The COVID lockdown inspired a host of consumer trends including toilet paper panic-purchases, bottle-shop binge-buying, and the odd Netflix overdose. Some of us spent what spare cash we had on surfboards, while others decided there had never been a better time to buy a dog. Since then we have discovered that owning a canine friend comes with responsibility and can encroach upon a surfing lifestyle.

Phil Tucak is the original Tracks Vet. Below he discusses some of the dos and don’ts of dog ownership when you are a surfer.

The question sometimes comes up about whether having your dog at the beach might attract sharks to the area. Well no one wants an impromptu date with a Noah, so doing what you can to minimize the risk of an unscheduled encounter in the water is a no-brainer.

But if your dog is chilling it up on the beach whilst you’re out catching some waves, the risk has got to be pretty minimal – any shark is probably going to be more interested in what’s in the water than what might be up onto the sand, it’s not like we’re talking about those orcas in the David Attenborough documentary who patrol the shallows waiting for their chance to nab a wayward seal who frolicked a bit too close to the water’s edge.

However, as shark expert Valerie Taylor has previously pointed out, if your dog is in the water doggy paddling around, then they’re probably fair game for a shark, and so might help arouse the shark’s curiosity to come and see what else is in the water. Also perhaps not a good idea to let your mutt sleep on your wettie at home, as their doggy smell might prove interesting once you're wearing it out in the water. If you want to play it really safe, keep your mutt out of the water and safely on the sand. Dogs do make loyal spectators and are usually always super excited to see you when you lumber up out of the water.

In saying that, like with everything it’s always a matter of assessing the conditions and there are plenty of dogs that actually love surfing with their humans - hanging twenty on the board (or if there’s a human on-board too, maybe that should be hanging thirty). Let’s hope that events like the Noosa Festival of Surfing hold their dog surfing competition again in the new year.

Dogs certainly love time at the beach, so be sure to check that your beach of choice is dog-friendly, and remember to always clean up after your dog – no one wants to accidentally walk on a pooch’s smelly deposit.

Pavlov's Judging Panel

Dogs are great company, and with this unpredictable year throwing up all sorts of challenges, for those spending more time at home, there’s the benefit of being able to enjoy more time hanging out with your pet. For those who didn’t have a pet before the pandemic, a whole lot of people have been getting themselves a new puppy or adopting a dog from the local pet shelter.

It’s important to set your pet up for a healthy life by feeding them a quality diet, getting them vaccinated, and protecting them from parasites like fleas, ticks, gut worms, and heartworm. If you need further advice or have any concerns about your pet’s health, then head into your local veterinary clinic to get your best mate sorted.

Dr Phil Tucak

Dr Phil Tucak is a veterinarian, communications manager and journalist from Perth. As the Wildlife Outreach Vet, he also works to share the conversation about conservation, and in 2020 Phil was named Veterinary Business Professional of the Year. Phil is Tracks Surfing Magazine’s resident vet.