Water Fun and Safety
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
As the days grow warmer and longer and summer inches its way closer and closer, thoughts begin to drift and fade into daydreams of sunny beaches and cool, refreshing pools. Then it comes—that first gorgeous, hot, sun-shining day of the season. It’s time to hightail it to the nearest beach and celebrate summer, but does your dog get to come along?
It is an excellent idea to bring your dog with you to the pool or beach. Swimming is a fantastic way to exercise and most dogs love the water. However, one must be mindful of the dangers present when you mix dogs and water.
It is a misconception that all dogs are expert swimmers. Many dogs, especially Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Otterhounds, and several other breeds are natural swimmers. They have webbed paws to help them swim and their coats are made for getting wet. However, other breeds like Greyhounds, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Corgis by nature of their body shape, weight distribution or coat have trouble swimming.
Introducing your dog to the water, whether he’s a swimming breed or not, should be done gently so he doesn’t develop water anxiety. Find a body of water with little or no current, or a quiet, mellow pool. If your dog doesn’t immediately go straight for the water, try running in yourself or coaxing him with treats or toys. Having doggie friends around who like the water is another good way to get your dog interested. Once in the water, if your dog is having a hard time, try holding his back end up for a few minutes; it will help him learn how he must hold his body to swim well.
Once your dog is enjoying the water, you’re free to do so as well, as long as you keep one eye on the dog. There are all sorts of dangers that can spell disaster for your dog on the water. One thing to watch for is the point at which your dog is too tired. Most dogs will hold their tail high in the water and use it as a rudder. If you notice that your dog’s tail is hanging down, chances are he's worn-out and it’s time to get out of the water. Other signs your dog has had enough include gasping, increased splashing while swimming, and coughing.
One must be mindful of the various perils of any swimming location and safeguard your dog with diligence. If you’re at the beach or near a natural body of water, be mindful of sharp rocks, shells and the like, which can cut your dog’s paws. Make sure you’re familiar with the location and any environmental hazards such as jellyfish, sea lice, or riptides.
When taking your dog for a swim or boat ride, you should consider outfitting him with a lifejacket. Special lifejackets for dogs are a great way to make your adventure safer. Most dog flotation devices include a handle so you can easily lift him from the water. Since they add buoyancy, your dog can expend less energy swimming and use more energy having fun and staying warm.
Be mindful of your dog’s personal stamina and the conditions. Even the strongest swimmers have a hard time when it’s cold or the current is strong. Hypothermia is a serious peril in the water. Keep an eye out for shivering, shallow breathing and pale or blue gums; these are all symptoms of hypothermia.
If your dog has short hair, white hair, or pink skin, he can get a sunburn. Use a dog shampoo with built-in sun protection and rub sunscreen on your dog’s nose.
When you leave the water, whether it is a pool, river, or ocean, give your dog a thorough rinse-off. Salt, algae, and pool chemicals wreak havoc on your dog’s skin and coat. Also, do your best to dry his ears completely. Damp ears lead to ear infections, mites, and yeast infections.
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