Beach and pool season is in full swing, 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! 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 Labrador Retrievers, are terrific natural swimmers, while others, especially short-legged, short-nosed and/or stout dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs, Basset Hounds and Corgis, 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 AKC, 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, a 7 month-old Dogue de Bordeaux, learning to swim provides a great lesson plan for dogs.

  • 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. Don’t let your dog swim one hour before or after a meal. Vigorous exercise like swimming immediately before or after a meal can, in extreme cases, cause bloat, 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.

Pool Safety Tips

DogWatch of Tampa Bay customers Kiaya and Butters love playing in the pool!

DogWatch of Tampa Bay customers Kiaya and Butters love playing in the pool!


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-$200, and can be easily removed when not in use.

Finally, pool water often contains chlorine, which is typically harmless to dogs when swimming. You’ll want to watch out, however, if your dog is drinking a lot of pool water, as ingesting too much chlorinated water can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Washing your dog off with a hose after pool time is also a good idea, as it will remove any pool chemicals from her fur that could potentially irritate her skin.

Beach Safety Tips

Corgis Clover, Turbo and Chloe of Stateline DogWatch enjoy a day at the beach

Corgis Clover, Turbo and Chloe of Stateline DogWatch enjoy a day at the beach!


Before you head to the beach, lake or other waterfront destination with your dog, make sure you know the rules. Not all beaches are open to dogs, and others have restrictions concerning dog traffic, such as limited hours, leash laws and even peak season dog bans. For a comprehensive list of dog-friendly beaches and the accompanying restrictions, visit

As we mentioned in our summer health tips post, 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 water from the ocean or lake does not count, and should be avoided. Salt water can further dehydrate your dog, and cause diarrhea and vomiting. Freshwater from a lake or pond may have other dangers, including algae or bacteria, that may be harmful to your dog if ingested.

Dogs love to sniff and explore the beach, but make sure you keep a close eye on them at all times. 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 to get rid of all the salt, sand, seaweed, algae, etc. hidden in their fur. also suggests drying your dog’s ears in particular, to avoid painful ear infections.


With these valuable safety lessons in mind, 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. Share your best beach and pool pics with us on Facebook and Twitter – we love to see all your water-loving pups at play!