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the Dog Blog

Swimming with Your Dog: Water Safety Tips

A dog practicing water safety while swimming.

Planning to spend time poolside with your pooch this summer? Most dogs love to play in the water. In fact, many have an innate ability to “dog paddle” or at least tread water. During the dog days of summer when the heat and humidity are high, swimming and other water activities can be great ways for your best friend to stay cool and get some exercise.

Whether you have a backyard pool, live by a dog-friendly beach, or even just like to play with a garden hose and sprinkler, it’s important to remember that water safety isn’t just for humans—it’s important for dogs, too. Dive into these safety tips, so you can enjoy splashing around with your best friend all summer long.


Swimming for Dogs

If you’re going to take your dog into the water, you need to first take into consideration whether your dog is up for swimming and water games. Although most dogs love the water, not all of them do. In fact, most puppies and some breeds are known to be quite water shy, including Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Pomeranians, Shih Tzu, and Chinese Cresteds.

There are also certain dog breeds that don’t typically swim well, such as those with short snouts like English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs. Check with your veterinarian to be sure your dog can safely swim. Also, never, ever try to force your dog into the water if she seems afraid.


Dog-Friendly Areas

Before playing in the water with your dog, you’ll also need to make sure the beach or pool is dog-friendly. Start off with your dog on a leash. Look for a shallow area where the water and activity levels are calm. Pool owners will want to have steps or a ramp that your dog can easily climb. Show your dog how to get out using the steps and practice until she understands where the exits are and how to get out.

From there, you can play around with your dog to see if she is enjoying herself. Let her go at her own pace to decide if this is an activity she would like to continue. Never leave your dog unattended around water, even if the water is only shallow. For pool owners, make sure you have a fence around your pool, as puppies, especially, can easily fall in.


Dog Life Vests and CPR

Regardless of whether your dog is a strong swimmer or scared of the water, pet parents should consider investing in a life vest for their furry friend. The right fit, buoyancy, handles, and bright colors are all important considerations when choosing the right jacket. While a life jacket can keep your best friend afloat, you should be able to pull your dog out of the water by the handles and the color should help you easily see her from a distance. Pet parents should also consider taking a dog CPR class as well.


Dehydration and Water Intoxication

Swimming and water games are great ways for your dog to exercise but can leave you with a pooped pooch. When swimming or playing water games, be careful not to overdo it. Give your best friend lots of rest breaks in a shaded area and provide her with plenty of fresh water, so she doesn’t become dehydrated or end up drinking from the lake, river, pool, or ocean. These bodies of water may be filled with chemicals, bacteria, and parasites that can make your best friend sick if she drinks it.

Along with dehydration, watch for signs of water intoxication. It’s a rare condition, but it can happen to any dog, especially if she “bites at” or laps up the water. Water intoxication comes from swallowing too much water and can progress quickly, so watch your dog for lethargy, vomiting of water, coughing and “foamy” spit, dilated pupils, or difficulty breathing. If she has any of these symptoms after playing in the water, call your vet or get her to an animal ER as soon as possible.

After getting out of the pool or ocean, remember to rinse your pooch off with fresh water before the salt or chlorine dries on their fur. These can not only irritate her skin, but she can also ingest these items when licking her fur.


Water Activities

Once you and your dog are confident and used to the water and swimming, it might be time to have some fun splashing around in the water with your pooch. Here are some easy activities to safely enjoy the water with your best buddy.

  • Water games. Most land games can be easily adapted for water play. For instance, playing fetch with a stick, Frisbee, tennis ball, or other toy is just as enjoyable—if not more so—when you take to the water.

  • Canoeing. Taking to the river in a canoe is a nice, peaceful way to enjoy the water with your furry friend. Canoeing is relaxing and allows opportunities for your dog to jump out occasionally and splash around. Be careful where you dock, though, and watch out for sharp rocks or strong currents.

  • Dock jumping. If you know of a dog-friendly lake that has a dock and an easy way to get back to land, let her jump off and make a big splash. You might have to jump off first to show her how!

  • Towing. If your dog is strong enough, teach her to tow you around in an inner tube. It’s equally fun for both of you!

  • Surfing. This one is only for dogs who have proven swimming abilities. If you have a board and like to surf, you may be able to teach your dog how to catch a wave alongside you.


More Fun in the Sun

Between relaxing beach days and fun at the pool, the summertime can be an enjoyable season for you and your best friend. Want more ways to have fun all year long? Join our Best Friends Club today. Each month, you’ll receive special training tips, informative articles, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac products, so your dog stays happy and healthy.

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