During the dog days of summer, a day by the water probably sounds refreshing and relaxing. Swimming can help your pet stay cool, but don't assume their animal instincts will automatically allow them to stay above water. Swimming can take a lot of training, especially for dogs that aren't natural aquatic athletes.
Much like humans, dogs need to get acclimated to the water before they become experts. Breeds that have short legs or long bodies (or both) may never learn to swim on their own. However, it's possible to have a lot of poolside fun with your pooch this summer, as long as you take the right safety precautions.
Keep an eye on them
Never leave your dog unattended in or near the water. If your backyard has a pool, make sure you always accompany your dog outside or block off an area for them to roam alone. Even if your dog is an experienced swimmer, disaster can strike in an instant.
Train them first
Dogs are more likely to continue behaviors that lead to positive experiences and avoid actions that cause negative outcomes. The "sink or swim" method isn't guaranteed to trigger your dog's survival instincts. It will likely result in a desperate doggy paddle and a fear of water.
Instead, gently guide your dog toward the water, and consider using a life jacket to give your pet an extra sense of security. You might also try giving treats during bathtime, so they associate something they love with being in the water.
Watch out for unruly waters
If you are near a lake or ocean shore with your dog, face the water at all times. Sneaker waves can appear without warning, and they could potentially carry you and your pet out into deeper water. As a general rule, keep your pet away from aggressive waves and remember that even calm waters can produce deadly sneaker waves.
Don't throw their toy too deep
Playing fetch is a good way to coax your dog into the water, but don't throw their ball or stick too far. They might not be able to choose safety over the desire to retrieve their toy, leaving them to find out the water is too deep when it's already too late.
Don't let your dog swallow too much water
Accidentally swallowing water when you dive into a pool isn't a comfortable experience. It's the same for your dog. Keep your swimming sessions short, so they don't end up puking from water toxicity.
Bring water and find shade
You want your dog to stay hydrated with fresh water during your day out in the sun. Shade is also essential to prevent overheating. Chilly water can help regulate your dog's temperature through their paws, but too much sunlight can put your pet at risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Swim carefully in places you know are safe
Common fishing sites have bait and hooks lurking beneath the surface. Your dog could get injured or sick from these hidden hazards. Avoid places with a large amount of marine wildlife, too.
Swimming can be a fun summer activity that brings you joy when you see your dog paddling around in the water. It's also a free bath. Keep safety in mind and you'll have a blast until it's time to cuddle up with your pet in the chilly fall weather.
Have a question about pet health? Want to become the best possible pet parent? Find helpful tips, reminders, and insight to giving your furry friend the best possible care with For Pet's Sake! Learn more at drdevonsmith.com.