Nothing says summer like a refreshing dip in your preferred body of water. And while we love to bring our pups along, when it comes to dogs and swimming, not all dogs are created equal.
Some breeds, such as the aptly named Portuguese Water Dog, are born to be strong swimmers. But, just as with humans, even the strongest of swimmers can run into trouble periodically. Here’s what you need to know to keep your dog safe in the water this summer.
Dogs and Swimming at the Ocean
If you’re blessed to be near the ocean, you know nothing is more fun than a day at the beach. But most (if not all) of the things that can annoy or hurt you at the beach, can also harm your dog. Think too much sun, sharp glass or shells, even jellyfish.
Keep plenty of fresh water on hand for your dog to drink, as salt water is a gastrointestinal irritant and can cause an upset tummy and/or loose stools. And use fresh water to clean their paws as well, as the salty brine can cause irritation.
If your pup loves to retrieve in the water, consider throwing the ball adjacent to the shoreline (in shallower water) rather that “out to sea” (aside from the risks, you’ll most likely lose Fido’s favourite toy!).
When heading into the ocean, walk alongside your dog so you can see if there are any objects that could cut their paws. And if jellyfish are plentiful, best to opt out for the time being.
And finally, no matter how strong a swimmer you have, be wary of your pet heading out too far. Large waves can be a hazard, and there might be a riptide in the area that you’re not aware of
Lakes and Dogs Just Go Together
Unless you’re on one of the Great Lakes, lakes tend to be a little friendlier. There won’t be riptides to contend with, or jellyfish, and the fresh water is potable and won’t irritate your dog’s eyes. That said, watch for algae blooms or stagnant areas, as while it might not be salty, any body of water can pose a risk. Bring lots of fresh water along as per usual.
If you’re on a lake with a beach-like shoreline, all of the above tips re: the ocean should be followed, though perhaps your pup can swim out further in a lake on a calm day.
If your good boy is jumping off a dock into deep water, however, make sure you are there to keep an eye out for any distress. If you’re not a strong swimmer, make sure someone with you is, in case of emergency. And if your dog isn’t a strong swimmer, or tires easily, invest in a size-appropriate life vest. Too many well-intentioned dog owners lose their lives each year trying to rescue their dogs. Never take anything for granted.
And, for the love of veterinary dentists everywhere, refrain from throwing rocks for your pups to retrieve – whether at the lake or the ocean. While we understand that many dogs love to chase rocks, and we love to please our pups, you might end up with a broken or chipped tooth, a hefty dentist bill, and not a little bit of guilt.
What About a Backyard Pool?
Backyard pools are definitely easier as you have more control, and your pup will probably have more freedom to roam. However, don’t allow being at home to lull you into complacency. Just like with toddlers, keep the pool fenced, and don’t let your dog into the pool without someone keeping an eye on them.
Generally speaking, chlorine counts in pools are diluted to acceptable levels. However, your dog’s eyes and ears tend to be more sensitive than ours to irritants, so give them a good rinse (and dry those ears!) when they get out.
Fatigue is an issue with family pools, as most pups aren’t familiar with “exiting protocols”. Be with your dog, and make sure they are comfortable climbing theladder or underwater steps to exit the pool. Panic will quickly tire out a dog, which is never good.
Dogs and Swimming: Don’t Forget Boating
If your pup loves to go boating with you, it’s wise to have a life vest on the dog at all times (and on you as well!). Should you capsize, or if the dog startles and ends up in the drink, you can rest assured that they’re ok while you assess the situation and get them back on board.
Most if not all of us consider our dogs as part of the family. Another “child”. And that’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when thinking about dogs and swimming. Would you allow a young child to swim unattended or venture out too far? If the answer is no, then apply that same level of concern to your beloved dog. And enjoy the fun of worry-free summer adventures with your pup.