and a friend’s greyhound at Bark Park Dog Beach.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Arden Moore
My dogs, Chipper and Cleo, remind me to never stereotype canines — especially when it comes to water play. Cleo, a 12-pound poodle-terrier mix, and Casey, a 60-pound husky-golden retriever mix, share a love of racing along beach shorelines, swimming in oceans and even coasting to shore on surfboards.
When we pull into a dog-welcoming beach parking lot, I take note of the enhanced excitement they display — at rates far above what they exhibit for daily neighborhood leashed walks or trips to local dog parks.
Got a dog who really digs life at the beach? Who leaps for joy at the opportunity to race into the ocean? Fortunately, Boca Raton is home to the Bark Park Dog Beach at Spanish River Park. The beach in the north end of the park, between lifeguard towers 18 and 20, is designated as the place for canines looking to make a splash.
Also within easy reach is the 2.5-mile stretch of the dog beach in Jupiter at Ocean Cay Park, just north of the Juno Pier.
Here’s your chance to be your dog’s personal lifeguard by following these safety rules:
• Sign up for swimming lessons. Not every dog is a canine version of Michael Phelps. Examples of breeds that may face challenges in learning to swim include barrel-chested dogs (great Danes, German shepherds), short-nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs) as well as those with short legs and long backs (dachshunds, corgis). Fortunately, there are a number of qualified professional dog trainers in Palm Beach County who offer swim lessons.
• Fit your dog with floatable safety gear. Play it safe by fitting your dog with a canine life jacket or other gear that keeps him afloat. I rely on life jackets featuring easy-to-grip handles when Chipper and Cleo want to go surfing. I like the well-designed ones made by EzyDog, Kong and Outward Hound.
Or, to protect your dog from water fatigue, consider a new product called the WaterCollar by Hedz Up Pets. This donut-shaped, brightly colored item is designed to keep your dog’s head above water to minimize the risk of drowning.
• Protect your dog from the sun’s rays. Before heading to the dog beach, dab canine-safe sunscreen on your dog’s tip of the nose, abdomen, legs and ears. Make sure your dog has access to shade.
• Dodge the double-D dangers. Bring plenty of bottled water for your dog to drink to stay hydrated. Dogs that swallow salt water are at risk for dehydration and diarrhea (due to salt water pulling fluids into the intestinal tract) and the water can trigger projectile vomiting as well. Before heading home, rinse your dog at the beach shower to remove saltwater from his coat.
• End the water activity before your dog becomes overtired. Many dogs are motivated by fetching or so want to please their people that they can be at increased risk for drowning if they play too long and too hard.
• Be on the lookout for jellyfish. The tentacles contain toxins. If your dog does get stung, never attempt to remove the tentacles off his body with your bare hands. Instead, wear rubber gloves or scrape off the tentacles using a credit card or large seashell. Then soak the wound in salt water — never drinking water — and use hydrocortisone cream and dog-safe antihistamines. Seek immediate veterinary care.
• Enroll in a pet first aid class. Learn how to perform canine CPR and rescue breathing and what to do if your dog is drowning. As founder of Pet First Aid 4U, I incorporate water safety in our classes that feature a real dog and cat. Knowing what to do — and what not to do — in a pet emergency when minutes count is truly the best way to be your dog’s best health ally.
Fortunately, the weather in Palm Beach County is conducive to year-round beach opportunities with your dog. Play it safe — for your dog’s sake — and you can make a day at the beach generate lifelong happy memories. Right, Chipper and Cleo?
Arden Moore, founder of www.FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the popular Oh Behave! show on www.PetLifeRadio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.
If You Go
Since late 2013, water-loving dogs have enjoyed the sand and the calm surf at Bark Park Dog Beach at Spanish River Park at 3001 N. Ocean Blvd. in Boca Raton. The dog section is located on a stretch of beach in the north end of the park between lifeguard towers 18 and 20. To ensure a safe, fun visit, heed these rules:
Respect the hours of operation. Dogs are welcomed Fridays through Sundays from 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to sunset from March to November, and from 3 p.m. to sunset from November to March.
Pay the beach fees. If you live in Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District or city resident, the annual permit fee is $30 per dog (effective between Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and not pro-rated). The annual permit fee for nonresidents is $165 per dog. Single weekend passes are $10 per dog and are available at the Spanish River gatehouse. Residents must provide a city or county tax bill, utility bill, rental or leash agreement, current Florida driver’s license or notarized letter from their condo association.
Pack the permit. You must carry the beach permit and be ready to show it during the beach visit with your dog.
Honor the dog limit. Each person is permitted to bring up to two dogs to the beach. Dogs must be leashed when entering and leaving the dog beach.
For more information, visit www.patchreefpark.org/