Essential Dog Beach Safety Tips for Your Small Dog

I love visiting the beach with my small dogs.

Some of my favorites to visit are Seaside Beach, and Cannon Beach, on the Oregon coast and Kalaloch Beach in Washington State.

The beach is wide open and we often seek out secluded ones.

Because of this, it’s one of the few places I feel comfortable letting them run around without me holding on to the end of the leash (or without one).

dog mountains

It also provides a lot of mental stimulation and variety from our routine. 

Most of our time walking and exercising is spent around the neighborhood or hiking in the woods.

At the beach, there are more birds, dead things, salty things to smell. It’s like a cornucopia for the dog mind!

The beach isn’t without dangers though.

Before you pack up and head to the beach with your small dog, review these important safety tips.

Make Sure it’s Safe to Go in the Water

Many Dachshunds, and other small dogs, dislike water but some love to swim and can’t get enough of it.

If there is a lifeguard at the beach you are visiting, and your dog will be swimming in the ocean, check with them about the tides.

It’s always important to check for potential debris or vegetation under the water that could injure your dog.

If you are visiting a lake, especially if it’s windy and the water is choppy, ask the lifeguard if it’s advisable for your dog to go in.

Whether the dog beach is on the ocean, at a lake, or on a river, also ask them if there are any potential hazards lurking underwater that could injure or trap your pet, including seaweed, rocks, tree stumps or logs.

In either situation, if you can’t check with someone knowledgeable about the water conditions, make the best assessment you can on your own and keep your small dog close to shore if you do let them go in.

Needless to say, even the most water loving of breeds should never be left in the water unsupervised!

Proceed Cautiously

Before you and your dog take the plunge, make sure they know how to swim and can do it well.

If you don’t already know, take your dog to an area of calmer water, if there is one, and let them practice swimming.

While being in the water is cooling, refreshing, and enjoyable for them, the ability to swim well can vary depending on your small dog’s breed and fitness.

Be aware that younger or older dogs may get tired quicker when swimming.

Older or very young dogs can tire more quickly than those in peak condition. 

If you’re not confident that your dog can swim for a long period, you may want to consider getting them a dog life jacket to wear while in the water.

Protect Your Small Dog from Wildlife

There are often eagles and hawks at the beach and there can be dangers lurking in the water.

shark sighting dog

Although it’s rare, there have been cases where a small dog was carried off by a large bird of prey.

Depending on where you are in the country, there could also be large wildlife that come down to the water edge to drink or forage.

If your dog encounters one of them, the wild animal may feel the need to protect their meal or drinking spot. 

They could also get irritated and defensive if your small dog runs up to them barking and go on the attack.

Always keep alert for wildlife in the area, call your dog back to you if you perceive a potential threat, and know how to defend your dog from various types of wildlife.

Keep Them Hydrated

While the ocean may seem like a good source for drinking water, allowing your dog to drink the salt water can cause serious health issues. 

Dogs don’t have the ability to process large amounts of salt, so it builds up in their bodies and can make them very sick, or even prove fatal. 

Blue-green algae may be present in lakes and streams and can be toxic to dogs.

What about fresh water?

Unfortunately, toxic blue-green algae blooms are becoming more common in lakes and slow moving rivers around the country.

Because of a smaller body mass, small dogs are more vulnerable to the effects of this toxin.

If your dog ingests water with these toxins, they can get really sick. There have even been cases where dogs have died.

There are also risks like giardia and leptospirosis to consider.

It’s best to bring along a supply of fresh water for your dog, a dog bowl, and give them the opportunity to drink regularly.

Keep Them Cool

While swimming in water is an excellent way for your pet to cool off, they could be at risk for heat stroke or fatigue when they are hanging out in the sand. 

Remember to leave room on the beach towel for them to rest in the shade to avoid becoming overheated—after all, even a trimmed fur coat gets hot. 

Ideally, you would bring a portable sun shade to provide some respite from the glaring sun.

Another good option is a covered, portable pet pen.

Protect Their Skin

While you’re slathering yourself in sunscreen at the beach, don’t forget to put some on your pooch as well (but make sure the sunscreen is safe for dogs (affiliate link) – most human versions are not). 

Dogs are prone to sunburn just like humans, particularly those breeds that have short hair, are hairless, have white fur, and pink skin.

Also, after a fun day at the beach, remember to rinse your dog off well before heading back to the car. 

Salt and other minerals in sea water can irritate their skin and damage their coat. 

Salt and other substances found in the water can irritate your dog’s coat and skin if not washed off.

Give the insides of the ears a quick wipe to remove excess water. This will help to prevent ear infections from setting in.

Consider putting a small bottle of vinegar in your beach bag too if your dog will go into the water. 

Dogs can suffer bites or stings from things like sea lice or jellyfish. 

If this happens to your dog, douse the affected area in vinegar to ease the pain and kill off the stinging barbs before trying to remove the tentacles.

dogs in water

Watch the Feet

You may be wondering if beach sand is too hot for dogs? It certainly can be!

Sand can be really abrasive, especially when it’s wet and gets stuck between their paw pads, and can burn their feet if it’s too hot. 

To protect your dog’s paws from hot sand, make sure to feel it with the back of your hand when you arrive. If it burns you after 3 seconds, it can definitely burn their feet. 

To help protect your dog’s paw pads from cuts and scrapes, consider applying a paw balm like Musher’s Secret before you leave home and check for any red or chafed spots throughout the day.

Watch What They Are Eating

If you’re not careful, your dog could end up getting sick after visiting the beach.

There are a lot of stinky, rotten things to eat and some of these things may be full of bacteria or parasites (like salmon) that can make your dog sick.

Your dog may also get sick if they eat too much sand.

Keep an eye on your dog and discourage them from eating anything.

Use the “leave it” command to get your dog to drop anything they may try to eat at the beach.

If your dog has a good “leave it” command, this will be handy at the beach to keep them from eating things they shouldn’t.

If your dog does eat something, take a look at what it is so you can inform the vet if your dog gets sick later.

Protect Their Eyes

Some dogs love to dig in the sand.

There are also days where the beach may be windy and blow a lot of sand in your dog’s eyes. 

This is especially true with small dogs that are close to the ground.

If your small dog gets sand in their eyes, it could scratch their cornea and negatively affect their vision. They could also get an infection.

At a minimum, periodically look at their eyes to make sure they are not getting too much sand in them. 

Regularly wipe off sand that gathers in the inside corners of your dog’s eye with light pressure and a soft cloth.

For fuller protection, consider training your dog to wear a pair of protective goggles like the ones from RexSpecs.

dog on beach

Review Your Dog’s ID Tag

Beaches are wide open spaces that are sometimes filled with people eating yummy food, other dogs, and wildlife. 

This can lead to a small dog running off and getting lost.

Review your dog’s ID tag before you go to the beach to make sure the address and phone number are up-to-date. 

Having your dog’s ID tag up to date and not damaged so it’s readable is important.

Also make sure the tag is not so damaged it’s unreadable.

If your dog needs a replacement tag, consider stopping at a big-box pet store like Petsmart or Petco along the way. 

They often have machines that can print new dog tags for you in seconds.

An alternate, temporary fix would be to use one of those tags with paper labels that attach to a house key. 

You can write your information on it and cover it with a piece of packing tape to help keep it waterproof.

Let Them Have Fun but Not Too Much

Some dogs love swimming and chasing the ball so much that they will literally keep going until exhaustion sets in. 

Swimming and running in the sand take a lot more energy than a walk around the block too so be sure to keep a close eye on your dog. 

If they are swimming, watch for signs that they’re having trouble keeping their head and mouth above the water.

If they are running back and forth on the beach, watch for signs they are getting too tired like slowing down significantly or limping.  

By following these simple tips, not only will you and your pet enjoy your day out at the beach, your dog will be healthy and excited to go back again.

Headed to the beach with your dog this summer? Here are essential dog beach safety tips for your small dog that you'll want to know.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. Do you have a favorite life vest? We will be going on a houseboat this summer; we purchased a life vest but it seems to fit wonky on April’s body due to her being “chesty”.

    1. Hi Trish. I prefer the life jackets from Outward Hound for Dachshunds. They offer mine a good level of flotation without it being too much (you still want most of their body to be submerged in the water so they can paddle and steer). It also has thinner padding that comforms to a Dahchsund’s shape better and is longer than a lot of others.

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