Blog by Irene Hislop
Summer is here, and Covid restrictions are being lifted. Who isn’t looking forward to getting out and enjoying the lakes, rivers, canals and beaches this summer after the long lockdown? A day out with your best doggy friend is a joy, and many dogs take naturally to the water. But it is important to understand their limits and know how to keep our fur babies safe.
A day out boating or a walk along a canal can be a fantastic experience for your dog. But too many owners assume that their dog can determine if a spot is safe for swimming or that all dogs know their limits in the water. Sadly, this is wrong. Let’s look at how your dog can have fun and stay safe around water this summer.
Can’t All Dogs Swim Well?
Never assume an individual dog can swim. While some breeds have been developed for centuries for their swimming, not all dogs are natural swimmers. Retrievers and Poodles, for example, have been used to fetch prey from water for generations. But other breeds have an especially difficult time swimming, especially those with very short legs such as Corgis and Dachshunds. Some individuals might be great swimmers, but even among the breeds known for working in water you can find individual dogs who just don’t have a talent for swimming.
Some dogs have a real fear of the water. This can be dangerous because it can cause them to panic. Never force a dog into the water, especially if they are afraid. That puts the dog and yourself at risk.
You can teach your dog to swim and be safe in the water. If you enjoy visiting lakes, rivers or beaches, you definitely should teach your best friend some basic water safety for dogs.
How to Decide If the Water is Safe for Your Dog to Swim
Different settings have different risks. Let’s look at various bodies of water and their dangers.
- Canals – A walk along the tow path is lovely, but keep your dog on lead and out of the water. Canals are notorious for debris under the water. A submerged shopping trolley or plank of wood could trap your pet. The water is also likely to be polluted.
- Lakes – Often the loveliest and safest spot for a swim, lakes generally have a shallow area where you can introduce your dog to the water. Without a fast current, your dog has an easier time. But be aware of nesting birds such as ducks, swans or herons. They don’t appreciate uninvited guests, and if your dog is small it isn’t likely to end well.
- Ponds – Small, shallow ponds might seem like a safe spot, but their water is likely to be stagnant. If there are ducks or other waterfowl, it won’t be clean.
- Rivers – Slow, shallow rivers can be an ideal spot for a dip, but faster flowing ones are dangerous. It’s important to know the river before you or your dog swim in it. If it is popular for fishing, there is also a risk of stepping on fishing hooks or getting tangled in abandoned fishing lines.
- Sea – The safe zone is close to the shore. Deeper waters pose more of a risk. Dogs can’t detect riptides, so it is critical to supervise them closely.
Some risks are more wide-spread. Blue-green algae is extremely toxic to dogs, and it can be found in stagnant water. If the water has a bluish-greenish sheen on it, keep your dog away from it. Leptospirosis can also be spread in the water, but your dog should be vaccinated against it. Check with your vet if you are unsure.
Water temperature is a serious factor. Early in the spring, water can be too cold to be safe. Plunging suddenly into extremely cold water can cause shock or hypothermia. It’s better to save the swimming for when you know the water is warmer.
If your dog just needs to cool off, a shallow, hard plastic wading pool can be just the thing. Always supervise your dog in water, even in a toddler wading pool in the garden.
Water Safety Tips for Dogs
Your dog doesn’t have to be a super swimmer to enjoy the water safely if you invest in a canine life jacket. Yes, life jackets for dogs exist. It is important to be sure that it fits right and that you know how to put it on correctly. The best floatation devices for dogs have a handle for you to hold.
Dogs are spontaneous creatures. If you are near water and don’t plan on swimming, keep your dog on lead. Teaching recall is vital for your dog’s safety, but even the most well-trained and obedient dog can dart off if they are startled in a new situation.
When you take your dog swimming for the first time, don’t expect them to take to it like a duck to water. You can introduce them to swimming slowly by using a harness and lead to walk them through shallow water. If they enjoy that, slowly wade out deeper. When you reach a depth where your dog has to swim, you can help by supporting them under their belly – but don’t drop the lead. A loose lead in the water can catch on something and become dangerous.
If you love boating, you can take your dog if you take some basic safety precautions. Be aware that your might jump or fall overboard. This can be extremely dangerous. Always use a life jacket for your dog and keep them secured on board. Propellors post a risk even if your dog is wearing a canine life vest.
What to Do in an Emergency
Dog owners have drowned trying to save their beloved pets. In an emergency, call 999. Trained rescuers can help. You can also learn dog CPR.
After Your Dog’s Swim
Whether your dog has been in salt water or fresh water, it is always good to at least rinse them off with clean tap water after a swim. If they have been in fresh water they can have a bacteria and dirt on their coat. Dogs can become ill if they lick too much salt water off themselves. Don’t forget to rinse their collar off too.
Water trapped in their ears can lead to infection, so it is important to clean and dry their ears after a swim.
Of course, your best friend has probably worked up an appetite. A few treats after a swim are always appreciated!