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6 Swimming Safety Tips For Your Dog (Updated 2020)

brown dog swimming

Plan to let your dog swim this summer? Knowing these tips can keep him safe

Summertime is approaching fast and along with it, longer and hotter days. When it comes to your pooch, there are all sorts of fun summer activities that you can share together. If your pup likes to escape the dog days of summer with a swim, then knowing the tips to keep him safe is a top priority. Whether your dog likes to splash around in a pool, lake, creek, or any other body of water, practicing proper swim safety is critical so your fun in the sun doesn't turn into an emergency vet visit or worse.

white Labrador retriever climbing out of pool

Can All Dogs Swim?

You may think swimming comes instinctively to all dogs, but there are actually certain breeds like basset hounds and bulldogs that cannot swim; it can be rather difficult for dogs with broad chests to stay afloat. There are also pups that should not swim because of potential health hazards. For example, brachycephalic breeds like Shih Tzu and Pugs should avoid swimming because their short snouts make it difficult to breathe. Of course, it doesn’t mean these particular dogs can never play in the water; it just means extra precautions should be taken when they do. 

Similar to people, not every dog likes water, and in fact, some are downright terrified of it. Some dog breeds are more fond of water than others; many of the dogs that seem to love water the most tend to be larger breeds, but mostly it's all a matter of personal preference. If your canine companion enjoys the water, it’s best to assess his swimming skills in a shallow spot first, and no matter what, always supervise your pooch when he's making a splash.

golden retriever swimming with tennis ball

6 Dog Swimming Tips To Keep Your Pup Safe

Whether you plan to take your dog swimming or not, knowing some basic safety practices is always a good idea. Here are the safety guidelines that you'll want to commit to memory to make sure your dog can stay safe in the pool, or anywhere else he likes to splash around:

1. Take It Slow

Even if your dog has good instincts when it comes to the water, don’t go diving in headfirst. Introduce him to the water slowly, for example, by starting in the shallow end of a pool. Speak reassuringly and with confidence, praise and reward him with treats, and let him associate the water with a positive experience. Gradually, let your pup go a little farther into the water until he is confidently dog-paddling on his own. 

2. Get a Life Vest for Your Dog

Even though a life jacket might not be a common item on your puppy checklist, if your dog will be in water that he cannot comfortably stand in, he should wear a life vest. Dog life jackets come in various sizes; your best bet is to bring your pup with you to the pet store and have him fitted. 

3. Don’t Drink the Water

Your dog should not drink from lakes, the ocean, swimming pools, or any other body of water. Lakes and rivers can contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and blue-green algae that can lead to serious infections or health issues, and of course, swimming pools are treated with chemicals like chlorine that should not be ingested. 

The salt in the ocean can cause water to be rapidly pulled into your dog’s intestines, causing a sudden onset of what is often referred to as beach diarrhea. You should also check ahead to see if there are certain health risks associated with a particular beach; you can check for beach closures using the EPA’s beach advisory map.

4. Prevention is the Best Medicine

If your dog spends a lot of time outside, he is subject to more potential risks, like becoming overheated or dehydrated, so make sure that he has ample breaks and time in the shade, as well as access to cool fresh water. Plus, if your pup spends a lot of time in the water, he increases his risk of contracting certain diseases like Leptospirosis, so you might want to discuss possible vaccines with your vet. 

5. Wash Your Dog

After your pup’s water fun, give him a good rinse to wash off anything that might be hanging out on his coat, like chemicals or bacteria. Also, make sure his ears are completely dry to help prevent ear infections.

6. Watch Your Dog

Of course, always supervise your dog during any type of water activity, whether it’s just playtime in the shallows or a full-on swim session. However, you also want to watch your dog after his exposure to water as well, especially if it was in a lake, river, or ocean. If your pup did pick up some unpleasant bacteria, the sooner you notice any potential signs of infection or illness the better, so you can get your dog to the vet pronto.

grey and white dog playing in water

Dogs and Water Play

If your pup isn't a big fan of swimming, but he still seems to enjoy playing in the water, there are several things you can do to help him get his fix. The main thing is to stick to shallow water and always observe the above-mentioned water safety tips.

  • You can get a kiddie pool for your pup and put some of his favorite (floating) toys in it.
  • You can turn on the sprinkler or simply play “catch the water” with a garden hose.
  • You can let your pup splash around in a tub with just a few inches of water (if you have a smaller pooch).
  • If you live near a creek, or your dog is joining you on a hike, you can toss a stick around in a shallow area or enjoy your pup’s antics as he tries to make sense of the fish darting beneath the surface. 
brown dog jumping into pool

Best Places To Take Your Dog Swimming

Many places have special areas for swimming that are devoted to dogs. Whether it is a particular section of a beach, or a certain stretch of shore along a lake, or even an entire water park just for dogs, you can find different and unique places to take your pooch that involve fun and interactive waterplay. 

Depending on what city you live in, a simple online search can help you locate any such places near you and provide you with tips that are unique to that particular area. The advantage of taking your dog to one of these places is that they are specifically geared toward dogs, so your pup can socialize and splash around with some canine pals. 

Plus, since dogs are expected and welcomed, you’re less likely to have people around you that would rather not share their water fun with animals.  No matter where you plan to take your pup, familiarize yourself with the site’s rules and regulations, and always adhere to local leash laws. 

When you set out to enjoy some summer fun with your pup, keep these dog swimming tips in mind. You always want to play it safe when you’re around the water with your pooch; this way your pup is certain to have a blast splashing and splashing up a storm. For more helpful tips on how to keep your pets safe and sound, check out the rest of our blog. At Neater Pets, your pet’s health and happiness is our number one priority!

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