Water Safety Tips for Dogs

It’s vacation time and many of us want to spend our days off at the pool or the beach playing in the water with our dogs. We want to give active pet parents some tips on how to prevent accidents and injuries to your pets and how to be prepared for any situation while enjoying canine water sports.

Additionally, we want to show you how demonstrating an awareness of the environment, as well as your pet’s overall personality and condition, can help keep your furry companions healthy and safe.

Prevention

  • Don’t leave your dogs unsupervised any time you’re around the water. Whether you’re at the lake or the beach or just playing around the back yard pool, keep your pets close to you while they’re in the water so that you can easily grab hold should anything unforeseen happen.
  • Fence off your back yard swimming pool so that your dogs can’t wander around and accidentally fall in or decide to go swimming when you’re not watching. If you can’t put up a fence, install alarms that go off when someone goes in the water. Keep a cover on your pool at all times when it is not in use.
  • Check the temperature of any body of water before allowing your pup to jump in. In very cold water, hypothermia can set in before your dog even begins to feel it.
  • Teach your dog how to get out of your pool safely. Show him where the steps are located and train him how to climb out on his own. If the steps can be too slippery for wet paws, glue down rubbing matting to help your pooch pull himself out.
  • Practice obedience training before you head to the water, and make sure your dog knows to come when called. Take along extra treats and toys as enticement and, if your dog is one of those that sometimes doesn’t listen, attach a long, nylon leash to his collar to reel him in if necessary.
  • Pool water, with its chlorine and the addition of other chemicals, can be harmful to your dog if ingested, so keep a bowl of fresh water handy to encourage your pooch to not drink the pool water. Pond and lake waters can carry bacteria, Giardia, and other parasites that can cause your pooch to become ill and the high sodium content in ocean water can disrupt your dog’s heart rhythm, so discourage pets from drinking while playing around those areas.
  • Keep your dog away from dead fish and animals lying on the shore to avoid any digestive problems caused by eating something rotten. Additionally, unless you happen to have doggy shampoo handy, you won’t want your pup rolling around in a stinky mess.
  • Fishing gear needs to be kept away from your pets to sidestep any potential injuries from hooks, knives, bait or fishing line.
  • Rinse your dog’s coat with fresh water after any kind of swimming. The salt and minerals in seawater, algae, chlorine, and water pollution can damage your dog’s skin and fur if left to dry. You’ll also want to clean any moisture out of the ears to avoid possible ear infections.

Preparedness

  • Teach your dog how to swim before going into the pool or lake for the first time, and the younger you start training, the better. You’ll want to find a quiet, shallow spot where you can get into the water with him. Keep your pet on a leash while he’s learning and start slow, staying at the edge of the water as long as he seems to be enjoying it. Only move deeper when your dog is relaxed and calm and, when he begins to paddle with his front legs, lift his hind legs to show him how to float. Never force your dog to go into the water if he doesn’t want to go. *Remember, not all dogs are good swimmers. The body conformation of heavy, large-headed dogs such as pugs, basset hounds and bulldogs make it hard for them to float and get out of the water, so swimming with these breeds may not be in their best interest.
  • Since you won’t want your pup playing with rotting seaweed or picking up splinter-prone driftwood, bring along backup toys for a fun time. Go online or to your favorite pet store and purchase doggy toys made specially for water fun, such as a brightly colored foam stick with rope attachment that floats. Look for those items that can entertain as well as provide safety features.
  • Survey the waterways for safety before your dog jumps in. Watch for fast-moving currents, outgoing tides, and drop-offs to prevent accidents. Look at water and weather conditions for any changes. Particularly in slow-moving ponds and streams, the blue-green that flourishes in warm weather can prove toxic to your canine friends.
  • Check with your local Red Cross chapter and take a course in Pet First Aid and cardiopulmonary respiration (CPR). You’ll want to be prepared to help your pet in case the worst should happen.
  • Always ensure your dog wears a canine life preserver or some kind of flotation device while in the water for safety reasons. Especially on boating trips, a life preserver can save your pet’s life if he happens to fall off into the water.

Awareness

  • You’ll want to watch for “Dog Free” zones in parks and around waterways and not allow your dog into them. Keep your dog leashed at all times when passing through these areas and clean up after him whenever it’s time to head home.
  • Make note of your pet’s prior health issues before swimming. Cardiac disease, respiratory illness, and other chronic conditions can exacerbate any symptoms or problems.
  • On hot, sunny days, the sand and the rocks at the beach can be uncomfortably warm on your dog’s sensitive paws, so protect his feet with doggy booties if he’ll let you. Keep fresh, cool water handy at all times and provide plenty of shade to avoid hyperthermia and heat exhaustion/heat stroke.
  • Remember the limits of age on your dogs. Older dogs can become easily overtired and over played without enough rest, while puppies and younger dogs may be simply scared or not recognize the signs of danger like their more experienced counterparts.

By paying attention to your pets and the surroundings, you can make summer swim play days both fun and safe!  Have questions? Let us know!