Great British Beach Clean

With many of Britain’s beaches becoming dog-friendly ‘out of season’, what’s better than an Autumn seaside day out with your pooch? 

Sharing a beach walk with your dog. It’s enrichment galore for even the most ‘townie’ of dogs!  Offering a chance to soak up the sights, sounds and smells, and share an adventure that builds your relationship. From a training perspective pushing boundaries with new experiences, new environments, and new distractions pays dividends in communication, focus and trust.  

The annual Great British Beach Clean by The Marine Conservation Society reveals the extent of environmental hazards on our beaches.  Their aim is to reduce the amount of toxic plastic debris and hazardous palm oil that is washed ashore. Both of which pose serious health concerns for dogs. 

brown dog digging in the sand at the beach - great british beach clean

Plastic Pollution at the Beach

Possibly an uphill struggle considering that every year an estimated 11 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans, and a further 29 million metric tonnes is expected annually by 2040! Many plastics contain substances in their manufacture that are known endocrine disrupters (EDCs) like PFAs (per-fluoroalkyl) and BPA (bisphenol A). Commonly found in a host of household products, from synthetic clothing, cosmetics, household cleaners, containers, water bottles and tops.  

Worryingly a study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin estimated that over 14,000 tons of microplastics (tiny plastic particles smaller than 5mm) accumulate on British beaches each year. Endocrine disrupters (EDCs) present in such microplastic particles can get lodged into many beach features like sand and seaweed.  Becoming a threat to your dog as they go sniffing and exploring being easily absorbed through respiration.  With supersonic olfaction and fast metabolisms, dogs absorb chemicals efficiently into their bloodstream. If ingested even a dog’s highly acidic stomach cannot dissolve plastic. 

black and white dog with a nose on plastic

Other Dangers at the Beach

Your dog faces a significant danger from Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), which are becoming increasingly prevalent on the beach. It’s crucial to recognize the potential risks of EDCs and take precautions to prevent exposure, as this can lead to serious health issues. These can include, hormonal disruption, glucose modulation, fatty acid imbalances, and even cancers.  Man-made chemicals are causing harm to marine life and their habitats through ocean and air pollution. Palm oil washing ashore is easily recognizable as solidified white ‘bergs’ resulting from cargo ships cleaning their tanks. Palm oil is used in food manufacturing, beauty products and as biofuel with a distinctive smell likened to diesel.  It can become contaminated with other waste products and, because it is edible, it can be attractive to some dogs.  

There have been many cases of emergency stomach blockages from the substance, along with kidney and liver malfunction after ingestion.  Be mindful also of seawater and the amount your dog may accidentally gulp down. Similarly, an overload of sodium-packed saltwater can cause anything from a mildly upset tummy to kidney and liver damage.  

brown dog swimming in the sea with plastic bottle

Training a reliable recall and working to engage your dog with focus and fun games will help prevent your dog from investigating or ingesting any possible beach threats that could also include discarded fish hooks, dead fish or birds, and even the odd jellyfish. Have a look at our blog post all about practicing recall.

It is so important that we keep our dogs safe when we take them walking, especially to the beach. Why not participate in a beach clean during this year’s Great British Beach Clean and make a difference to your local environment and your dog’s walks?

About the Author – Anna Webb

As a Canine Nutrition and Behaviour expert, Anna combines her psychology degree, with study at the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) and over 20 years of experience. Host of the award-nominated A DOG’S LIFE podcast, she lives in London and is owned by Prudence, a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr. Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier. 


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