Dog Swimming Safety

shillington vetThis summer, many of us are looking forward to spending time with our dogs on the water. There’s nothing quite so fun as going to the local pond, beach, or just as far as your backyard pool for a swim with your dog. But keep in mind there are some safety precautions to be aware of when it comes to dog swimming safety. Not all dogs are great swimmers, and it’s important to be prepared, be aware, and take proper precautions when swimming with your dog.

Following are our best dog swimming safety tips from your Shillington vet.

Teach Him to Swim

It may comes as some surprise, but not all dogs are natural swimmers. Some breeds have body conformations that don’t lend themselves to swimming at all (think: English Bulldog). One thing to keep in mind is that you want to start slowly if your dog is just starting out with swimming.  

Here are some steps to take:

  • Choose a quiet, shallow spot to begin
  • Keep your dog’s leash on while he learns
  • Get into the water with him
  • If he doesn’t want to go, don’t force him in (never throw a dog into deep water to teach him to swim)
  • Gradually lead him to deeper water
  • When he begins to paddle, support him by placing an arm under his belly as he learns to kick
  • Stay positive and keep swimming lessons short

Soon, with patience and positivity, you’ll have a swimmer! Now what?

Dog Swimming Safety Precautions

First things first: no dog should ever have unsupervised access to backyard pools, neighborhood creeks, or ponds. Swimming pools should be fenced for safety. You can also purchase an alarm that goes off when the water surface is broken by a child or a pet falling in a smart investment.

A ramp to help your dog get out of the pool is also a good idea; some dogs don’t understand how or where to get out of a pool and can exhaust themselves trying to crawl their way out. Of course, you’ll need to show your dog the ramp, and make sure he knows how to use it to get out.

Obedience training is also a good step in the prevention of many problems. Make sure your dog has great recall and will come back to you when called if they begin venturing into unsafe swimming conditions.

A life vest can be a good investment when boating with dogs. Even great swimmers can tire or be swept into currents or unsafe conditions that they can’t get out of on their own.

Dog Swimming Safety Preparedness

As a 24-hour emergency vet clinic, “Be prepared” is one of our favorite old adages. It certainly applies to dog swimming safety! One way to be prepared is to have your veterinarian and local emergency clinic’s phone numbers and addresses programmed into your phone and car GPS systems.

When swimming in natural surroundings, always assess the conditions before letting your dog go in. River currents can be stronger than they appear.

If visiting the beach, be familiar with tides, currents, and changing conditions. Riptides can surprise even the strongest swimmer and sweep them out to sea or exhaust them.

Algae can cause illness and even death in dogs if they ingest too much of it, so stay away from standing water with algae on the surface.

In addition to surveying the conditions of the water, one of the best things you can do for dog swimming safety is to take a pet first aid and CPR course. A dog rescued from the water and near death could be saved by your quick actions, if you know what to do.

Dog Swimming Safety Awareness

Awareness of your dog’s overall health and fitness can be crucial to making sure he’s safe in the water this summer. Here are a few things to consider:

Age If your dog is very young, he may be more prone to panic in new swimming situations. If your dog is very old, he may not realize that he doesn’t have the same stamina and strength when swimming than he once did. Be aware and ready to help (or skip a swim entirely) when needed.

Physical fitness Like people, dogs need to work up to swimming great distances or for long periods of time. Watch your dog carefully for tiredness, as a tired dog is more likely to get into drowning trouble.

Human safety – It’s awful to think about, but bears mentioning: a struggling dog in the water can drown a human especially a small child so always carry a second toy or treat that could help you lure your dog back to shallow water, if they start to panic in unsafe swimming conditions.

We hope that you’re feeling a bit more prepared and knowledgeable about swimming with your dog this summer. If we can be of assistance with answering any other questions about dog swimming safety, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.