In the next installment of our "Ask a Trainer" column with Rachel Cohen Maso CPDT-KA of Brooklyn Dogtime, Ollie gets her tips for calming down an over-excited pup at the beach.
I love taking my dog to the beach—and he loves it in theory—but in reality, he CANNOT relax when he's there! At first, he's pulling me towards the water because he wants to go swimming (which isn't always allowed!) If it's not that, he's digging in the sand, panting heavily and just generally looking and acting frantic. What can I do so we can both enjoy our time at the beach?
Some dogs just may not be meant for the beach—and that’s okay! It’s important to trust your instincts about whether you both will have fun. If you’re unsure, it might be better if he stays at home snoozing in the AC. But there are a number of steps you can take to set your pup up for success at the ocean:
Beat the crowds
Of course you can’t spend all day chasing your pup around and want to respect those around you. So wake up, get caffeinated, and get to the beach early! Not only will you get the best spot in the sand, you’ll also have the opportunity to tire your pup out a bit before the beach gets busy. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
If you want your pup to chill out, you need to be prepared with the right supplies. Make a doggy sanctuary (we love this pet tent) where your pup can rest in the shade and refuel. Bring lots of fresh water, food and treats, a collapsible bowl, and some favorite chew toys.
Apply Pup SPF
Before you leave the house apply baby safe sunscreen to your pup’s exposed skin, especially the nose. Dogs with thin or light coats are extra vulnerable to sunburns! And a sunburned dog is likely to be a very unhappy beach companion.
Prevent the salt water frenzy
If you have a total water dog, then it’s only fair that you bring him to a beach where he can ride some waves. But your pup is likely to get thirsty with all that play, so give him fresh water before he decides to drink the ocean. Some of your pup’s frantic behavior later in the day could be due from the physical upset of drinking too much sea water.
Dig in moderation
Dogs love to dig and it’s natural for them to do it. And sand is hard to resist! Let your pup dig a couple you can easily fill in later. But don’t let your them eat the sand! This is a stomachache waiting to happen, so if your dog can’t do it without tasting along the way, find an alternative activity to keep them busy.
Keep it cool
It’s important to know that dogs also often dig on the beach to access the cold sand to lie on when they get overheated. Some of your dog’s panting, pacing, and general freaking out is likely due to his need to find some shade, so make sure the tent is vented and they’re out of direct sunlight.
Distract from distractions
Set up your tent so that it blocks as much of the visual stimuli as possible. There is no way your energetic pup is going to settle down while watching children jumping and screaming as they run into the water. Pull out that extra special chew or toy you brought along and let them focus on that instead.
If all else fails, try some training at home
Start by getting a yoga mat or towel that will become your pup’s bed at the beach. When they’re calm, start teaching them to settle on it: Place the mat on the floor, and the moment your dog investigates it say “yes” and throw a treat on to the mat. Continue to say “yes” and treat for any relaxed behavior your pup has on the mat. With time and practice you will notice that less and less treats are needed for your pup to remain in place. After a couple weeks of practice, a few minutes a day, increase the level of distraction by practicing at a friend’s house or out in front of your home. Once your pup is calm in a few different environments it’s time to revisit the beach. If you and your pup struggle with this exercise call a positive reinforcement trainer to help step up your game!
Photo credit: Emma Lundqvist