For many of us, summer means days full of sunshine and swimming. Whether you live near the beach, own a backyard pool, like to go fishing in a nearby river or creek, or enjoy boating on the lake, water can make for great outdoor adventures with your dog.
Playing in water is a great way for your pooch to stay cool and avoid heat stroke during the warm summer months. Plus, swimming is easier on the joints than most other physical activities. Read on for some water safety tips every dog owner should know.
Can Your Dog Swim?
Contrary to popular belief, dogs aren’t necessarily natural-born swimmers. Sure, they may instinctively tread water when they need to stay afloat, but that isn’t the same as swimming.
There are some breeds who were quite literally born to swim (Portuguese Water Dogs and Irish Water Spaniels, for example), but there are others who simply aren’t built for swimming—pups with short snouts and uneven weight distribution such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Dachshunds, to name a few.
Some dogs may also be more eager to splash around in the water than others, regardless of breed. Ultimately, the only way to assess your dog’s swimming ability is to expose him to water. When introducing your dog to a body of water for the first time, choose a calm, quiet, shallow spot to start and keep your dog on his leash while he learns to navigate the water.
If your dog doesn’t want to get in the water, don’t force him. Some dog owners believe that throwing their pooch into the water will force him to use his instincts to figure out how to swim on his own. However, not only can this create negative associations with water, it can be dangerous. If you’re in a deep area and your dog starts to panic, he’s more susceptible to drowning.
Instead, go slow. Start at the edge of the water or shallow end, and get in the water with your furry friend for extra moral support. Once your dog begins paddling with his front legs, you can help him learn to float by lifting up his hind legs as well. Keep the experience as calm and positive as possible, allowing him to get out if he wants to.
If your dog is scared of the water, try setting up a playdate with a friend’s water-loving dog who can show your pooch how fun the water can be.
Swimming is easy on the joints, which is especially beneficial for seniors and dogs with mobility issues. Give an extra boost of joint support with Pet Honesty’s Advanced Hip and Joint Chews or Senior Hemp Mobility Chews.
Those who live or vacation near the ocean should be wary of any strong currents or riptides, which can be dangerous for even the strongest swimmer.
Additionally, be aware of any safety hazards in and around the water. This could include other sea creatures such as stinging jellyfish, or toxic items that could make your dog sick if ingested such as washed-up fish, or contaminated palm oil discarded by large ships.
Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water to keep your furry pal hydrated; you don’t want him drinking salty seawater!
If you or one of your neighbors has a backyard pool, be sure you have a fence or other barrier which will keep your dog out of the water during unsupervised, non-swim times. You’ll also want a sturdy cover in case he tries walking across the area.
Make sure your dog knows how to get in and out of the pool on his own, whether it’s by using a ladder or steps. If you’re not physically in the water with your dog, at least stay by the exit so he can find his way out. A worn out dog is at a higher risk of drowning, so offer plenty of breaks while he’s still going strong.
As with saltwater, discourage your dog from drinking chlorinated pool water. Make sure he has plenty of shade and water so he can rest and stay hydrated after his swim session.
Even if you’re just using a small kiddy pool, you can enhance its safety by adding a rubber mat to the bottom to make it less slippery.
River and Lake Safety
Even if you’re just planning to stay on a boat or fishing dock, it’s a good idea to provide your dog with a canine life jacket just in case. If something happens and he ends up falling in, he’ll be able to stay afloat even if he’s too stressed to swim.
Avoid areas with lots of blue-green algae, as this can make your dog sick if ingested. If you’re splashing around in a river, make sure that the current isn’t too strong and the rocks aren’t too slippery.
General Water Safety Tips
No matter which body of water you’re enjoying with your dog, keep the following general water safety tips in mind:
Make sure your dog knows basic commands such as “come” and “leave it” before you explore unfamiliar terrain to prevent him from wandering off too far or eating a gross and/or toxic item he’s discovered.
Make sure the temperature of the water is appropriate. If it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your dog. Swimming in water that’s too cold could lead to hypothermia or “swimmer’s tail,” a condition where the tail droops and stops wagging. Talk to your vet if you see signs of shivering or a motionless tail after swimming.
Rinse off your dog after your water excursion. Seawater minerals, salt, chlorine, algae, and other foreign bodies can irritate the skin and damage the coat.
After rinsing your dog, thoroughly dry his ears to prevent ear infections.
Never leave your dog unsupervised in the water.
Be aware of any hazards in and around the water, such as fishing hooks or other creatures.
Keep swim sessions short (10 minutes or so) and offer plenty of breaks in between to avoid wearing out your dog too much. This can also prevent him from swallowing too much water.
Another way to prevent your pooch from swallowing too much water is to avoid throwing large toys into the water that would cause him to gulp water upon retrieval.
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