The term ‘doggy paddle’ wasn’t created because dogs like to stay on the shore. Many dogs love to swim, and the fun cool downs in the local watering hole are unforgettable experiences for your water-loving canine. In this video I will go over some safety guidelines, as even the most enthusiastic and strong swimmers can get into trouble.
What breeds of dogs make good swimmers? Well, most dogs except dogs with large chests and small hindquarters – they have a harder time staying afloat. Short muzzled dogs, like bulldogs, pugs, and boxers have a harder time due to the structure of their nose and throat. Dogs with very short legs, like dachshunds, also don’t tend to do well and small dogs, even though they can be good swimmers can often get chilled quickly. Your best swimmers are medium and large breed dogs with a body conformation similar to a Labrador retriever.
If your dog isn’t a good swimmer or is older, get her a personal flotation device. These are especially useful on boating trips because they often have sturdy handles that you can use to haul your dog out of the water.
Before letting your dog swim in a lake, creek or ocean, survey the surroundings. If you are at the ocean, check information boards for water conditions and dangers such as riptides. In late summer, algae can grow on stagnant fresh water, which can be toxic if your dog swallows it. Also be aware of dangers that your dog can pose to local wildlife: I do not recommend taking your dog to explore tide pools.
Obedience training is very important – your dog should come when she is called, even when she is swimming. Always carry an additional toy or a bag of treats – a dog that is headed into danger can often be lured back to shore with one of these items. It’s no substitute for training, but in a pinch, could save your dog’s life.
No dog should be given unrestricted access to a backyard pool, creek or neighborhood pond or lake. If you do not have a fence around your pool, then equip the pool with an alarm that sounds if a pet or child falls in.
You can also teach your dog what to do if she falls in. Dogs don’t inherently know where the steps are, and they can tire while they are trying to crawl out. If your dog likes to swim in a pool, work with her so she knows where the steps are.
Don’t forget to be aware of your dog’s condition as she plays.When your dog is tired, call it a day, as an exhausted dog is in danger of drowning. Pay particularly close attention to young and old dogs. Even swimming dogs can get thirsty,so bring fresh water and offer some to your dog often.
One of the best things you can do is to take courses in pet first aid and CPR. Many local Red Cross chapters offer these classes, and some veterinarians in your community may teach them. A near-death dog rescued from the water may be saved by your prompt actions — if you know what to do.
By Dr. Claire — Staff Writer