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beachblog1Summertime is here, and that means trips to the beach! We love soaking up sun and waves here in West Michigan, and so do our dogs. But are you the jerk at the dog beach? Here are a few reminders as you bring your pet with you to enjoy the lake.

-Know the rules. Make sure you know the beach you are attending is dog-friendly, and what the leash rules and other restrictions are before you arrive. Just because you have the beach to yourselves doesn’t mean you can break leash laws.

-Pay attention to your pet! If you are attending a beach with your dog, then your priority is the dog. Keep eyes on them at all times to avoid wandering, fights, and any other bad situation. Make sure they get enough clean water, shade, and aren’t overheating.

-Make sure your pup has basic training. They need to be able to obey basic commands before you can take them into a new environment. If your dog doesn’t always come immediately when called, then they should not be off-leash at a beach.

-PICK UP THE POOP. This is a big one. Leaving fecal material on the beach is a hazard to other dogs, people, and the local ecosystem. Bring extra bags in case you run out, or someone else needs one.

-Don’t bring your own food. Trying to watch a dog and prepare your own meal may not be the best idea on a beach. If you’re cooking a hot dog, you’re not watching your real dog. Human food can also get left out and make other visiting pups sick.

-Anything on the ground is fair game. You can’t leave your umbrella and towel on the ground then get mad it got peed on. Save your big beach set-up for the days with just the people.

-Do bring supplies for your dog. This includes your own water (clean bottled water, not the lake!) and bowl, toys, poop bags, treats, a first aid kit, towel, and life vest (if swimming). Using a community water bowl or toys is a risk for fights and getting your dog sick. You want to make sure you have all your own items to keep your pet safe and healthy, not relying on someone else’s supplies.

Your dog has completely different needs than you do when enjoying the sun and sand, so you must be prepared for this, and make sure your pet is ready for a beach trip. Not paying attention to your animal, not cleaning up after them, or breaking local rules can cause dog beaches to be closed, and we already have so few as it is.

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Looking for a good spot in West Michigan? Here’s a few dog-friendly beaches:

-Kruse Park, Muskegon. The northern end of the park has a dog beach. The area is clearly marked, so be sure to stay in the dog area to avoid being ticketed. Dogs must be leashed on the shore, but can be off-leash in the water.

-Grand Haven City Beach, Grand Haven. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach South of the swim buoys Memorial Day through Labor Day (to the left of the Bill-Mar Restaurant if looking from the road). Dogs must be kept on a six-foot leash. After Labor Day through Memorial Day, dogs are allowed on any part of the Grand Haven City Beach.

-Nordhouse Dunes, Manistee. Dogs must be on a leash here at all times, but are welcome to explore trails, dunes, and the shoreline.

-Grand Mere State Park, Stevensville. Dogs must be on a leash at all times, but are permitted to explore the lakeshore, dunes, and trails.

To find out if the area you are visiting is dog-friendly, check with your state park or city ordinances. Never assume that leashed dogs are welcome; always find the rules.

For more information on dogs and other water-related safety concerns (like ingesting sand or algae) see our other blog: http://grandrapidspetagree.com/blog/97-calling-all-lake-dogs-know-the-hidden-dangers-of-summertime-water-activities

For info on how to create a pet first-aid kit: http://grandrapidspetagree.com/blog/84-preparing-a-pet-first-aid-kit

Sources: BringFido.com, DNA Info, The Animal Behavior College, Nature.org, and MLive.com