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9 Swimming Safety Tips for Dogs

September 21, 2017

9 Swimming Safety Tips for Dogs | Golden Meadows Retrievers

Most dogs (although not all!) love the water, making summertime at the beach or lake a real fun experience for everyone in the family. If you have a Newfoundland Dog, English Setter, Golden Retriever, or Portuguese Water Dog, you’ve probably already experienced this first-hand. These breeds are quite literally bred to love the water going back what is sometimes hundreds of years, and are all too happy to accompany you on every swim!

Unfortunately, swimming does come with a few safety issues. Even dogs who love water can find themselves in trouble from time to time. As a pet parent, it’s your job to use these swimming safety tips for dogs to keep your pooch swimming safely at all times.

Don’t Assume Your Dog Will Love Water

Dogs (just like you and I) aren’t all the same — even if they are bred to love the water. Like humans, some dogs just seem to be naturally fearful or anxious around water. If this sounds familiar, know that you shouldn’t ever force your dog to get in. Most importantly, never assume Fido will be okay, even if he’s enjoyed swimming in the past.

Not Every Dog Is an Instinctive Swimmer

Another common assumption that dog owners sometimes make is that all dogs instinctively know how to swim. Not only is this false, assuming that it’s true can jeopardize your dog’s safety. Even if your dog seems excited to get into the water, you should still remain by his side the first few times.

Note that breeds with long bodies and short legs may struggle to swim period; this has to do with the shape of their body and musculature. These breeds don’t swim because they enjoy it; they swim because they believe they are swimming for their lives instead Sometimes, a doggie lifejacket is enough to allow them to float and relax, but don’t push it if they balk. Sitting beside the pool is just as nice!

Gradually Introduce Your Dog to Swimming

If your dog is new to swimming, plan to go slow when you introduce him to the idea at first. Just like children, early canine swimmers need patience and understanding!

First, snap on that lifejacket. Then, use a favorite toy or stick as a motivator. Toss it into shallow water he can stand in and encourage him to retrieve it. Once your playful pooch is comfortable fetching the toy and splashing around, continue to praise him or her to build confidence. Gradually, over the course of several sessions, toss the toy or stick further out in the water.

Pay attention to your dog’s body language throughout each session. If he or she shows signs of fear, anxiety or any other negative emotion, it’s time to stop and take a break. There’s always time to try again another day!

Teaching Your Dog to Get Out of the Water

Many dog owners think about the fun their dog will have swimming without considering how he or she will get out of the water. This can actually be quite dangerous for pups, especially when it comes to deep ponds or pools where there isn’t always a natural incline or shore.

Teach your dog how to get out of water features of any kind, be it ocean, lake, or pool, by repeatedly calling him back to the exit point. Find a good spot that your dog can safely exit the water to get to shore safely and call them to you.

If you have a pool at home, equip it with a ramp rather than rails for a quick and easy exit. If you’re swimming somewhere else as a guest, keep your dog in eyesight range at all times.

Keep the Leash On

When teaching your pooch to swim, it’s important to keep the leash on him or her at all times. This will allow you to retrieve him quickly in an emergency. Better still if you can get in beside him, too!

There are two key actions that your dog should demonstrate before you start taking the leash off during swim times. First, your dog should be swimming very well without your assistance. He or she needs to be able to get out of the pool, lake, or river unassisted, and should eagerly come back to you on a consistent basis when you call.

Be Aware of Dangerous Animals Nearby

If you are swimming and boating with your dog in a river or lake, be aware that wild (and owned) animals can introduce unusual dangers. Your lovable furry friend can seem like a delicious snack for wild creatures like sharks, alligators and even large snakes. This is obviously more of an issue in the Southern USA, but coyotes, bears, and even moose can pose a threat in remote lakes as far north as Canada.

Avoid taking your dog to any outdoor swimming area until you’re certain of his recall skills. If you’re hunting or traveling through deep brush, bear mace can effectively ward off most menaces at least temporarily.

Practice Caution in Unfamiliar Bodies of Water

Bodies of water that you are unfamiliar with can hold all sorts of hazards that can affect your furry pal negatively. Potential risks include high levels of bacteria, unknown water depths, rip tides, undertows, parasites, broken glass, and even stinging jellyfish like the man o’ war. Be smart; check local resources for potential warnings first. If you’re not sure, save the swim for another day.

Always Be Vigilant When Sailing

In choppy waters or windy conditions, a dog on a boat could panic. Be sure to keep her confined, or at least wearing a life jacket and on a leash. If your dog does fall overboard, keep your eyes on his or her location at all time. Use your voice to help guide your dog to a spot that is closer to you so you can rescue him or her.

Because of the risk for falling off or swimming away from the boat, dogs should not be allowed to swim off of the boat off-tether. A long lead and/or swimming with a human friend will keep him close by.

Exercise Good Swimming After Care

If you are training your pooch to swim, give lots of treats and praise both before and directly after the session. Once you wrap up, follow up with a good rinsing with clean water and take the opportunity to love on your pup. This removes pool chemicals, sand, dirt, and other irritants that can dry out or irritate your dog’s skin and eyes, and it feels good, too!

Keep an eye on your furry pal for the next several days after swimming. Exposure to parasites and bacteria can cause infections, as can water in the ears, but they may not always become obvious until a few days later. Watch your dog closely for any unusual symptoms. If you see something concerning, have him examined by your vet to rule out issues.

Spending time in the water is a great way for both dogs and their people to get the exercise they need to be healthy, but it’s important to do so safely. Proper swim safety guidelines apply to both your pup and humans, too. Know both your own and your dog’s limits and play within them; you’ll build more endurance over time!

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