In the summer heat, our pups love to find the nearest body of water to dive into, splash around in and drink to keep them cool. While this is perfectly fine when you’ve set up a shallow kiddie pool in the backyard for your dog, it can quickly become dangerous around other bodies of water.
If your dog loves to swim and splash, be sure to follow a few important water safety tips—both for swimming and for safe drinking.
Your dog’s first swim
Despite common belief, dogs don’t automatically know how to swim and get themselves to safety. Some dogs breeds actually have a difficult time swimming and breathing, such as pugs and bulldogs.
If you want to take your dog swimming, it’s important to take it slow. Get your dog used to calm, shallow water first and maintain close supervision. You may even want to consider investing in a life jacket for your pup and swimming lessons to help your dog get better acquainted with the water to start out. Dogs that are afraid of the water may panic or have a hard time swimming, so it’s very important not to push it past its limits.
If your dog isn’t a strong swimmer, don’t assume it will get itself out of the water. Dogs instinctively “doggy paddle,” or tread water, but they can still get fatigued and scared if the water isn’t easy to get out of.
Safe swimming practices
Once your dog is comfortable and happy in the water, you still need to exercise caution to avoid a dangerous accident. One of the most important things to remember is to always supervise your dog while it is swimming. You never know when a current or wave will hit, if your dog will get tired or when an accidental slip could leave it injured in the water and in need of assistance.
Be mindful of any hazards in the water before you let your dog swim. Scope out rocks, waterfalls, currents and other potentially dangerous situations, and don’t let your dog swim if these are present. Even strong swimmers can get hurt or swept away in an instant.
Call your dog back periodically and make it take a rest. Some dogs will push their limits to have fun swimming but can get fatigued and hurt.
If your dog swims regularly, familiarize yourself with canine CPR just in case. It’s better to be prepared and never need it than to be stuck in a dangerous situation with no way to help.
Clean and dry your dog’s ears after swimming using a cotton ball so moisture doesn’t get trapped and cause ear infections. Also give your dog a rinse off after swimming, whether in a pool, stream or the ocean. This helps remove bacteria or chemicals that could irritate the skin or make it sick.
Behaving near water
It’s also important to only let your dog near water if it knows how to handle itself and will come to you when you call it. Work on developing a strong recall using “come” or another command to keep your pet away from trouble.
If you have a pool, keep a gate or fence around it to prevent your dog from falling in or getting in without your knowledge. When introducing your dog to the pool, make sure it understands how to get in and out using the pool steps. This may require a bit of practice and coaching until your dog is familiar with where the safe exits are.
While on hikes or in wilderness areas, keep your dog away from fast-moving creeks and rivers or other bodies of water that have strong currents. If it gets too close, call it back and keep it on a leash to prevent it from jumping in.
Don’t drink the water
Dogs also must be supervised and taught not to drink the water it swims or plays in. Drinking pool water or water found in nature could make it very sick.
Chlorine and other chemicals found in pool water can cause an upset stomach, while salt from the ocean can lead to severe cases of vomiting and diarrhea that can quickly cause dehydration.
Water found in lakes and ponds can also be host to a myriad of microorganisms that can infect your dog. Some may cause vomiting and diarrhea, while others can even be fatal. One important thing to be wary of is blue-green algae, which can hold fatal toxins.
Always bring along fresh and clean water for your dog to drink when it takes breaks from swimming.
By following these tips, you and your dog will be prepared for a summer full of fun under the sun and in the water!