9 Must Read Tips to Keep Your Dog Afloat
Summer is synonymous with pool gatherings. Of course, as pet parents, we want our dogs right with us, poolside. But pools pose a fatal threat to dogs who are not water-savvy.
Posted: July 9, 2014, 1 p.m. PST
Each year approximately 40,000 pets die in drowning accidents. You could crate your dog, leave him inside, keep him on leash, or watch him every second, but none of these are realistic if you want you and your pet to actually enjoy the pool this summer.
Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, a nationwide pet services company, has a few simple pool safety tips that can help keep your dog safe while still enjoying the pool. These tips are also helpful for dogs going to the beach, lakes, rivers, and streams this summer.
Dog Water Safety Tips
- Start small. If your dog is new to swimming or doesn't seem like the Michael Phelps-type, introduce them to water slowly. Consider buying a kiddie pool to allow your dog to get comfortable in the water in a less intimidating environment.
- Do your research. While most dogs enjoy the water, some dog breeds have physical limitations that inhibit them from swimming. Others just simply don’t enjoy the water. Read up on your breed and evaluate how your personal pet does with pools and bodies of water.
- Don't push it. Many people playfully toss their dog or assume their dog will naturally start swimming when dropped in water, but forcing your dog into the water can be dangerous and a traumatic experience for the dog.
- Great escape. Make sure there is always an easy way out of the pool or lake for your dog and make sure they know how to use it. If the stairs are inconvenient or hard for your dog to maneuver consider installing floating ramps or "doggy ramps” on the stairs for your dog’s safe exit from the water. There are companies that make portable ramps if you plan on bringing your dog to a lake or a pool away from home. Even if your dog is not a "swimmer” ensuring an exit is available could save his life should he jump or fall in.
- No drinks in the pool. Never let your dog drink from the water. The chlorine and chemicals in the pool as well as the salt in the ocean, and bacteria in lakes can make your pet sick. Keep a clean bowl of fresh water available for their enjoyment nearby.
- Stay afloat. Get a dog life jacket for all activity in any open body of water for your pet. This is a must for new or non-swimmers, but is also a good idea for experienced swimmers. Just like with people, it’s easy for a dog to develop a cramp in a leg, become exhausted too far from shore, or in the case of rivers or oceans, overwhelmed by tides.
- Take a shot. If your dog will be swimming in lakes and/or rivers be sure to get them a Giardia vaccination to prevent infections.
- Lock down. If you own a pool, install a barrier around your pool and consider a pool alarm. Self-closing and locking gates are best so the area is locked at all times when nobody is around to ensure your pet is safe near the pool. Pool alarms are convenient for all pool safety for pups and humans alike. Collar alarms are specifically for the pet and pool alarms are made to warn you that the water has been disturbed.
- Shower time. Always give your pet a rinse post-swim to get out chlorine and other pool chemicals, as well as bacteria or dirt he might get on him from an ocean or lake. Don’t let your dog sit in a wet collar as hot spots can develop as well.
"Dogs aren't born knowing how to swim, it's a learned skill," says dog trainer, September Morn. Even if your dog has never had a scary experience in the pool, your dog may not like the feeling of being unable to touch the bottom of a deep pool, but may feel more comfortable at a shallow lake or bay, explains Morn. If your dog doesn't like to swim, that's okay too.
"Not everyone enjoys the same activities," says Morn. Consider setting up a plastic wading pool so your dog can play and cool off in non-scary, shallow water.
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