- Is your dog a natural swimmer? While Mother Nature made retrievers with webbing in between their toes and rudder-like tails that help them to swim, not all dogs are the canine equivalent of Michael Phelps. Flat-faced breeds like pugs have trouble keeping their snout above water and maintaining airflow. Only arctic breeds are suited for cold temperatures so if the water doesn’t feel comfortable to your skin, your pet shouldn’t be swimming in it either. Start them off young if you want them to learn to doggie paddle and invest in a life vest to provide buoyancy.
- Teach them how to swim and know when they are tired. If you have a shallow pool, access to a lake, or beachfront, make sure you enter the water with your pet leashed and vested to provide support and encouragement. Swimming is physically demanding; let them tell you when they’ve had enough and never force them in the water if they hesitate. For timid pets, a treat or toy may entice them to take those first few steps in. Once they start to paddle with their front legs, you can gently live their hind end to show them what it feels like to float. You can also throw a ball a few feet in front of them to encourage forward movement.
- Bring fresh drinking water for your pet. If you are spending time in the ocean, remember to bring fresh, cool drinking water for them after a swimming session. If they swallow salt water, you can bet an upset stomach will soon follow. It’s also a good idea to identify a freshwater source to rinse them off after swimming. Pool chemicals and debris in natural bodies of water can cause skin irritation if not washed away.
- Watch out for your curious pets. Walking the shoreline is a favorite human and canine activity. You can bet your curious pooch will stick his nose in every stinky pile of seaweed or roll in marine life that has washed ashore. It’s best to keep them on a leash to monitor them as they investigate; ingesting dead fish, sniffing a jellyfish, or stepping on sharp sticks or shells can be dangerous. Watch for red tide or algal bloom warnings as well as rough seas. Both can cause canine fatalities. Some beaches have areas restricted only to human use. Be mindful of any posted warnings and restrictions.
- Keep pets on boats safe with life vests. If you are boating with your pup, you should always keep their life vest on in case of an accident. Even the most athletic dog is no match for strong currents and rip tides. If your dog is your co-captain, keep all boating and fishing paraphernalia out of reach. Ropes, lures, and lines can all be hazardous to pets should they become entangled or snared.
- Back yard pool safety: While backyard swimming is more predictable, having a pool on your property can still pose safety concerns. Keep your pool covered or fenced to prohibit wandering pets and people from accidental drowning. Teach your pet how to use a ramp or the stairs should they need to exit the water. And never leave even the most practiced swimmer unattended.
- Check your pet when you’re done. After that final rinse, use cotton balls to absorb any moisture in your dog’s ears. The combination of water and heat makes an optimal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast which can lead to a nasty ear infection. Check footpads and skin for any abrasions or debris that may have become embedded. And replace preventative tick collars which shouldn’t be worn in the water to maintain efficacy. It’s also a good idea to remove damp collars with ID once you are safely indoors. Let them dry out before putting them back on your pet to wear.
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