By Keyla Exclusa

Summer is upon us, and family trips to the beach are rooted in Florida tradition. But some families feel incomplete without their pawed companions, since many beaches don’t allow pets nor have the space for them to play.  However, the following beaches have everything you need to enjoy the summer with the entire family or with just you and your canine companion!

Smyrna Dunes Park

Smyrna Dunes Park is located on the New Smyrna Beach peninsula where water from the Indian River flows into the Atlantic Ocean and Ponce De Leon inlet. The two miles of beach dock walkways make a perfect place for one to take their dog on a walk amongst the natural landscape that makes up Smyrna Dunes Park. Leashes are required. Picnic areas and pavilions are also available for shade, rest and entertainment for the whole family.

Ft. De Soto Paw Playground and Beach

Large fenced-in areas give your four legged friends room to run free at Ft. De Soto Paw Playground. Specified areas at Ft. De Soto are completely free for dogs to enter the ocean and play off leash; a very rare experience to share with your pet. Drinking water and dog showers are also available. Overnight camping sections and picnic areas alongside the dog showers are the trifecta that make Ft. De Soto Paw Playground irresistible for the whole family. Located in St. Petersburg, FL, an old Spanish fort still stands and is available for visits, adding on to the unique experience to be had at Ft. De Soto.

Flagler Beach

With 19 miles of crowd-free sand, Flagler Beach reigns in as one of the best local beaches to go and unwind with your pet. Dolphins and turtles are often sighted on Flagler Beach. Plenty of space is allotted to go for a run with your dog or walk on the Flagler Beach Municipal Pier overlooking the water. Bait and fishing poles are available for rent on the pier.

With all the fun to be had at any of our beautiful local beaches, be sure to keep your dog hydrated and cool. Excessive drooling and panting can be a sign of dehydration and heat exhaustion in dogs. Keep your dog under a shaded area or bring an umbrella if there aren’t any shaded areas for your dog to rest under. Also, keep a cool, wet towel for your furry friend to lay on, which will help them cool down. Dogs cool down from the bottom up, therefore letting their bottom side or stomach rest on a cool, wet towel does them more good than spraying them down from above. Also, pack a water bottle for your dog along with any fluids you pack for yourself.

For dog snack alternatives to also keep them cool, try thinly slicing an apple, banana or sweet potato (or all three!) and placing the small slices in ice cube trays to create simple frozen treats to keep your dog happy and hydrated. Chicken or beef broth frozen into ice cube trays also works for frozen puppy treats to help them beat the heat. Put them all in an ice-cooler with plenty of ice.

With beach options for you and your canine companion and ways to keep them happy and hydrated, you can get back to being best friends with your dog again. (No need for a dog sitter this summer!)