Summer is often full of sunshine, outdoor activities, and fun by the pool or beach. Many of our favorite summer pastimes can be all the more enjoyable because our dogs love them and join us. But any water-related activities come with inherent risks.
Since fun can turn to danger in minutes, it’s worth taking some extra precautions to ensure everyone remains safe this summer.
Whether you are headed to your favorite pool or beach, or you have a pool in your backyard, these pet water safety tips could help you and your pup get prepared for safe summer fun.
It seems like dogs would naturally love swimming, however, that is not the case for all dogs. Some dogs simply don’t like the water and others fear it. Many dogs are just not built to be swimmers too. Regardless of the breed or size of your pup, all dogs should properly be introduced to water and learn to swim.1
Give your pooch time to get used to the water by slowly easing him or her into the pool or lake. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends you begin by just allowing your pup to get their feet wet. Start in the shallow end of the pool or near the shore and gradually ease them into deeper water as they become more comfortable.2
Like humans, dogs can become overwhelmed by fear, causing them to panic and struggle. You should always keep a close eye on your dog when around water - even if you're not planning on getting in.
If you plan to spend time in or around the water this summer and wish to have your dog join you, a quality lifejacket is a worthwhile investment. This way, you have the peace of mind that even if your pup is not a strong swimmer - or doesn’t know how to swim - he will be kept afloat by the life preserver, should he or she accidentally end up in the water.
Even good swimmers should wear life jackets if they are around water or go out on the water for a day of water activities. As with humans, the strongest swimmers can become tired once they find themselves expending energy in the water.
Certain breeds3 (think Greyhounds, Pugs, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers) require the assistance of a life jacket because they have difficulty floating due to their body types.4
Many dogs have no problem jumping in the water, however, they can become a little more confused when it comes to getting out.
One thing you can do to help your pup is point to the shore (if you are in a lake or ocean) or toward the pool ramp or steps while you and your dog are swimming together. Continue to do this until your dog understands.5
If you will be spending time at your own pool, it can be helpful to place a visual marker by the pool stairs. Make sure it is something your canine companion can easily see such as a large pole, sign, or potted plant.
Always begin your pool training lessons at the stairs. Encourage your pup to use the stairs to exit the pool and reward him or her each time they do so.6
Consider getting a pool cover that attaches around the pool, and completely blocks the water. Floating pool covers can pose a danger to people and pets who jump or fall into a covered pool, as they can become trapped.7
Whenever you are outdoors with your dog, keep plenty of clean drinking water available. Don’t allow your dog to drink the pool water, lake water, or ocean water as this water can be harmful if ingested in large amounts.
Even if it doesn’t feel too hot to you, remember that younger dogs and older dogs have a more challenging time regulating their body temperature. Additionally, most dogs are wearing a coat while their humans frolic in shorts, swimsuits, and tank tops. Make sure there is a shady spot your dog can retreat to throughout the day.
Overexposure to the sun can be as dangerous to dogs as it is to humans. Monitor your dog throughout the day for extreme thirst, panting, lethargy and other signs of heat stroke in dogs.8
Never leave your dog unattended around water. Swimming can tire a dog out very quickly, so monitor for signs of exhaustion such as:
- Heavy panting
- Swimming slower than usual
If you are swimming in a body of water, then be sure to also keep an eye out for toxic algae blooms.
Have a plan in case something does go wrong.
It is a good idea to have the phone number and directions to the nearest emergency vet hospital with you. You should also be familiar with basic steps to stabilize your dog if he is suffering with heat exhaustion or heat stroke.9
In the mean time, having an active dog insurance policy may be able to help.