Who exudes happiness more fully than a dog in the water? I worked on a story some time ago about a canine rehabilitation centre in Toronto, and one of the centres features was a pool for dogs. They were letting dogs use the pool recreationally that day, and I couldn’t describe the reactions of most of the participants as anything other than pure joy. Dogs, they like swimming. And why not? It’s fun, and it can be a great way to help them stay cool when the weather gets hot.
But just because dogs like to swim doesn’t mean they’re automatically safe. Even dogs who are strong swimmers can drown, and they cannot be trusted to fully understand their own risk levels while swimming or boating. Water safety is an important consideration for your canine friends, and some dogs are more at risk than others. Here are some handy water-safety tips to help keep Rover safe and happy in the pool, lake, or ocean this summer:
- First of all, assess your dog’s personal risk level in water. Certain breeds have more trouble with swimming and floating, including top-heavy ones like bulldogs and other short-nosed dogs. These barrel-chested dogs are also more likely to overheat. If you do bring them on or in the water, watch them closely, give them lots of shade, and use a life preserver.
- If you have a pool, make sure there’s an easy way for your pet to get out of it — stairs or a ramp, for example.
- Consider your dog’s age. As our buddies get older, they may lose some of their previous strength and agility in the water. Don’t assume that a dog that used to be a good swimmer always will be and watch their energy levels — get them out of the water as soon as they seem to be tiring.
- Think about the water your dog will be drinking as well. Dogs may happily drink from fresh or salt water, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Pool water and the chemicals used to keep it clean can also make your dog ill. Make sure you have a source of clean water available and that your dog quenches his thirst often.
- Install a fence around your pool to keep your dog — and other people’s pets, and children — out. Consider a pool alarm, or a collar alarm specifically for your dog.
- Watch your dog for signs of overheating — this can happen even with plenty of dips to cool off. If you suspect Fido is getting too hot, wet a towel or a tshirt with cold water and apply to his groin to bring down his body temperature.
- Only put your dog in the water if your dog wants to go in! Tossing a dog in can be very scary, and then getting him out while panicked can be difficult.
- Careful about the sun! Dogs with short or thin coats can burn, as hairless parts like noses and ears are also at risk. Do your best to protect these parts with dog-specific or children’s sunblock, and have a shady spot handy.
- Swimming in lakes or rivers can put your dog at risk of contracting Giardia, an intestinal parasite– get the vaccine!
- If you’re boating, everyone on board should be wearing a life vest — dogs included. One with a handle can help you pull your mutt back on board. Life vests are also a great way to let dogs that may not be strong swimmers enjoy a dip.
- Check bodies of water for conditions that could be dangerous, like currents, debris, very cold water, and riptides. It’s not safe for dogs to swim there if it isn’t safe for humans.
- Rinse your pet off after a swim, to remove any harmful chemicals or bacteria from the coat.
- Never leave any dog unattended in the water.
Photo by mtsofan