Heading to the water can be so much fun for humans and dogs alike. Swimming is a great way for you to be sure that your dog is getting exercise in the summertime while staying cool. It can also be very dangerous if you aren’t careful. Regardless of whether you are planning a day at the lake, heading to the beach, or even playing in the pool, follow these safety tips for swimming with your dog to keep your furry friend safe.
While many of us believe all dogs to be natural swimmers, it is not necessarily always the case. Dogs are not born knowing how to swim, they have to learn. Just like with anything else, it is good to be prepared. Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, these safety tips can help make your trip to the water more fun and less stressful.
Table of Contents
- 1 Safety tips for swimming with your dog
- 1.1 Practice swimming with your dog
- 1.2 Don’t force it
- 1.3 Avoid swimming with your dog at night
- 1.4 Avoid water that is too cold
- 1.5 Invest in safety products
- 1.6 Pay extra attention at the beach
- 1.7 Don’t let your special needs dog swim
- 1.8 When on a boat
- 1.9 Clean your dog’s ears after every swim
- 1.10 Keep yourself safe when swimming with your dog
Safety tips for swimming with your dog
Practice swimming with your dog
We talked about this earlier, but it is important to reiterate—dogs are not born knowing how to swim. That means that you can’t just expect your dog to jump into deep water and be fine. You need to first practice. Let them swim in a kiddie pool in your yard or take them to a shallow creek first. A place that is shallow enough that your dog can be confident in their learning and that you can easily step in and protect them if need be, is an ideal place to introduce your dog to water.
A good way to start the process of teaching your dog to swim is to toss a ball or stick into the water. Making sure that it is shallow at first and progressively going deeper into the water as your dog becomes more comfortable.
Don’t force it
Just like not all dogs are born knowing how to swim, not all dogs are built to learn. Some dogs (such as bulldogs, basset hounds, and pugs) don’t really like swimming or make great swimmers due to their physiology. Make sure to know your dog’s breed and their ability to swim before you take them to the water.
Additionally, if your dog shows no interest in water, give it time. Don’t force it. Forcing them into the water can be disastrous if they end up panicking.
Avoid swimming with your dog at night
A dog’s vision reduces considerably at night. That means that they cannot see where they are swimming or how to safely get where they need to be if they are swimming at night. Additionally, dogs’ vision is reduced considerably as they age, so this is another thing to remember.
Avoid water that is too cold
Dogs can suffer from hypothermia too, although they don’t understand what is happening when they do. A hypothermic dog can easily drown. A good general rule to follow is if the water is too cold for you, it is too cold for your dog.
Invest in safety products
Did you know that life vests for dogs are easy to find and affordable? They are! A life vest can save the life of your dog in the event of a water or boating emergency. You should keep your dog on a long swimming leash so that you are able to pull them back to you if they fall in the water or just get too far.
Pay extra attention at the beach
If the beach is where you are headed to play in the water, make sure to pay extra attention to your dog. The currents of the waves are very strong and dangerous. Make sure that you don’t allow your dog to go too far out.
Some dogs love playing in the water and think that “eating” waves or even the backyard sprinkler is great fun. But they can get sick (or potentially die) if they swallow too much water. Water intoxication happens when dogs swallow too much water too quickly. This can cause hyponatremia—severely low levels of sodium in the blood. This in turn, can cause water to enter the dog’s cells and cause severe swelling.1 This is rare but something to be aware of.
Also, be prepared for a disaster of a mess to clean up. Sand and dog fur are not a great combination.
Make sure you follow the rules of the beach, some don’t allow dogs or only during certain times. If you are on a beach that doesn’t require your dog to be leashed, be prepared for strange dogs to potentially be coming over to try and play. If your dog isn’t super dog friendly please keep that in mind.
Don’t let your special needs dog swim
If you have a special needs dog, you may want to avoid allowing them to swim. Dogs that are prone to seizures or similar medical issues can drown very easily.
When on a boat
Boating with your dog requires some added safety requirements as the risks to a dog rise a bit. When you take your dog out on a boat, follow these tips to keep them safe out on the water:
- Keep a life vest strapped onto your dog.
- Keep a long swimming leash attached to your dog.
- Make sure to keep them contained in the boat.
- Provide a safe, secure spot for them to sit. Sitting is going to be better than standing for them especially when hitting waves or at higher speeds, so it’s important that they have a safe place to sit and stay balanced.
Clean your dog’s ears after every swim
Water in the ears is a major cause of ear infections for dogs, especially when it is river or lake water (which can carry more germs and parasites). It is imperative that you take the time to clean and dry out your dog’s ears in order to prevent them suffering from the pain of an ear infection.
Keep yourself safe when swimming with your dog
It’s unfortunate, but important to note that dogs have drowned their owners before in moments of panic. A panicked dog can create a dangerous environment in the water. It’s best to avoid swimming right next to a dog (especially a larger dog). If your dog gets spooked, they can bring their human down if they are panicking in deep water.
Dogs are lost every year to drowning accidents. The more prepared you are, the better chance you will have of making sure that this doesn’t happen to your beloved pet.
- “What is water intoxication in dogs and how can I prevent it?” Vets Now, updated January 2020, vets-now.com.