July 1, 2010
Doggy Paddle: Pool and Beach Safety Tips for Dogs
You have been waiting for months, and it’s finally time to dive in! Beach and pool season is upon us, and chances are you’ll be enjoying one of these cooling-off options this summer.
But remember, there’s no need to leave the dog at home! DogWatch Hidden Fences has compiled another batch of summer tips, this time focusing on water safety for dogs. While the issue of water safety for dogs is very serious, we know that with careful planning, training and attention, you and your dog can stay cool and have a blast this summer. Let’s start with the basics…
All dogs can swim, right? Not exactly. Some dogs, like Portuguese water dogs and retrievers, are terrific natural swimmers, while others, especially short and/or stout dogs like bulldogs, basset hounds, corgis and pugs, have a much harder time than others. Regardless of breed, all dogs should be gradually introduced to water rather than simply being tossed in unattended.
According to the ASPCA, swim lessons should start as early as possible, preferably when the dog is a still a puppy. Even if this is not possible, proper training is still key to ensuring that your dog is safe and reacts positively to water.
This video of Ruby the Dogue de Bordeaux learning to swim provides a great lesson plan for dogs. Dog trainers suggest that you get in the water first, and slowly encourage your dog to follow you in, one step at a time. Take your time and give the dog lots of praise and encouragement. Having a dog friend around can also help: your dog may follow her friend into the water if she sees her go in safely.
Timing is also crucial. Make sure your dog’s last meal was two hours or more prior to a swim. Swimming on a full stomach can, in extreme cases, cause a dog’s stomach to “twist,” a life-threatening condition.
Also, just like humans, swimming is strenuous exercise for your dog. For older, overweight or ailing dogs, consider using a dog life-jacket to help them along. These life-jackets are also a necessary safety component for all dogs participating in lake swimming or boating with their owners. Prices range from $15-$50, depending on the size of the dog.
Swimming in the backyard pool can be a terrific (and fun) form of exercise for your dog. Yet dogs, like young children, can also be seriously injured if they play in or around the pool without supervision. Never let your dog swim or play around the pool alone, and make sure your pool has a sturdy cover when not in use.
Again, dog experts do not advise throwing the dog into the pool. Instead, they encourage owners to use the steps at the shallow end to teach the dog to enter and exit there. You can use treats if the dog is reluctant, but never force a dog in the pool, as it could result in bad associations with water and hinder any further attempts at swim training.
If you do not have graded steps in your pool, you can purchase a special ramp to help the dog get in and out of the water. These dog ramps range in price from $50-$90, and can be easily removed when not in use.
Beach Blanket Fido
Beaches are a great place for dogs to exercise and to explore. As with all new dog walking destinations, dog owners need to do their research before arriving at the location. While there are lots of dog-friendly beaches across the country, not all beaches will welcome your four-footed family members. Many beaches have restrictions concerning dog traffic. These restrictions include hours, leash laws and even peak season (i.e. summer) dog bans. For a comprehensive list of dog-friendly beaches and the accompanying restrictions, visit PetFriendlyTravel.com.
Just like humans, dogs need protection from the sun while enjoying the beach. As we mentioned in our summer health tips post earlier this month, dogs need sunscreen too, especially light-colored and short-haired dogs. To help protect them, apply sunscreen to their nose and ear area. Experts also recommend using “baby sunscreen,” which will be gentler for your dog.
Also, make sure your dog stays hydrated. Bring along your own water and take frequent water breaks in hot weather. Drinking ocean water does not count, and could actually do more harm than good, as it often results in an upset stomach.
Once you arrive at the beach, encourage your dog to explore but make sure you keep an eye on him or her. Keep your dog away from shellfish that wash ashore, as these may contain toxins that could harm them. Once you arrive home, give your dog a bath. Cesar Millan of TV’s “Dog Whisperer” recommends this as a way of preventing chemicals found in sea water from “harming your dog’s coat and health.”
Whether or not you visit the pool or beach this holiday weekend, we hope you have learned some valuable safety lessons from this post. Furthermore, we hope your dog soon enjoys the waves as much as you do! Swimming is a great exercise, a fun way to cool off and an activity the whole family can enjoy. What’s not to love?