Pet experts dish advice for beach-bound pups and owners.
By Jacquelyne Froeber
Justin Rudd and his English bulldog, Rosie, truly appreciate the rolling Pacific waves and sandy shores of the West Coast. Almost four years ago, Justin and other Southern California dog owners could only dream of strolling through the surf with their pets.

"I was tired of having the beach just blocks away and not being able to share it with my dog," Justin says.

In 2004, 3 acres of Belmont Shore was officially deemed dog-friendly thanks to Justin and a team of pet lovers. At the Dog Zone, pets can run, swim, or simply lounge in the sand-no leashes required.

"Rosie loves it-most dogs do. They are running around, playing with other dogs-they don't know what to do first," Justin says. "Your dog doesn't have to swim, and don't force him to. Just spending time together in that atmosphere is fun."

Dog Zone is one of about 200 dog-friendly beaches in the United States, according to DogFriendly.com's United States and Canada Dog Travel Guide . But before heading to the beach, make sure you and your pet are prepared for the coastal adventure.

Martin Senat, president of Huntington Dog Beach in California, says proper vaccination is crucial before hitting the shore. The most important may be a Parvo shot, which helps guard against parvovirus-a deadly disease. But don't worry about flea protection-if you use a systemic treatment for your pooch, it should still be effective despite a little aquatic fun.

For any pup that is healthy and ready for the surf, Santa Barbara veterinarian Dr. Paula Kislak says owners should provide fresh drinking water during warm weather. "Dogs don't sweat like humans-instead they pant to get rid of the extra heat within their core," she says. "Be aware that rapid panting and flopping out are the main signs of heat stoke."

Paula adds that it's important to be wary of other dogs, especially when unleashed. Dogs can develop a pack mentality and become aggressive. "If you have an aggressive dog, don't bring him to the beach, or try to visit at odd hours when it's not busy. If your dog isn't on a leash, be sure you have excellent voice command because there are so many distractions."

Depending on the coastline, stingrays or jellyfish could lurk in the shallow surf. Check the water before letting your pup jump in, and don't fret if your dog consumes salt water-most will on the first trip. A hefty consumption may cause an upset stomach, but usually no internal damage. Paula says keeping a close eye on your dog will ensure that they stay happy and safe at the shore.

Tara Kain, author and editor in chief of DogFriendly.com, says locating a dog beach can be a challenge-but well worth the travel research. Her favorite dog-friendly beach is on Jekyll Island, Georgia. "The beach seems to stretch for miles. It's beautiful. And our hotel was dog-friendly and within walking distance to the beach. Perfect!"

DogFriendly.com and petswelcome.com can help you locate pet-friendly beaches, lodging, and parks. Once you secure a destination, heed our coastal pet experts' advice about maintaining a clean environment. "We have to be responsible for the temperaments of our dogs and clean up after them. If you don't, they won't be allowed at the beach, and it is a great resource," Paula says. "It's nice exercise, they socialize with other dogs and people, and have a great time."