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It is hard to imagine a more idyllic summer day than spending it exploring, resting and just enjoying the great outdoors. For many people this includes traveling to a lake area, either as part of a holiday or just for a day or afternoon trip away from the city. Bringing your dog along on these mini vacations can be a great get-away for him or her as well, but you will have to do a bit of research and some planning before heading out. Water - unless you know that the water is the same as your dog is used to, plan to bring some bottled water from home. A simple and inexpensive option is to fill a plastic gallon milk jug with water the night before and place it in the freezer. Don't fill it right to the top, leave the water level about an inch below the top to allow for expansion when it freezes. In the morning you simply take out the jug and bring it with you, providing nice cold water for your dog all through the day.
Most resorts or privately owned lake areas will have clearly posted information about dog access and use of the area. A great number of privately owned lakes and beaches will allow dogs, provided they are kept on a leash or within specific areas of the beach or lakefront. Many have lunch or picnic areas, camping spots and even dog off-leash areas all contained within these specific regions of the lake or resort. If you are using one of these private facilities be sure to keep your pet within the restricted areas or else you run the risk of facing fines or even having the dog areas removed and dogs banned from the whole lake. This ruins it not only for you and your dog but also for everyone else.
There are also specific dog beaches and dog lakefront areas in many of the local, state and national public parks. Since these parks are often patrolled by Park Wardens or other officials, it is essential to follow all the rules to avoid being removed from the park and also being fined. Being responsible when at these public parks doesn't mean you can't have fun and enjoy your time with your pet, but it does mean you will have to be aware of the rules. Most public parks will have information on their website that indicates if dogs are allowed, what restrictions may be placed on dogs in the area, as well as any special information that owners may need to know. Signs should clearly indicate if dogs are allowed in the lake area or not.
In most public parks with lakes and beaches dogs must be on a leash at all times unless they are within a dog off-leash area. Usually these dog off-leash areas will be fenced off from the rest of the beach or lake area so owners don't have to worry about their dogs getting out of bounds. Some parks even have specific smaller lakes or beaches just for dogs and their owners, while others have wash up areas for the dogs and even special shallower swimming areas that are either natural or man-made. Again the internet is an invaluable tool in finding out what special features or accommodations the particular lake or beach may have for your canine companion.
Packing for a day at the lake with your dog isn't difficult, but there are definitely some must have items. A good idea is to keep a backpack or gym bag with the essentials already packed so all you have to do is replenish supplies and add fresh treats and food. This is a great time saving idea if you are planning on heading out several times over the warmer season.
The essentials for your pooch that should go with you to the lake include:
Treats and food - depending on how long you will be gone you may need to bring treats, food or both. Place dry food and treats in separate zip lock bags for easy packing and space saving. A collapsible plastic dish can be easily carried out to the lake and can double as both a food and water dish if necessary. Avoid bringing anything that may spoil such as cheese, raw meats or pre-cooked meats unless you are packing a cooler. If your dog is very active at the lake he or she is likely to work up quite an appetite so you may want to bring along a bit more than usual.
First Aid Kit - generally most of the items in a human first aid kit will also work with a dog. If you have a larger pet add additional wrap type bandages and more gauze, appropriate enough in any type of emergency to wrap or immobilize a limb. A wound cleaning solution, antibacterial spray, tweezers, scissors and bandages should also be included in your pet first aid kit. Dogs on any type of medication should also have an additional dosage on hand just in case you end up being away from home longer than planned.
Toys - bringing a few toys to the lake can make your dog's day. Consider floating types of toys, available at all pet stores, especially if your dog loves the water. Even if he or she isn't big on swimming, they will typically still wade in at least a few feet into the water, allowing them to cool off on hot days.
Umbrella or shelter - bringing a beach umbrella or choosing a shady spot to get out of the sun is very important, especially if you have a dog that is prone to heat stroke. This includes the very heavy coated breeds as well as the short-muzzled dogs. Any dog that wheezes or has problems with breathing should also be kept in a shady area to prevent problems from occurring.
It is also important to bring along bags to clean up after your dog. Keeping the dog-friendly lakes and beach areas free from any waste is only going to enhance the area for others and prevent complaints.
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