Whether you’re going away to enjoy some exotic locale, or staying put in Queensland over summer, it’s important to keep every member of your family fit and entertained. That includes the four-legged ones too! There’s no better way to ensure they have fun and stay trim than with a high-energy trip to the beach.

However, just as you’d take special precautions with a young child when you head out to the surf, you need to ensure that your pup stays safe while you’re enjoying the sun and sand. The best dog trips start with great preparation, so before you even leave the house you can take steps to make sure you’re in for a good time.

Be prepared

The first thing will be to check the rules about dogs and leashing on your local beach. Many beaches have periods of the year when dogs are not allowed on the beach, or are only allowed after certain times. Once you’ve picked your beach and made sure that you and your pooch can enjoy it safely and legally, you need to get your kit together.

Depending on your relationship with your dog and how enclosed the dog-friendly area is, you might want to bring a long-leash. Often more than five metres long, these give your dogs a lot more freedom than your usual walking leash while still giving them a safety line to their owner. If your dog is getting into trouble with a poorly socialised dog, or is wandering into a dangerous area of the surf (more on that later), these are an instant way to whisk them out of danger.

Dogs can get sunburnt just as much as a human, and while they can’t slip or slap, you can certainly slop on some sunscreen on their more vulnerable parts. Look especially at the nose and ears where the skin is lightest and the most exposed, and on the belly and groin whether they want to lie on their back or not. Lighter haired dogs are just as at risk as your paler friends, so they need extra attention. Invest in a large sun shade or even a beach tent to give them a break from the sun. Just as you’ll be hopping back and forth without thongs if the sand is a bit hot, your dog’s paws will be copping the brunt of the heat too. Bring plenty of fresh water to ensure that your dog stays hydrated in the heat.

Fun in the sun

Once you’re at the beach, treat them like any member of your family. While dogs can be strong swimmers, rips are dangerous no matter how experienced your pooch is. Make sure they stay between the flags when in the water and watch out for sharp debris and rocks hidden in the sand. Towel them off when they’re done so the sand doesn’t irritate their skin, and potentially give them a bath afterwards depending on the level of mischief they got up to.

Above all, have fun with them! Unless you’re lucky enough to live right on the shore, this will be an uncommon experience for the both of you. With a bit of forethought you can have a fantastic time with your dog at the beach in complete safety.