The sand, the surf, throwing a ball or frisbee on the beach with your sporty pup… with so many great bays and beaches in southern Delaware, dog owners who love hanging out near the water have their pick of summer destinations. A day at the beach or bay offers a change of scenery for you and your furry friend: a new place to explore, play, wander, and sniff out new smells!

Whether you’re heading to Lewes, Rehoboth, Fenwick, Ocean City, or even over to the Jersey Shore or Chesapeake Bay with your pup, it’s important to know these hot tips for dog safety near the water.

First and most important, always make sure that you know the rules for when, where, and how you can bring your pet to the beach. Some Delaware and Maryland beaches are super-dog friendly while others have particular restrictions on what time of day and year you can visit with your dog, as well as rules about leashing. Just make sure that you follow those rules.

Next up, if it’s your dog’s first time around water, especially open water like a bay or the ocean, don’t assume she can swim! While many dogs are natural born swimmers–and some, like labradors, have literally been breed for that skill!–others need some time to figure it out.

There are several ways to get your dog acquainted with the water. To start, always make sure that you’re entering shallow, calm water. Think Lewes Bay, not Cape Henlopen Beach! Calmer waters are a better bet getting started.

And take your time. Don’t ever throw your dog into the water! Instead, wade in a short distance yourself and then call your pet to you, encouraging him to give it a try. If your dog starts to doggie-paddle with his front paws but his tail end is sinking, help hold his rear end up until he figures out the motion to stay afloat.

It can also help to bring along a dog friend with more experience swimming to lead the way.

Even experienced swimming dogs can benefit from a dog life-jacket, which provides extra buoyancy and a measure of safety in case there’s a strong current or other trouble.

Here are four important tips once you’re on a dog-friendly beach and your pet knows how to swim:

-Some dogs just love to lap up saltwater, but consuming too much can make a dog sick! Limit this and make sea water less appealing by bringing plenty of fresh water and a collapsable bowl. Even fresh water like that found in rivers, lakes, or ponds can contain bacteria or algae that is bad for domestic animals, so always make sure you have plenty of drinking water. And if it’s sunny, make sure your dog gets periodic time in the shade so he doesn’t overheat.

Avoid beach areas with lots of motorized vehicles (boats, jetskis, ferries); these can endanger your pet or scare him with loud noises and sudden movements.

Keep an eye out for sharp objects such as broken shells, broken glass, fish hooks, and coral, all of which can cut your dog’s paws. If your dog has sensitive feet, consider buying paw protectors or doggie booties.

-Just like humans, dogs feel better once they’ve rinsed off from a day at the beach. When you’re leaving the water, rinse off your dog well. This will not only keep your vehicle cleaner, it will also remove salt, sand, and other minerals off your dog’s skin and coat. Towel down your pet and enjoy basking in the pleasure of a fun and safe day by the water together.