Dog Water Safety: Keeping Your Canine Companion Safe Around Water

Few things surpass the sheer delight of observing your dogs frolicking in the water. Treating your canine companion to a swim not only promises enjoyment but also augments their well-being by offering a blend of mental and physical stimulation that’s gentle on their joints. Whether it’s a pool, lake, or the vast ocean, these aquatic escapades serve as a refreshing respite for your furry friend on scorching summer days, whether you’re lounging idly, embarking on a boating adventure, or sharing a paddleboarding excursion.

Swimming with your dog can certainly cement the bond between you two, yet it’s paramount to observe certain safety measures. Continue reading to acquaint yourself with valuable dog water safety guidelines aimed at safeguarding their pleasure while they revel in aquatic adventures.

General Water Safety Tips For Dogs

Bored dogs can benefit from spending time in the water because it provides a mentally and physically stimulating activity. However, knowing water safety for dogs can prevent your pup from ending up in a dangerous situation. Not all dogs are natural swimmers, but you can teach them how to do it and ensure their safety, whether you’re at the beach, lake, or pool. Follow these dog water safety tips to ensure your pet swims happily and safely.

Get your dog a life vest

A dog’s life vest stands as an indispensable component of any well-prepared pet emergency kit as it guarantees your dog’s safety in deep waters. With a multitude of dog life vests available in the market, the paramount consideration is a snug fit to prevent accidental slipping during aquatic activities. Equipping every dog with a life jacket is particularly imperative for breeds that struggle with buoyancy, such as bulldogs.

While an appropriately snug-fitting life vest aids buoyancy, several other features warrant attention, including:

  1. Coverage: Opt for life jackets that cover a larger portion of your dog’s body, enhancing visibility, and making them suitable for lake and ocean swimming. For family pool outings, a basic life vest often suffices.
  2. Handle: A life vest featuring a handle simplifies retrieving your dog from the water when needed. It also facilitates swim training, allowing you to keep them afloat and guide their movements.
  3. D-ring: Essential for securing your dog on a leash during boat or watercraft excursions, the D-ring attachment ensures they won’t impulsively leap into the water. Leashing your dog in public areas is advisable to prevent them from straying.

Start slowly

Introducing your dog to water slowly is crucial because you don’t know their swimming ability. If they’re going to the ocean or a lake for the first time, you can try to find a calm area of warm water to help them get comfortable. Similarly, if you’re taking them in your pool for the first time, start them off in the shallow end near the stairs.

Some dogs will immediately be interested in getting in the water, while others won’t. You can encourage them to step into the water with treats and walk along the shallow edges, letting them slowly get deeper.

Teach your dog to swim

Swimming isn’t a favorite activity for all dogs, and certain breeds exhibit a natural affinity for water, while others may struggle to stay afloat. Breeds like Dachshunds and Corgis, with their short legs, may find swimming more challenging.

To introduce your dog to swimming, follow these steps:

  1. Acclimatization: Allow your dog to become accustomed to the water gradually. Start by letting them wade in shallow water. Be near your dog in case they get anxious.
  2. Positive Reinforcement: Encourage your dog to enter the water with toys, treats, or by calling their name. Use positive reinforcement to make the experience enjoyable. Always initiate in shallow water.
  3. Deeper Water: If your dog is comfortable and having fun, encourage them to venture into deeper water, enticing them with treats. Some dogs may require your assistance, as deeper water can be intimidating. If they hesitate to step off the edge, gently carry them deeper into the water and hold them as they swim.
  4. Respect Their Preferences: Not all dogs are naturally inclined to swim, and that’s perfectly okay. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to gauge their comfort. If your dog displays signs of stress or anxiety or prefers to stay in shallow water, respect their choice and avoid forcing them into deeper waters.

Join them in the water

Staying close to your dog is crucial, which is why it’s so important to make them wear a life vest with a handle. Some dogs may not enjoy swimming, which can cause them to panic due to anxiety. Others might not like swimming right away, so you may have to lift them out of the water.

Being in the water with your pooch will keep you close, so if anything happens, you’re there and can ensure their safety.

Avoid leaving your dog unattended

Never let your dog go into deep water on their own, even if they’re an excellent swimmer. If you’re not in the water with them, you should be close enough to keep an eye on them and be able to help if they’re in trouble. For example, if your dog is swimming in the pool, it’s best to be outside watching to ensure they’re safe.

Take regular breaks

Your dog will need time to relieve themselves outside the water. If you’re on a watercraft like a boat, plan around your dog’s usual schedule. Additionally, your dog should take breaks from swimming because they’re exerting more energy than if they were running. Dogs can’t tell you when they’re exhausted, so paying attention to your dog and letting them rest is crucial.

Know canine CPR

Knowing basic life-saving procedures such as administering the Heimlich maneuver for choking dogs and performing CPR on drowning dogs is essential for safeguarding your pet. Dog CPR follows similar principles to human CPR. If your dog goes underwater and ceases to breathe, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Secure the Dog: Safely retrieve your dog from the water onto dry land or a boat.
  2. Check for Vital Signs: Confirm whether your dog is breathing and has a heartbeat.
  3. Chest Compressions: If your dog is not breathing and has no heartbeat, initiate chest compressions. Position the heel of one hand on the chest and apply firm, rhythmic compressions.
  4. Rescue Breaths: Open your dog’s airway, cover their nose with your mouth, and deliver rescue breaths. Observe for chest movement as you exhale.
  5. Continued CPR: Maintain this cycle until your dog resumes breathing on their own. It’s imperative to transport them to a veterinarian promptly for professional care. While CPR can be life-saving, veterinarians possess the necessary equipment and expertise to address your dog’s condition effectively.

To prevent water-related incidents, it’s essential to stay vigilant and be prepared for emergencies when your dog is in or around water. Always maintain close supervision to ensure their safety.

Provide clean drinking water

Swimming is hard work, and your dog needs water to stay hydrated. Some dogs might be tempted to drink pool, lake, or ocean water when they’re parched, so it’s essential to have fresh water with you at all times. You can use a portable dog bowl and water bottle to ensure they always have access to clean drinking water.

If your dog is drinking a lot of water, it might mean that they’re spending too much time exerting themselves in the warm sun, and they’ve become dehydrated. Make sure your dog has a place to rest when they’re tired from swimming.

Don’t let certain dog breeds swim

Unfortunately, swimming isn’t a good activity for all dogs. Some dogs are excellent swimmers and can get into the water and automatically know how to paddle. However, some dogs have difficulties swimming, such as bulldogs, pugs, and bull terriers, because of their weight distribution and the shape of their noses.

These dogs are brachycephalic breeds with short snouts that shouldn’t exert themselves because it can lead to difficulty breathing. Meanwhile, corgis and dachshunds have long bodies and short legs that can make swimming challenging, tiring, and dangerous.

Rinse and dry off your dog

Pool water contains chlorine, which can potentially lead to skin issues in both dogs and people. On the other hand, lakes and oceans may contain various pollutants that can have an impact on your dog’s skin and coat. It’s important to follow a post-swim routine to ensure your dog’s well-being:

  1. Rinse Off: After your dog exits the water, thoroughly rinse them to remove any debris or contaminants that may be trapped in their fur, such as algae. This step also helps eliminate any chemicals or harmful substances from their skin.
  2. Shaking Off Water: Your dog will naturally shake itself dry after leaving the water. To expedite the process, you can use a towel to help them dry more quickly.
  3. Ear Care: Swimming can introduce moisture into your dog’s ear canals, potentially leading to ear infections. To prevent this, use specialized dog ear care products after swimming. These solutions contain drying agents that help remove excess water from the ears, reducing the risk of bacterial growth.

By adhering to these practices, you can ensure that your dog remains comfortable and healthy following their aquatic adventures.

Know the signs of water intoxication

Water intoxication occurs when a dog ingests too much water.5 This is usually rare and is unlikely to happen in the home when your dog drinks from their regular bowl or fountain. If your dog drinks too much fresh water, it dilutes the electrolytes in their bloodstream, potentially causing brain swelling and seizures.

Water intoxication is usually only a major concern during the summer months when dogs are prone to drink more water or spend time in lakes, oceans, and pools. Saltwater intoxication occurs when your dog consumes too much saltwater, and the excess salt in their bloodstream pulls water from the brain cells.

The signs of water intoxication include:

In more severe cases, dogs can experience weakness, coma, seizures, hypothermia, slow heart rate, and death.

Never let your dog consume ocean, lake, or pool water. Instead, provide them with fresh water to help them stay hydrated.

Don’t force your dog to swim

When first introducing your dog to the water, you can gently guide them with the handle of their life vest. However, some dogs don’t enjoy the water. If your dog doesn’t want to get in or dip their paws, don’t force them. Instead, let your dog enjoy spending time with you and watching from the water’s edge.

Pool Safety For Dogs

Teaching your dog to get out of the pool is as crucial as teaching them how to swim. Additionally, you should keep the pool fenced off when you can’t watch your dog swim. A dog playing in the water alone can be dangerous. This is because pool covers can trap them underneath, which can cause even the strongest swimmers to drown.

Never let your dog drink the pool water. Most of the chemicals are non-toxic to dogs, but high chlorine levels can irritate your dog’s skin and cause respiratory issues known as pool shock. Dogs with pool shock may collapse after swimming and require IV supportive care to remove the chlorine from their system.

Beach Safety For Dogs

A fun day at the beach with your dog can turn disastrous if you’re not careful. Always check for unsafe water conditions, like large waves that can pull your dog into deep water. You should also check the temperature to ensure it’s warm enough for you and your dog to swim.

Furthermore, prevent your dog from drinking salt water because it can cause symptoms like diarrhea or be fatal, depending on the amount consumed. Drinking too much salt water can lead to dehydration and upset the fluid balance in your dog’s system, and too much sodium can be fatal. If your dog drinks ocean or salt water of any kind, take them to the vet as soon as possible for treatment because you likely don’t know how much they’ve consumed.

When swimming with your dog in the ocean, stop them from interacting with marine life. Simply put, some creatures of the sea aren’t friendly and can cause serious harm to your pet.

Of course, you should also ensure the beach you visit is dog-friendly and follow any rules for having dogs on the beach. For example, some local beaches might not allow dogs off-leash.

Lake And River Safety For Dogs

When taking your dog to lakes and rivers, be aware of blue-green algae that thrive in warm, stagnant water.5 This algae is toxic to dogs and can cause liver necrosis when ingested and cause shock within just a few hours.5 The best way to protect your dog from harmful algae is to watch them the entire time they’re swimming and never let them ingest any water from lakes or rivers. Additionally, only allow them to swim in clear moving water where the algae are less likely to be present.

Final Notes

Understanding water safety for dogs will ensure a happy, healthy, and safe summer. While watching swimming dogs in the ocean, lake, or pool might seem fun, you should ensure your dog enjoys it and that it’s safe for them. While all dogs can benefit from life vests, some need them to stay afloat in the water.