Dog Swimming Safety: What to Know Before Diving In
Want to soak in the sun and make a splash with your fur pal? Swimming provides both you and your dog a chance to exercise while cooling off and having fun on a warm day! Whether you're in the backyard pool, visiting the lake, or playing in the ocean at a dog-friendly beach, learn how to keep your pup safe before taking your dog swimming.
Can All Dogs Swim?
When you imagine a dog swimming in water, a Golden Retriever or Water Spaniel might come to mind. These breeds are commonly associated with the water because they seem to instinctively know how to swim. Goldens and Spaniels—among other breeds such as the Irish Setter, English Setter, and Newfoundland—are natural-born swimmers because of their strong limbs. Additionally, these breeds have assisted waterfowl hunters for centuries, according to Nevada Sporting Dog Alliance. It’s no wonder these dogs naturally excel at swimming!
Although all dogs can swim, swimming comes less naturally for some breeds. Bulldogs, Corgis, and Dachshunds have short, stocky legs that make it more difficult to thrust forward and stay afloat. Additionally, breed such as Pugs and Boxers are brachycephalic, meaning they have flat faces and shortened noses, so balancing breathing during physical activity is more of a challenge.
Regardless of whether swimming is a breeze for your furry friend or they're just getting started, you should always follow some key safety tips. Of course, you should also ensure your dog is at ease in the water and remove them if they appear uncomfortable.
Dog Swimming Safety Tips
Ensure Your Dog Wears a Life Vest
A doggy life vest is a great starting point as an extra safety precaution. Find a vest that is sturdy, made of waterproof material, and has a bright, easy-to-spot color. It should feature a secure, breathable fit and include a handle to lift your dog out of the water if needed.
Even breeds that are known as strong swimmers will be confused by the surface change when they go in the water for the first time. However, with a life vest, they will float and realize they can paddle their feet, giving them more confidence. Without a flotation device, a dog is most likely to paddle using their front paws. The balance of the life vest helps them learn to paddle all four legs and learn proper dog swimming technique.
Put Sunscreen on Your Dog
Just like humans, dogs can get sunburn so they need to stay safe in the heat. Hairless breeds and those with light coats are particularly prone to sunburn. Sunscreen should also be applied to the nose, especially on fur friends who have lighter pink-colored noses, according to the AKC.
Ensure the Temperature Isn't Too Cold for Your Dog to Swim
Before letting your dog swim, you want to make certain the temperature is not too cold. A good overall rule to follow is that if you think it is too cold to go swimming, it is probably too cold for your dog, too. Also keep in mind that puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with health conditions are more sensitive to low water temperatures.
Keep Your Dog Hydrated
Swimming will tire your fur friend out and make them thirsty, so make sure you have plenty of fresh, clean drinking water! This will also prevent them from sipping from the source they are swimming in. You don't want your dog to drink from the lake, pond, swamp, or river because these waters may contain organisms that you don't want your pup to consume.
If you see your dog start to drink from the body of water, call them over and offer them the water you packed instead.
Always Supervise Your Dog While They Swim
Keep an eye on your dog while they're in the water so you are quickly available when they're ready to get out. Dogs can tire easily while swimming, so you should become familiar with the amount of time it takes before they grow fatigued, according to Pet Central. Keep in mind that bodies of water with currents such as oceans or rivers will require extra energy from your dog!
Especially if you are in a pool, you want to ensure your pup knows how to exit through the steps or ramp. Help them find their way out of the pool and continue to practice with them until they can get out of the pool without your assistance.
Wash Your Dog After Swimming
Giving your dog a bath after a swim helps clean off pool chlorine, salt, or dirt that has accumulated on their fur. It can relieve them of itchiness caused by sand or debris, too.
Along with following these safety precautions, always keep a positive attitude and patience. Teaching your dog a new skill or activity takes practice. And don't forget to incorporate fun floating dog toys to level up the water excitement!