The beach is one of the best places for you and your pup to have fun in the sun, but it is also an unfamiliar environment for which your dog should be prepared. Here are five important tips to help keep your best friend safe in the sand and sea.

1: Avoid Overheating

With the Florida heat that often arrives well before the summer months, it is vital to ensure that you protect your pooch from the dangers of overheating. You should bring plenty of cold water, preferably bottled and in a cooler with ice, as well as a doggie bowl for easy access. Also, set up a shady retreat for your dog with an umbrella and a blanket to protect his or her sensitive paws from the scorching sand. If you have a short-muzzled breed, such as a Pug or a Pekinese, it is important to remember that these dogs overheat faster than others.

2: Prevent Sunburn

If you decide to bring a short-coated or fair-haired breed to the beach, it is necessary to take precaution against potential sunburn. You can purchase sunscreen made specifically for dogs, but be sure to avoid brands that contain zinc or fragrances, which can be toxic if ingested. Apply sunscreen to any area that may be vulnerable to direct sunlight, and reapply after every dip in the water. Even if your dog has a thick coat, you should apply sunscreen to the nose and ears. For hairless dogs, keep a T-shirt on hand for extra protection.

3: Watch for Beach Hazards

Although the beach is a great place for your dog to exercise, the natural environment poses several dangers. Do not allow your dog to drink the ocean water, as sea salt is a gastrointestinal irritant that can cause dehydration and vomiting. In case of cut paws from rocky terrain, bring a first aid kit including ammonia, peroxide, cotton balls, and bandages. It’s always best to keep your dog on a leash especially when entering the water; you don’t want your dog to be carried away with the tide/surf. Also, a life jacket can be a lifesaver, and always remember that puppies should stay on the shore at all times.

4: Master Calling Commands

Once at the beach, your dog may want to romp around in the sand, and this is a healthy release of energy that should be allowed. In order to keep your dog safe while off-leash, have a calling command to which he or she responds. Before you take your dog to the beach, teach and practice this command where there are little distractions. If you are unsure as to your dog’s adaptability of this skill, bring a long leash so he or she can take part in the fun while staying securely nearby.

5: Follow Beach Rules

It is important to pay attention to the recommendations of the specific beach you are visiting, as these will help ensure the safety of your dog. These rules may include supervising your dog, following the leash laws, making sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, and keeping your dog’s ID tags on at all times. Always remember that your dog is probably not the only pet at the beach, and these rules will help to keep him or her safe from dogs that may be more aggressive or ill behaved.