Cottage Country Safety


Whether we have a cabin or cottage to go to or even just a chance to pitch a tent, at some point over the summer many pet owners will pack up the car and take our dog(s) on the road with us into the great outdoors.

Once we’re out in that fresh air, with white sand or grass beneath our feet and the sound of trees, or waves hitting the beach, it’s easy to abandon some of the basic safety rules we impart on our dogs back at home.

At the cabin or campsite

The most important thing to remember is keeping your dog tied up. Unlike home, this isn’t an area he’s very familiar with so the temptation to go through the door or out into the bush after that squirrel is high. And with a variety of other critters and wildlife around, as well as being surrounded by a completely uncontrolled environment, the risks are higher.

Staying on leash is important. In addition to keeping your dog close by, it also prevents her from getting too close to other cabin / cottage dwellers or campers looking to relax and kick back without distraction.

Like with children, it’s important to continually teach and reinforce personal safety with our dogs. The vibrant glow of a campfire can certainly seem intriguing, but that fur is very flammable. This isn’t an area to leave to chance. Keep your dog indoors if you’re planning a bonfire, or ensure they’re confined to an area where the risk of them being burned is minimized. Over time your dog can become more used to being around a campfire, and you can relax the restrictions carefully. It only takes one mistake to cause a serious injury or accident, one that can severely burn or otherwise injure pets and humans alike.

At night

Always bring your dog inside at night and make sure she’s confined to an interior space. Not only could she get loose, or howl from the screen porch and keep you and your neighbours up, larger animals such as bears, coyotes or in some areas mountain lions may be attracted and consider her an inviting target. By keeping her indoors and secure after dark, you can ensure your dog’s safety and at the same time keep her comfortable when temperatures drop or rain threatens.

On the beach

Police officer Rob McDonald of the Toronto Police Service’ 55 Division, the unit responsible for patrolling some of Ontario’s most pristine beaches and trails, says one of the most common complaints they receive, is dogs running at large.

 “It’s important to keep them close” says P.C. McDonald, who’s a self-described ‘pet parent’ to six dogs. “You never know what’s in the sand”.

From broken glass to sharp rocks, there’s a reason people wear shoes. Unlike our four-legged friends, we usually have on some protection. Unfortunately, in the heat of summer, “that sand can become very hot and can be hard on their pads” says McDonald, who’s experienced it first-hand.

When going for a swim

As pet owners, we need to take extra precautions at the beach to be sure our pets are comfortable too. As McDonald says jokingly, “the only hot dog on a beach should be found in a bun with mustard on it”. Stay off the beach and away from the sand during the hotter hours of the day. And walk closer to the water where the sand is more densely packed, reducing the risk that it may be hiding a sharp object underneath.  

As they head in to cool off in the nearby lake or ocean, another thing to keep in mind is the tidal conditions, or potential undertows in the water and to make sure your dog is wearing an approved flotation device. If yours’ is a popular public beach, try going out first thing in the morning when it’s not so hot or crowded. This is also the prime beach time for dogs and your pup is sure to make a friend or two and get in some stimulating socialization along the way.

According to McDonald, one of the most common mistakes people make is “not knowing the temperature of the water” in advance. Test the temperature beforehand and avoid really frigid water. If your dog is ever out in the water and begins to struggle  or show signs of trouble breathing or staying afloat, Officer McDonald has a few excellent tips:

  • Stay calm and encouraging. Dogs are very responsive to your emotions.
  • Help them by using objects that can be used to pull the dog out.
  • Do not jump in. In times of stress like this your focus and attention will be on the safety of your dog and you are unlikely to make the best choices for yourself.

Out on a boat

In the event your dog is a fan of sailing or just likes to accompany you out on your motor boat, the biggest piece of advice McDonald offers is to keep the dog far away from the captain to prevent distraction and mistakes in judgement. Be sure they’re always wearing an approved and appropriately sized flotation device - just as you would. And like anywhere else in the outdoors, keep your dog tethered for their own welfare and the safety of others onboard.

We hope you have a fun and safe summer as you interact with your pets in new ways and new places. For more info about pet safety, be sure to contact your local animal services department or speak with your friendly neighbourhood police officer.

A special thanks to Constable Rob McDonald, and the Toronto Police Service 55 Division.