It’s not called the doggy paddle by coincidence, and trust me your dog can probably do it much better than you can. But don’t let that paddling pooch fool you! As a dog owner you should be aware of the dangers that water can present to your dog and the best safety practices for swimming with her. Here are some tips and tricks to make sure your puppy can safely enjoy the water as much as Benji does!
- Don’t force it. How would you like to be thrown into a cold pool? Your dog probably wouldn’t either. The best way to get your dog comfortable with the water is by allowing her to tread in slowly on her own. This may be difficult in above ground pools with steep entrances, so if you can, try first at a beach, in ground pool or even a kiddie pool. It’s like the old saying goes “don’t go off the deep end”. One too many traumatic experiences early on could turn your pooch off of water for good.
- Supervision is critical. There are dogs who love water and dogs who REALLY love water (i.e. Benji). For those dogs who are comfortable enough going in on their own, they must have constant supervision. Even if they are wonderful swimmers, a dog could get excited, tired or disoriented in water and not be able to find their way back to solid ground. Supervision is also critical for dogs who really DON’T like the water. There is always the chance a dog may accidentally end up in water and be at risk. Take precaution to keep dogs away from water when you are not watching. As always, a solid foundation in obedience training can go a long way.
- Assess the area for dangers. While the beach, river or lake may seem like a fun place to take your dog, there are additional dangers that you should be aware of. Sharp objects like shells and glass that can cause injury may be found on many beaches. Water currents are sometimes unpredictable and may tire your dog quickly or even worse sweep him far away from shore. At natural water bodies, there is always the possibility other animals (both land a sea) may be present, so keep an eye out for other wild life that may distract or endanger your dog.
- Check for infections. Dogs may be hurt during all the excitement of swimming. Foot and leg injuries are common from sharp objects outdoors and oral injuries may occur during a game of fetch. Many bodies of water harbor bacteria and parasites that may infect open wounds so be sure to check your dog after swimming. Ear infections are very common with swimming pooches, most often occurring in floppy eared dogs. Be sure to dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after swimming and check for infections periodically (if your dog’s ears smell, he is constantly scratching them or they cause him pain there’s a good chance he has one) and if you suspect anything, take him to a vet immediately.
- Dogs get cold too. When compared to air, water has a much greater ability to reduce lower your dog’s body temperatture. Even water that may feel warm can cause hypothermia after a long period of time. Your dog may be too excited by swimming to know when enough is enough so it is up to you to ensure she is not swimming for too long. Even Michael Phelps takes a break sometimes!
Spending time with your dog in the water can be a great experience and one that not only provides lasting memories but also helps to strengthen your bond. If you are aware of the safety issues associated with water, you will be able to enjoy many happy days at the beach, lake or pool. Make sure you enjoy what is left of this summer!!