How much do you know about dog swimming safety?
When hitting the water for some laps around the pool or splashing about the waves at the beach with your pups, it’s essential for dog parents to always practice dog swimming safety.
As a Generation X Dog Mom, I can tell you dog swimming safety wasn’t a thing for me growing up, nor was it ever promoted to any families with pets.
After my years in the pet industry and as a Certified Pet First Aid & CPR Instructor, I learn that swimming safety isn’t just a thing for families with human children.
It is critical for families with pets too!
In this post you will learn all the basics of dog swimming safety, from introducing your dog to water, protecting your dog while swimming, dog swimming safety products, and more.
After learning about all the basics of dog swimming safety, you will feel confident knowing how to properly execute any swimming safety precautions for your dog the next time you are at the pool, beach, or any body of water.
This blog is all about the basics of dog swimming safety every dog parent should know.
Water Safety Tips for Dogs
Gently introduce your dog to the water.
Before you start swimming with your dog, take the time to let your dog be comfortable with the concept of going into the water.
This is essential if your dog has never been swimming.
Many dog parents make the rookie mistake of taking their dogs into the pool or ocean right away and expecting their dogs to just start swimming and love the water.
It’s a myth that all dogs are natural-born swimmers, no matter what breed or mixed breed they are.
If your dog has never been swimming, you don’t know what type of swimming skills your dog has.
All dogs need to learn to swim just like humans.
It doesn’t matter if your dog is a Labrador, Newfoundland, Water Portuguese, or a poi dog Labrador Mix.
Get into the water with your dog and go at your dog’s pace.
Maybe that means going ankle-deep in the water initially, and perhaps that takes a couple of days, or maybe your dog takes to the water like a fish right away.
Whichever the case may be, let your dog make the best choice for their comfort level and their safety.
NEVER throw your dog into the water.
Under ZERO circumstances, is it a good idea to playfully toss your dog into the water.
I don’t care how funny you think it would be or how frustrated you are because they won’t go into the water.
Throwing your dog into the pool or ocean and expecting them to just start swimming is a sure-fire way to traumatize them and develop an overwhelming fear of the water.
I cannot stress enough how important that is, especially if the body of water is something your dog is not used to.
If your dog is used to only swimming in a pool, don’t expect him/her to be ready and willing to get into the ocean with waves crashing about.
If it’s your dog’s first time swimming or they are showing clear signs of being fearful of wanting to go in, don’t be an asshole and throw your dog in.
Yup that’s right, I said what I said.
Train your dog where the pool steps are.
Many pet parents don’t really think about the danger their backyard swimming pool can pose for their pets.
If you have an in-ground pool at home, just like human children, there’s always a risk of your pet falling in.
If your dog should fall into the pool, your dog needs to know how to get out, especially if you’re not around or not close enough to get to them in time.
If your dog is not accustomed to swimming, the experience of falling into a large body of water is extremely scary.
Just like a human that doesn’t know how to swim and falls into water, your dog will panic and splash around trying to stay afloat.
The more your dog panics, the quicker your dog will tire out, leading to your dog drowning.
Dogs, like humans, can’t tread water forever.
Take the time and teach your dogs how to get out of the pool.
Show them where the steps are, shallow and deep end of the pool.
This will help them understand where they can get out of their scary situation.
If you don’t have steps in your pool or an easy way for your dog to get out, consider purchasing a dog pool ramp, like Basic Pet Step Pool Ramp, to help.
Pool ramps help any pet safely climb out when pool steps are not available or easily accessible.
These ramps are also a great addition to help if any wildlife falls into your pool.
NEVER let your dog swim unsupervised.
Never ever trust that your dog won’t run into trouble while swimming.
As you would with toddlers and children, always keep a watchful eye on your dog while swimming in case you need to step in to help your dog out.
If you know you won’t be home or too busy to keep watch, have a safety gate around your pool to keep your pup out of the water and minimize their chance of falling into the pool by accident.
I understand the gates might be an eyesore for some homeowners; consider having a sturdy and well-secured pool cover to keep your pups safe.
It’s recommended to have pool covers that won’t permit any rainwater that can begin to puddle up, as there is still a chance your dog can drown in puddles of water.
Another excellent safety precaution you can take if you can’t keep an eye on your dog is installing a pool alarm.
Pool alarms are a must-have for anyone with children or pets at risk of falling into the pool.
The downside of most pool alarms is that they won’t sound unless the object is over 15-17 pounds, which is no use if you have a small dog.
However, a great pool alarm for all dogs, no matter the size, is the Safety Turtle pool alarm for pets.
The Safety Turtle 2.0 Pool Alarm Pet Kit is a collar with a green turtle device attached.
The moment the turtle becomes submerged in water, a loud alarm begins to sound from the connected base within your home.
One bonus point of the Safety Turtle pet pool alarm device, the alarm won’t shut off until you manually turn it off.
This is a bonus since traditional pool alarms typically have to be turned off if the pool is being cleaned and can easily be forgotten to be turned back on.
Know your dog’s physical limitations.
It’s always best to keep in mind that not all dogs have the physical capacity to swim or can swim without difficulty.
Dogs with large chests like the lovable English Bulldogs and French Bulldogs are known to struggle to stay afloat and tend to sink pretty quickly.
Brachycephalic dog breeds like Pugs, Boston Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers, and others, can easily tucker out faster while swimming due to their breathing difficulties.
Senior dogs or dogs with disabilities may struggle with swimming and might need a helping hand to enjoy some water activities.
A simple and easy precaution is putting a dog life vest or jacket on your pup. Wait, what? Is there a difference? Yes, there is.
A dog life vest, like Ruffwear Float Coat Dog Life Vest, is lighter and covers less of your dog’s body.
Dog life vests are best suited if your dog is swimming in pools.
A dog life jacket, like Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket, keeps dogs more buoyant and easily seen.
Dog life jackets are best suited when you are out on a boat with your dog or if your dog is swimming in large bodies of water, like the ocean.
But wait there’s more flotation devices to help dogs now!
The Monterey Bay LifeJacket Offshore from BayDog is a life jacket that takes keeping pups safe to a whole other level.
This lifejacket has two pontoons on the back of the jacket to that rolls your dog’s body up right and guides your dog body to the surface.
In addition to the pontoons, it has an added chest floatation feature that keeps your dog’s head above water.
Baydog’s Monterey Bay LifeJacket Offshore comes in sizes XS-XL and has two colors to chose from.
If having a vest around their body isn’t your dog’s style, there’s still another option to keep them safe in the water.
The Water Collar from Hedzzuppets is a life preserver that attaches to a dog’s collar.
The fit and design works to keep your dog’s head and ears above water, even if they lose consciousness.
Hedzzuppets Water Collars come in 11 different sizes and have four print designs to choose from.
Available online for the littlest of dogs (3 pounds) to the largest of laps dogs (200+ pounds) and a great device for specially-abled pups too.
Water Fun Alternatives for Dogs.
Although dog life vests and jackets are an excellent swimming safety device for your pup, they shouldn’t be the only solution dog parents take if their dog is not a strong swimmer.
If swimming safely in your pool or at the beach is just flat-out impossible for your dog, don’t force it.
There’s no sense in putting your dog through unnecessary risks because you want them to swim.
Don’t let your dog drink the water.
Although your dog should always maintain properly hydrated during physical activities like swimming, having your dog drink pool water, ocean water, or any outside water sources is not the most fantastic option to quench their thirst.
Pool water has chlorine and other chemicals that can cause GI upset and make your dog sick with vomiting and diarrhea.
Ocean water causes what is known as an osmotic effect in dogs.
This means that liquid gets pulled into your dog’s intestines, which starts a domino effect of other problems.
Your dog can begin to have severe diarrhea and vomiting and quickly become dehydrated.
In addition, if your dog drinks too much ocean water, your dog can suffer from saltwater intoxication, which can lead to severe kidney damage and, in some cases, death.
Water from lakes, ponds, streams, puddles, or swimming holes is a big no-no for dogs to drink from since they are contaminated with bacteria and organisms from wildlife that can make your dog sick, like leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a blood infection caused by leptospira bacteria.
This bacteria is commonly found in warm climates and any water where wildlife tends to live.
This is a HUGE issue here in Hawai’i.
Hawai’i is one of the number one hot spot for leptospirosis, and it is located everywhere and anywhere there is fresh water on any of the islands.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can infect animals and humans.
Don’t drink the water, and try not to go swimming if you or your dog have any open scrapes, cuts, or wounds to avoid the bacteria entering the bloodstream.
Maunawili Falls on the island of Oahu produces the most leptospira bacteria, but it is commonly found at Kapena Falls too.
Take precautions if you and your dog go for a swim at either place.
Always be sure to have fresh, clean, cool, not ice-cold water on hand for your pup to drink.
If you see your dog drinking the other water, try to stop your dog as quickly as possible and offer your dog clean, cool water instead.
If your dog likes to chase after a ball into the water, consider a flatter toy like Chuckit! Amphibious Bumper Fetch and Float Toy or Outward Hound Foatiez Dog Toy, to avoid your dog opening their mouth too wide and gulping down an excess of that icky water.
Rinse your dog off and clean their ears.
After your pup has had their water fun at the pool or beach, give them a good rinse and clean out their ears.
Chemicals from the pool, like chlorine or excessive saltwater, can irritate their skin and damage their coat.
Sand from the beach could also cause irritation and excessive scratching, so consider a really good rinse with the water hose or a bath to wash them off when you get back home.
Don’t ignore your dog’s ears.
After swimming, moisture in the ears (especially with dogs who have long floppy ears) can easily set up an ear infection.
Ocean water can cause a nasty bacterial infection that could eat through their eardrum.
Learn Pet First Aid and CPR.
No matter how many precautions we take, dog parents need to remember that a dog medical emergency can still happen during or after swimming.
Your dog may suffer from over-exhaustion in the water, or you might find them unconscious in the pool.
Time is of the essence to get your dog help as soon as possible.
A pet suffering a medical emergency is not the time to google “what do I do if…?”.
Consider taking a Pet First Aid and CPR class to learn how to recognize when your dog is in trouble with a water-related medical emergency and how to save your dog’s life.
Avoid emergency trips to the vet or worse with these dog swimming safety tips, and enjoy some safe water fun with your furry ohana.