By Michelle Mullins, CPDT-KA, PetSafe Training and Behavior Manager
As summer temperatures heat up many of start heading to the waterside to cool off. Dogs often enjoy a swim or splash as well. While many dogs have an instinctual ability to dog paddle that doesn’t mean they can swim or that they aren’t as susceptible to water related accidents. I advise treating them with the same safety precautions as children. Whether in the ocean, lake, river or pool, dogs should always be supervised even after being properly introduced to water. Two of my dogs love to swim and one prefers to wade. Respect your dog’s preference and don’t make them get in over their head so to speak.
Even the dog that loves to swim can get tired or panic, fall overboard, or get caught in a current. A properly fit float with a handle is a must for every dog and they should wear it most of the time. Even in a safe shallow area I like a harness or lead attached to ensure safety. Additional items to consider depending on the environment:
- A dog ladder for getting out of the pool or back on the boat
- A long lead for areas with current or tides
- A dog first aid kit
- Consider a class in canine first aid and CPR
Dogs need to learn to swim if they are going to be around the water. They need to build stamina and you need to know if they enjoy swimming. Dogs should always wear their float and start by practicing in a shallow area where you can encourage them and hold the handle as needed. Never just throw your dog in the water, it should always be there choice to get in. Check your area for doggie swim facilities where your dog can learn in a safe environment with professionals who can help. I always take my dogs to a local swim facility for swim lessons before ever heading out to the lake. Even my one dog who doesn’t like to swim has had lessons and can swim if he needs to without becoming panicked.
Check out the location before you take your dog. Are there easy entry and exit points for your dog? Are currents, riptides, waves an issue? Are shaded areas available or do you need to provide an umbrella or tent for shade? How is the water quality? If you wouldn’t swim in it don’t let your dog!
On Dry Land
Just like us your dog needs sunscreen especially on light colored or bare areas like top of snout, ears and tummy. Choose a natural sunscreen safe for dogs or babies (sunscreens for babies often contain less chemicals, etc.) Keep an eye out that your dog is not licking it all off. Rinse your dog off with fresh water after being in saltwater or chlorinated water. You will also want to bath your dog after swimming to remove dirt, sand, etc. Provide fresh drinking water and encourage your dog to drink from it to minimize risks of drinking contaminated or chlorinated water.
Even if your dog doesn’t love a swim they may still enjoy wading in the shallows, a kiddie pool in the backyard or running through the sprinklers to cool off. With a little planning and some safety precautions in place you and your dog can enjoy splashing around all summer long!