It’s officially summertime in San Antonio which means one thing, it’s hot! Many families are keeping cool this summer by going swimming. Whether it’s the lake or your backyard swimming pool make sure you’re taking all the proper precautions to keep your pets safe around the water with these tips from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
Although not all dogs are fond of water, they should be exposed to it for their own safety. With some simple training and safety devices, you can ease your mind and protect your dog(s) this summer.
Give your dog a gradual introduction into the pool or lake by holding them snugly and slowly walking into the water. Let your dog get wet a little at a time and eventually let him/her swim to the exit. Make it a positive experience with lots of encouragement and praise.
Teach proper swimming technique. All dogs will instinctively paddle when submerged in water, but as inexperienced swimmers, many dogs try to rely on their front legs and do little with their rear legs. This results in an almost vertical swim technique with lots of splashing. It’s exhausting and very easy for a dog to become over-tired this way. With proper training, the most vertical of swimmers can learn to use their rear legs, evening out their performance and swimming much more effectively and safely. Keep a close eye on your dog – if you see them become over-stimulated or fatigued, it’s time to call them out. If you see your accomplished swimmer dog lowering his rear, this is a sign that he is getting tired.
Dogs have poor depth perception so if the pool has steps, mark them with a big potted plant and make sure he associates the plant as the exit marker. If there are no steps, provide a non-slip ramp for getting out. Spend sufficient time training your dog to go up the ramp.
If your dog plays in a lake, make sure to stand at the place on the shore where he/she can easily walk out.
Always put a life jacket on your dog in ponds, lakes, rivers, or the open water. Just like with people, it’s easy for a dog to develop a cramp in a leg, become exhausted too far from shore, or in the case of rivers or oceans, overwhelmed by tides. Life jackets give your dog the extra protection to stay buoyant.
Keep safety floatation devices nearby, just in case of an emergency. If your dog gets into trouble, a life preserver attached to a long line is the best course of action to take. Dogs panic easily in the water when trouble hits, and a panicked, flailing dog can accidentally drown any person trying to assist them. Get the dog to grab out to the preserver first and try to reel it in closer to shore before physically trying to help the dog get out.
Training polite pool manners is a must. A big golden retriever sailing through the air in his/her excitement to get in the water is a no-no. Train the canine to “Wait” at pool’s edge or to always use the steps or the ramp. Also teach your dog that the “Come” command applies to the pool as much as it does to dry land.
Be mindful of the specific needs of your dog’s breed. Each dog’s physical structure and body-type will greatly impact his/her swimming ability. Heavily muscled bully breeds exert more energy while swimming due to their increased body mass. Consider using a lifejacket with such dogs for added protection.
Watch your dog’s nails! Dogs can quickly wear their nails down to the point of bleeding as they excitedly race around the pool’s exterior. Keep a watchful eye on the pads of their feet as well. Repeated launching from pool steps can tear up paw pads; especially for dogs who spend most of their time on grass.
Unless your pool cover is solid and strong enough to support your weight, do not leave it on when your dog is unattended near the pool. Countless dogs, even accomplished swimmers, have lost their lives following an unexpected tumble into a covered pool. Once they’re in, the cover is disorienting and it’s almost always impossible for a dog to find his/her way out. If your dog needs to spend time in the yard unsupervised, consider putting up a pool safety fence.
Avoid letting your dog drink pool water. Always keep an ample supply of fresh water around so your dog can drink without attempting to drink from the pool. Also make sure you give your dog many opportunities to relieve himself after a swim as he is likely to ingest water from wherever he/she is swimming (pool, pond, lake or ocean) and may need to urinate more often.
Make sure you rinse your dog off after a swim to get chlorine and other pool chemicals, as well as bacteria or dirt they might get on them from a pond or lake. Don’t let your dog sit in a wet collar as hot spots can develop. Be mindful of areas where water can collect, like ears, groin, and armpits, where moisture-induced infections can occur.
If your dog is overweight or a senior, check with your veterinarian first before allowing him to swim. This is also important for dogs that are generally sedentary. Dogs, like people, experience muscle soreness and stiffness and they’re counting on us to lookout for their best interests.
For additional information on water safety and activities with your dog:
- Get Pets Wet! – safety products for dogs
- Life jackets for dogs
- Pool Safety Fences
- Doggy Docks
- Paws Aboard
- Boat Dock Pool Ramps
- Alarm System – notifies if animal falls into pool