before taking your dog. For example, some beaches only allow dogs at certain times — before or after sunbathers make use of it, or during off-season periods only. Other beaches may have specific areas for dogs, and don’t allow them elsewhere. There may also be rules about leash length (6’ to 10’feet in general), keeping the dog under control (this includes barking), showing a current rabies tag, and the maximum distance the dog can be from the handler.
  • Ensuring your dog is well-trained is the next important factor.
  • “The best thing you can teach your dog before you go to the beach is a solid recall, even around distractions,” says Trish Loehr, a certified professional dog trainer in North Carolina. “This will prevent pretty much all the problems you might have. It keeps your dog from being a nuisance toward other dogs and beachgoers, who may not appreciate the unbridled affection of your wet, sandy pup.” Decide how far away from you your dog remains trustworthy and constantly practice recalls when he nears that point. Take a lot of training treats along.
  • “A good ‘leave it’ cue is also helpful for keeping dogs away from picnics and kids’ toys,” says Trish.
  • “If someone’s walking their dog on a leash, you need to call and leash your own dog as you pass,” Trish continues. This is good practice anywhere, including the beach. “It’s unfair to have a leashed dog jumped by one who’s off leash. They can’t play properly if one dog is restrained. And the other dog is probably leashed for a good reason — she may be old and creaky, or may not like other dogs.”Ready for the beach
  • It should go without saying that you must pick up after your dog at the beach. Too many people leaving dog poop for people to step or sit in can result in the beach being posted off-limits to dogs. Also, clean up his urine – if he pees on the sand where people sit or children play, scoop it up as you would a clump of cat litter, and dispose of it properly. “Take more poop bags than you think you’ll need,” advises veterinarian Dr. Eva Radke.
  • Always keep an eye on your dog if he’s off-leash or on a long lead. It’s easy to get distracted, but not paying attention can lead to disaster – whether your dog knocks down a child, gets into someone’s tote bag, or threatens another dog. If your dog steals a sandwich, pees on an umbrella stand or kicks sand in a sunbather’s face, he could get kicked off the beach and his behavior could become be a blot against all dogs. “Be respectful of others,” says Kimberly Gauthier, blogger at “Let your dog have a good time, but always keep in mind how you’d feel if a strange dog charged full speed at you or barked nonstop.” Don’t let your dog shake off on an unsuspecting sunbather, steal a Frisbee mid-game or make off with a beach towel!
  • Additional beach etiquette tips from include:
    • Make sure your dog doesn’t have fleas or ticks. These pests can plant themselves in the sand and create an infestation affecting other animals and beachgoers.
    • Don’t let your dog ruin the area for natural marine life, whether you’re at the ocean or a freshwater lake. Dogs will try to sniff out wildlife, or even raid sea turtle egg nests. Respect any natural habitats and keep dogs from digging up nests and chasing shorebirds.
    • Pick up your dog’s toys as well as his waste. A split or punctured ball, for example, can sink in the water, causing litter and becoming a danger to marine life.

Keeping your dog safe and maintaining consideration for other beach users, whether human or canine, is the winning combination for an enjoyable time at the beach. “I used to be one of ‘those’ people, the ones who say ‘this beach allows dogs, so deal with it’,” admits Kimberly, who lives in Washington state. “My dogs didn’t always have the good manners they have now, but we learned, and now we try to help other people and their dogs who are new to the beach.

“I take my dogs early, after the seals are gone and the tide is out,” she continues. “I keep them leashed if clammers are digging or other dogs are around. If I see kids, I keep the leashes on and always say ‘no’ to petting, just in case. You always have to be alert.”

Remember that being able to take your dog the beach is a privilege. Good manners and attention to safety from both of you will ensure you’re always welcome!


Sandra Murphy lives in St Louis, Missouri. When she's not writing, she works as a pet sitter.