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Aah, the sand between our toes and the cool breeze of the water in our hair. There is still a few weeks left of warm weather with many opportunities to hit the beach and enjoy what’s left of the season. Whistler is such a dog-friendly town, with many beaches to choose from that include a dog area. Surely, dogs love the beach as much as we do, but taking a dog to the beach requires some preparation, a little common sense and good pet etiquette. We want to keep our beaches (and parks and trails) dog-friendly.

Here are some beach rules to follow for keeping the space safe, fun and healthy for both canines and people:

Find a dog-friendly beach and follow the rules

It seems only natural to think that a dog would be welcome at a beach, but that is not always the case. A popular reason for banning dogs from beaches is the disregard for leash laws. Be sure to follow the rules carefully and respect the leash laws if applicable. If you prefer to let your dog run off-leash, there are some beaches that have a designated “dog beach” where dogs can roam free. Rainbow Park, Alpha Lake Park and Lost Lake Park all have designated dog beaches for you to enjoy.

Leave wildlife alone and respect the restricted endangered birds’ nesting areas

Teach your dog to respect wildlife and don’t let him go where he’s not supposed to go. Your dog shouldn’t chase after birds, swim after seals, play with fish or destroy fragile sea creatures. Also, some beaches have areas that protect certain marine birds and as such are off-limits to dogs that could disturb flightless birds and young chicks in their nest. Respect the rules and don’t cross into areas marked with “No Dogs Allowed” signs.

Pick up waste

Dog waste left on the sand or where it can be washed into the water by changing tides can present a health threat. Depending on what your dog eats, poop is surprisingly not as biodegradable as you might think and impacts the environment. The bacteria in dog feces can cause illness in ocean life, children playing in the sand and anyone walking on the beach. Bring extra biodegradable doggy bags to the beach with you and offer them to unprepared dog owners and always, without exception, clean up after your dog. We can make a difference by always picking up after our dog, as well as any other trash we encounter while strolling with our furry friend. Leave only paw-prints in the sand!

Keep your dog under control

It might be tempting to release your dog at an off-leash beach, but don’t do it unless your dog is totally under your control.  Allow your dog off leash only when you are sure that the recall command has become consistenly mastered. Be sure your dog is within calling distance and be assertive about commands to “come”. Other basics like “sit”, ”heel” and “stay” should be well performed.

Watch out for beach hazards

Waves wash ashore a variety of objects that are intriguing to dogs. Dead sea creatures, birds, garbage, plastic, seaweed, and driftwood are all inviting for curious dogs. Ingesting these questionable objects can lead to intestinal blockages. Discourage your dog from drinking seawater. Also watch for sharp rocks and barnacles or broken glass left in the sand to avoid cuts and lacerations. Bring a first aid kit with you in case of cut paws or jellyfish stings.

Prevent sunburn and heat exhaustion

Warm summer temperatures at the beach can pose a threat to a dog’s health. Make sure that your dog has a shady area to retreat to, fresh, cool water and a blanket to escape to from the hot sand. Watch for heat exhaustion signs and consider applying dog sunscreen on your dog’s ears, nose, the inside of his back legs and anywhere else that receives direct sunlight.

Be safe

Not all dogs can swim. Be especially mindful while by the ocean as even a regular swimmer might be not comfortable with the waves. Riptides and undertow can catch dogs unaware. If your dog hasn’t learned to swim well, consider giving him a doggie life jacket to wear. Help keep your dog safe by always supervising him while he’s in or near the water and be cautious of sea creatures, deep water and watercraft.

Rinse saltwater off your dog

Rinse the sand and saltwater off your dog with freshwater. Dried saltwater on a dog’s skin and paws can be irritating.

Make sure your dog has updated ID

Ensure your dog is wearing updated ID (collar tags, microchip, etc.)  in case it wanders off and loses its way. The excitement of the tempting noises and smells of a beach environment may prove irresistable and disorienting.

Be considerate of others

Not everyone is a dog lover. Always prevent your dog from bothering others. Constant barking, displaying aggressive behavior, and jumping over sunbathers, small children and picnic lunches is not always endearing to others. Keep your pooch’s paws to yourself and don’t let him run up on others without an invitation.

Have fun

Practicing good pet etiquette ensures that the beach is enjoyable for both canines and people. Remember that being able to take your dog to the beach is a privilege. Let’s set the example by being respectful, courteous and responsible dog owners. With common sense, courtesy, as well as a little preparation, you and your dogs will have a fun and safe day at the beach.