Water Safety for Dogs: 6 Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe, from The Dog Clinic
Swimming is a great way for a dog to exercise, stay cool and have fun. But if you plan to spend time near water, it’s important to know how to keep your pet safe.
Here are six water safety tips for dogs. Most of these tips are common sense, but they are easy to forget when having fun at the beach or pool.
1. Understand That Not All Dogs Are Natural Swimmers
There’s a misconception that dogs are naturally strong swimmers. While this is true for some breeds, others struggle to stay afloat or just don’t enjoy swimming.
Larger dogs with water-resistant fur tend to be the best swimmers. Examples include Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs. You should still test the swimming ability of these breeds before you let them into deeper water though.
Brachycephalic breeds, which often have difficulty breathing, are amongst the worst swimmers. Bulldogs and boxers also tend to have difficulty swimming, due to their heavy chest.
Small breeds can be strong swimmers - although they are more susceptible to the cold. Dogs with short legs, such as dachshunds, are likely to tire quickly.
On a similar note, puppies aren’t born knowing how to swim - at least not effectively. Most dogs will attempt to paddle when in water, but it takes practice to become a strong swimmer.
2. All Dogs Should Wear a Life Jacket Near Water
Every dog should wear a canine life jacket when near water. Whether you’re boating, hanging out by the pool, or taking a trip to the beach, a life jacket could save your dog’s life.
There are many factors to consider when buying a life jacket. Bright colours can make your pet easy to spot, while rip-resistant material improves durability. If your pet has trouble keeping his head above water, a neck float can be useful too.
Most importantly, make sure the life jacket is a snug fit. You don’t want it too tight, as this can restrict your dog’s range of motion, but too loose and it could slip off. All manufacturers provide a sizing guide, but you should also look for a jacket with adjustable straps for a custom fit.
3. Always Supervise Your Pet in Water
You should always be able to see your dog when he’s near or in water - even if he’s a strong swimmer and wearing a flotation device.
There are many potential dangers for a dog that’s swimming. His life jacket could get caught on a low branch, making it difficult to keep his head above water. He might become exhausted and panic. Or he might just want to get back to dry land but can’t find a route.
It’s also important to stop him getting too tired when swimming. Dogs don’t always realize they are getting tired - especially when having fun - so it’s your job to limit water time.
4. Be Wary of Beach Swimming
The sea can be a dangerous place for a dog to swim. Aside from battling waves, hidden rip currents can quickly pull a dog into danger.
For this reason, be extra cautious when your dog is swimming in the sea. Keep him in shallow water and ask lifeguards which areas are safe.
Of course, he should be wearing a life jacket at all times. Even the strongest canine swimmers get tired, so if your dog gets pulled out to deeper water, a life jacket could keep him afloat until rescue arrives.
It’s also important to prevent your dog drinking sea water. Small amounts can cause diarrhoea, while large amounts of saltwater can lead to dehydration and even seizures. Provide plenty of fresh water to drink and limit his time in the sea.
5. Keep Your Dog Away From Ice
You should never allow your dog to walk on frozen water. It only takes one weak spot for your dog to fall through into freezing water.
Admittedly, this isn’t always easy during winter. Dogs usually don’t have danger awareness around ice, so will happily chase a bird onto a frozen pond. For this reason, it’s best to keep your pet on-leash if there is frozen water around.
Never jump into freezing water to help your dog. Not only are you putting your own life in danger, but you may also make the situation worse.
Instead, immediately call the emergency services and wait for assistance. Then try to find something that may help your dog to float. If there’s nothing around, a thick branch could provide something for your pet to hold onto. Once you’ve got your dog out, take him to an emergency vet to check for hypothermia.
6. Make Your Pool Dog-Safe
The dangers of a fast flowing river or rough ocean are often obvious, but a swimming pool can be just as hazardous for a dog.
Your pool should have a tall fence around it to stop your dog swimming unsupervised. If you have a cover, make sure water can drain away so there aren’t puddles sitting on top, as these can be dangerous for small dogs or puppies.
It’s also vital that your dog knows how to get out of the pool. There are many tragic stories of dogs getting stuck in pools and drowning, so teach your pet how to use a ramp or steps. As always, your dog should never swim without supervision.
Some dogs love spending time in or around water. While swimming can be a fun activity, it’s important to ensure your pet is safe. In cold areas, you should help them to dry off when they come out of the water with something like a noodle dry mit.
The most important rule is that your dog should be supervised when swimming. Disaster can strike at any time, so you should be ready to help if necessary. All dogs should also wear life jackets whenever they are near water.