Your dog's summer swimming safety
My dogs love the water! When it comes to summer, my first thoughts are the beach and the pool. Fergus loves the swimming pool and Brodie loves the ocean. Fergus jumps into the pool and ferociously bites at the water. Brodie is mesmerized by the ocean tide so he chases the tide movement. While summer brings us so many more opportunities for outside activities with our dogs, we need to consider their safety. Not all dogs like the water or the environment, but if they do, it can be a whole lot of fun for you and your dog.
Does your dog know how to swim?
Watch your dog for signs of excitement — wagging tail, ears up — or signs of resistance near water. If this is your dog’s first time near water, introduce your dog slowly and do not force the issue. If your dog is truly not comfortable around water, find another activity. You will both have more fun and a better experience.
Not all dog breeds are good swimmers. For example, brachycephalic breeds — those with flat faces or extremely short snouts — are generally unsuited because it is too easy to get water up their noses making them a drowning risk. Dogs with large, barrel-shaped bodies struggle to stay afloat, as do dogs with long bodies and short legs.
You may wonder if it’s bad for your dog to swim every day? IT’S GREAT! Some people even like swimming with their dogs. Five minutes of swimming equals five miles of walking. Swimming is a real energy burner and has numerous health advantages. It’s a low impact, cardio benefiting exercise perfect for you and your dog.
How do I know if the water is safe for my dog?
Before your dog goes swimming consider a few things. What is the temperature of the body of water? Cold water can fatigue your dog much faster than warm water. Is the water potentially toxic? Algae bloom is BAD and may result in lethal consequences. When algae are present, oceans, estuaries and bays look red in color; lakes, canals and ponds look green. If you think there is a presence of algae, avoid this body of water.
Other environments to consider include rivers with strong currents, people fishing, and salt-water. Salt water can be ingested and cause serious harm to your dog. This is known as “dry drowning” and can result in death.
More dogs drown in pools than in any other body of water. Make sure you show your dog how to exit the swimming pool safely by showing them the stairs. For dogs that love the water, consider a life vest. I love the Ruffwear Float Coat. It’s really well made and it’s a one-time purchase. Putting your dog in a life vest provides for a safe, worry-free, fun day of water activities.
If your dog is in distress, assess the safety of the situation. If a rescue is attempted, stay calm, try to approach the dog from the front and put your arm under their midsection to support and gently guide them back towards the shore. Is there a potential for strong rip tides? Dogs show a natural sense of calm in a rip current and can almost always get themselves out of the situation. The problem occurs when the dog’s owner attempts the rescue and becomes the victim.
How long can a dog swim?
When you introduce your dog to swimming start with 10 minutes at a time until your dog reaches a consistent level of stamina. For dogs recovering from injury or illness, gentle progressive exercise is key. Professionals recommend a 30-minute swim session for the average dog.
There are other things to be aware of outside of the water. Dogs can burn a lot of energy in the heat, so you want to always have a source of fresh water available to them during strenuous activities, including swimming. Exhaustion or heat stroke, sunburn, hot spots, ear infections and dry skin are all consequences of summer activities with your dog. If you have the type of breed that has a hard time with the “off” switch, then regulate activity for them.
All of this being said, you and your dog can have amazing experiences in water. With a little awareness of their environment and forethought, swimming and summer can be a fun safe exciting experience for you and your dog.