Spending time with your pet in the pool, at the beach or at a lakeside cottage can be a fun and exciting way to keep cool and enjoy the ‘Dog Days of Summer’! That said, any time your pet spends near open water comes with a level of risk and it’s important to take the time to prepare and understand canine water safety. We’ve laid out the following tips so you and your furry family member can stay safe and make the most of your time spent on the water this summer.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not born with the ability to swim. While many will instinctively do some form of the ‘doggy paddle’ if they find themselves in water, this movement is done out of an instinct to survive and is not a reliable indication of whether your pup is capable of a solo swim or enjoying themselves. In fact, breeds with round bodies, shorter legs and/or flat faces will likely never be strong swimmers and can find themselves in trouble quickly if left unassisted in deeper water. Smaller breeds, brachycephalic breeds, and senior dogs will probably fare better using a kiddie pool to splash around in rather than struggling in a full-size pool or open body of water.
The younger your pup is when you introduce them to the idea of swimming, the more likely they are to enjoy it. Being in water for the first time can be an overwhelming experience on its own; so choose a quiet, calm area to get your pet used to being in the water. Do NOT throw your pet into the deep end of a pool or body of water. They may paddle but it’s out of instinct to survive and taking this approach is guaranteed to cause unnecessary stress, potentially leading to future anxiety around water.
Your pet looks to you for cues on how to approach new situations. If you’re in the water too, supporting them, you can offer comfort as they get themselves used to the water. If your puppy is a smaller breed, or they seem to be paddling themselves vertically with only their front legs, physically support their midsection. They should begin using their hind legs and will eventually learn to propel themselves forward. Remain in the shallow end of the water for a quick and comfortable exit if needed. Use bits of treats, like TLC Whole Life Dog Biscuits and lots of praise to encourage them as they acclimate to this strange new experience!
Your pet needs to be closely monitored around a pool or body of water, even if you believe they are strong swimmers. Keep them in your eyesight and remain close. Distress is hard to detect and can happen quickly. You want to be close enough to intervene and help your pet get out of the water at any moment. Remember to bring your leash when visiting public beaches or lakes so you can keep them close if needed.
If you’re going to allow your dog to roam around in the water freely, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Exhaustion can set in quickly and even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in trouble if they venture out too far from shore and their owners. A well-fitted life jacket keeps your pet afloat and allows them to fully enjoy themselves. Research the appropriate size and fit before buying and introduce it to them by placing it on them while they’re on land. Once they’re used to it, they should enter the water and behave as they normally would!
Pools are often full of chemicals and ingested lake water can contain parasites and diseases. Make fresh, cool water available to your pet throughout your time spent near open water and discourage your pet, using strong verbal cues, if they start drinking from the pool or lake.
Some dogs will be tuckered out after just ten minutes in the water, while others might seem like they’d swim all day! It’s important to take breaks and rest, helping to prevent exhaustion and avoid overexposure to the sun.
Give your dog a good rinse after spending time in a pool or lake to remove chemicals, dirt, debris and critters. Use a towel to dry your pup and pay special attention to their ears. Leftover moisture from a swim can get trapped in there and lead to irritation or a nasty infection. Once you’re finished, give them lots of snuggles and find a spot to enjoy a nice long nap!