Summer gatherings around the pool or at the beach are in full swing, and naturally we want all our family members, including our dogs, to join in the fun. But not all dogs are naturally inclined to keep themselves safe from harm. In fact, approximately 40,000 pets die in drowning accidents each year.
10 ways we can help keep them safe
- Take baby steps: For dogs that are new to swimming, introduce them to water slowly. You might start with a kiddie pool in a quiet setting at home. If that goes well, try taking them to the shallow end of a pool or to a shallow lake. As their comfort level grows, they will swim beyond the point where their feet can touch the ground.
- Know your breed: Take some time to do research on your dog’s breed. Some breeds have physical limitations that prevent them from swimming or they may just not like water.
- Don’t traumatize your dog: Don’t assume your dog will start swimming if tossed into the water. Dogs aren’t born knowing how to swim. It is a learned skill. Forcing your dog into the water may be traumatic enough to result in a life-long fear of the water, or worse yet, could result in your dog dying.
- Easy exit: Plan ahead and make sure there is an easy way for your dog to get out of the water and that he knows how to use it. Look into installing doggy ramps on the stairs of your pool, or take portable ramps with you to the lake. This precaution could save your dog’s life or the life of a visiting pet.
- Provide fresh water: Discourage your dog from drinking from the pool or lake. The chlorine in pools, the bacteria in lakes and the salt in the ocean can make him sick. Always keep his water dish full of fresh water and pull him out for a snack and a thirst quencher from time to time.
- Keep them afloat: Get your dog a life jacket. This is especially important for all new swimmers or non-swimmers, but even experienced swimmers could easily develop a leg cramp or become too exhausted to make it to shore. Make it a rule when swimming near any tidal areas such as rivers or oceans.
- Prevent infections: Before swimming in lakes and rivers, take a trip to the vet to get your dog a Giardia vaccination to prevent infections.
- Research your waterways: Before heading off to a lake or river, investigate if they are having high levels of bacteria, or worse yet, blue algae. Many dogs die each year from swallowing blue algae while swimming.
- Secure your perimeter: If you have a pool at home, install a fence to keep neighborhood pets and children out of the pool when it’s unattended. Also consider installing an alarm to let you know if the water has been disturbed, giving you time to react if your non-swimmer has accidentally fallen in.
- Rinse them off: Always give your dog a shower or rinse after the water to wash away any chlorine, chemicals, bacteria or dirt he may have on him. And be sure to remove the wet collar so he doesn’t develop any hot spots around the neck.
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