Spending time in the water can be a great source of fun and exercise for humans and dogs alike. Whether you and your pooch frequent the many beautiful beaches in our community, a river or stream, or a backyard pool, understanding proper water safety is a must.
Water temperature and conditions, weather, fatigue, and distraction are all real factors to consider before hitting the water. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 5,000 dogs drown in backyard pools every year.
When it comes to water safety, the first thing to consider is the type of dog you have. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs are not good natural swimmers. There are many breeds well-suited for swimming (like Labrador/Golden Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Standard Poodles), however many breeds are much the opposite. English Bulldogs, Pugs, Bassett Hounds, and Corgis are among the most ill-equipped breeds for swimming. Whether it’s their dense, barrel-shaped bodies, or poor respiratory systems, certain breeds require extra care and attention around the water. Overweight and elderly dogs are at especially high risk.
While there can be many unexpected risks when enjoying the water, it is important to be aware of the most common ones. We've put together a list of the biggest water safety risks for dogs.
Life Jackets Save Lives
A well-made, properly fitted life jacket is the most essential water safety product you can buy. This will allow your pooch to spend plenty of time in and out of the water without the risk of going under. Doggy life jackets are designed to keep your dog afloat in a natural doggy-paddling position, which means it won’t complicate the act of swimming. Depending on the model, life jackets typically have many safety features like reflective materials for extra visibility in and out of the water, grab handles, and quick-release buckles.
Swimming is an exciting activity for dogs, so they generally don’t take much time to rest. This can become dangerous because an excited dog will keep swimming until they are out of juice. Even the strongest swimmers can become exhausted quickly, especially in open or moving water. Keep your dog in close proximity so that you can respond swiftly if necessary.
Always Provide an Exit
This point primarily pertains to pool safety, but can also include areas where your dog may be jumping off a boat or dock. Many pools only have a ladder for entry and exit, so unless your dog can climb a ladder, there is no safe exit point. Dogs who usually climb a pool ladder may get confused, or could be at increased risk for ankle injuries, making it impossible for them to take their usual route out of the water. If a dog cannot identify a point of exit in a pool, he will continue to swim to the point of exhaustion. There are many pet-friendly ramps made specifically for pools that provide a safe and easy exit.
After the Swim
Whether it is chemicals in a pool or bacteria in a river, there are many things your dog may be exposed to during a swim. Regardless of where your dog swims, it’s wise to rinse him off with clean water to ensure any unwanted elements are washed away. Dry the ears with a clean towel afterwards. Dogs with wet/damp ears are especially prone to irritation and infection, so keep those areas clean and dry when swim time is finished.
Know Basic CPR and First Aid
This is one of those things every pet owner should know, and hopefully never has to use. Taking a basic CPR and first aid course teaches essential life-saving techniques. While we’re at it, it’s smart to have a first aid kit with you at all times in the event your pet is injured.
Playing in and around water is a great way to bond with your dog and get quality low-impact exercise at the same time. However when it comes to water safety, you can never play too safe. Be alert and be prepared! But, most of all, have fun!
Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert - is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty years' experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and lifestyle. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at www.CanadianPetConnection.com.