Tip of the Month

5/27/2008 Swimming with your Best Friend… Safely!

Water Safety Tips For Dog Owners

dog ready to go swimming

It's Great To Bring The Family Dog!


Many dog owners are surely considering bringing their pooches along on their summer excursions to enjoy the season together. In regards to canine water safety, what precautions should be taken to ensure an enjoyable and secure experience for both dogs and the water enthusiasts they accompany?

Not All Dogs Can Swim

It is important to consider that not all dogs can swim well enough to be completely safe when in or around water, but dog training can provide them with useful skills. Basset hounds, French bulldogs, and English bulldogs, for example, have very short legs that usually cannot move quickly enough to keep their bodies afloat. Also, dogs of breeds that naturally have a low body fat percentage, such as Doberman pinschers and Boxers, are more likely to sink. While many dogs love water and can swim without a problem, others do not like water or are afraid of it. This can inhibit their ability to swim. Any dog can drown, and hypothermia is always a risk.

Water Introduction

To ensure that your canine is comfortable in water, some animal training will be required prior to taking him/her out on the water. Consult your ABC Certified Dog Trainer for techniques and follow the advice provided here. Begin by assessing your dog’s skills in a swimming pool or just off the shore of the lake or ocean. Never throw your dog in the water – introduce him/her to swimming slowly without encouraging a negative reaction. If he/she seems happy and proficient at swimming, you can attempt an outing on your boat or at the beach, but keep your first outing brief. Again, consulting your animal trainer is recommended.

Canine Floatation Device

You may consider purchasing and using a canine personal flotation device (PFD) as this can help your dog to float in case he/she falls off of a boat or gets pulled out into the ocean. Many manufacturers have created PFDs for dogs that come in various sizes and colors. Bring your canine (and, if necessary, your dog obedience trainer) with you when purchasing a PFD so you can try it on him/her and ensure correct sizing with help from your dog training professional. PFDs for canines often come equipped with a handle on the back of the vest that allows the owner to lift the dog out of the water if necessary. You may want to choose a vest of a color that stands out, such as neon yellow or orange. This can help you to find your dog in the water.

Sunburn Caution

Remember that the sun’s rays and heat are harmful not only to humans but to dogs, too. When conducting animal training in the sun, remember that dogs can get sunburned (especially those with short fur and/or pink skin) or suffer severe repercussions of heatstroke just as humans can. Owners should be aware of early heatstroke symptoms of heavy panting, rapid breathing, excessive drooling, bright red gums and tongue, and standing four-square in an attempt to maintain balance. Your animal trainer will know what to look for. White or blue gums, lethargy or unwillingness to move, uncontrollable urination or defecation, labored, noisy breathing, and shock are all signs of advanced stages of heatstroke. You can cool your dog down by applying rubbing alcohol to his/her paw pads, applying ice packs to the groin area, hosing him/her down with water, and allowing the dog to lick ice chips or drink a small amount of water. Pedialyte to restore electrolytes is also recommended. If your dog is not cooling down, immediately take him/her to your veterinarian.

Have a ton of summer fun with your dogs!

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