Swimming Safety for Dogs

What better way to enjoy a day at the lake, river, beach, or pool than by bringing your dog with you? But before you leash up Spike and pack his favorite tennis ball, keep a few dog water safety tips in mind:

Use proper dog swim attire.

Spike doesn’t need goggles and swim trunks, but a life jacket is a good idea. Many dogs are natural swimmers, and even a hesitant dog is likely to swim if they’re in an emergency situation in the water. However, a life jacket can still be, well, lifesaving in case he gets stuck in the water for a long time, or in a fast current.

Proper attire also includes a microchip and a collar with tags or contact information etched onto it so if you get separated, whomever finds Spike can contact you right away. Remove any unnecessary items, such as a non-waterproof flea collar, or a sweater

Introduce your dog to the water slowly.

Don’t let your dog run straight into the water if this is his first time swimming. The key is to introduce your dog to the water at his own pace, and if he’s hesitant, start in a shallow, calm area of the water. It wouldn’t hurt to have some treats on hand, either! If your dog is anxious, let him leave the water. Signs of anxiety include:

  • Ears back
  • Panting
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Eyes rolled back

You’ll know Spike is ready to swim on his own once he starts paddling. At that point, you can take him to slightly deeper water. But never leave your dog unattended in the water – keep an eye on him, and when he shows signs of being tired, help him get to shallow water or the shore.

Be aware of any potential dangers.

You should know how strong the current is and whether the area is prone to riptides, and your dog should be able to reach the shallows whenever he needs to. Drowning is, obviously, the biggest concern when you take your dog swimming.

However, it’s not the only concern. Be on the lookout for fishers or boats – you don’t want to have to take Spike to the emergency room with a fish hook in his skin! If you let him play fetch, watch where you throw the ball and be confident that Spike will come back to you. When fetch is over, snap the leash back on. Be aware of broken glass, dead fish, beached jellyfish, fish hooks, snacks left unattended, and other dangerous items on the shore.

If you have a backyard pool, keep it fenced or covered. Dogs can fall or jump into the pool and may not be able to get back out. Even a flexible pool cover can pose a danger to dogs if rainwater collects in it and your dog runs on it and gets tangled in it.

Keep fresh water on hand.

You have the swimming water covered, but Spike needs fresh, clean water for drinking. It’s impossible to know how clean the water is, even in a fresh water river, and swimming is an exhausting activity. And salt water is a big no-no for drinking!

And if you plan to be out for the majority of the day, have food and treats for your pup as well!

Make sure to dry-off properly.

When the fun is over, rinse Spike off to make sure any pool chemicals, lake algae, beach salt, and everything in between comes off his fur. Dry him well, including his ears to prevent ear infections. Check him thoroughly for sticker burrs, or other items caught in his fur or in between his paws.

Taking your dog swimming is great fun for you and him, done safely. Follow these tips, and you and Spike have a summer of fun ahead of you!