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How To Take Your Dog Swimming Safely

Apr 14th, 2023

Who doesn't love a day on the water?

There’s no happier sight than a dog happily splashing around in the water with their tail wagging, their fur soaking wet and a hug smile on their faces.

If you’re looking to take your dog out on a swim, then make sure you’re properly prepared so that your dog is safe, happy and healthy at the end of the day. Here are a few tips on how to take your dog swimming in a pool, a pond, a lake or a river!

Tips for swimming with your dog 

Before swimming

Evaluate your dog’s ability to swim

Not all dogs enjoy the water, and even those that do may not be great swimmers. 

Certain dog breeds have a harder time swimming than others due to body shape, respiratory problems or types of fur. Dog breeds with short snouts — such as pugs, Boston terriers, boxers and shih tzus — are at a higher risk of drowning because it’s easier for water to get up their noses while swimming. Dogs with short legs and barrel-shaped bodies are also not suited for swimming, as their short legs aren’t strong enough to keep them afloat for extended periods. 

Even if your dog is of a breed that’s known for swimming, they may not know how to swim or even enjoy it! If you’ve never taken your dog swimming in deeper water, then maybe take a trip to a doggy splash pad to see how they like it.

Does your dog need a life jacket?

Part of evaluating whether your dog is ready to swim is figuring out whether they need a life jacket. 

It’s good to bring one along, even if your dog is a good swimmer. Even good swimmers get excited and tired out, and accidents can always happen — especially if you take them swimming in a river or lake.

When considering a life jacket for your dog, find one that fits snugly, has a handle on the top, has a D-ring hook (for attaching a lead) and a bright color so it’s easily visible!

Bring a first aid kit

No one ever wants to use a first-aid kit, but it’s the best thing to have when things go awry. 

Swimming in a river, lake or pond presents some unique challenges that you may not face in a pool. You may have to deal with bug bites, wasp stings, snake bites, animal attacks, sharp rocks, poisonous foliage… the list goes on.

Don’t let this freak you out, as you’re unlikely to face all these issues at once, or even at all! However, if you’re in the middle of nowhere and something goes wrong, then having a first aid kit handy could mean the difference between life and death. 

Here’s how to assemble a canine-friendly first aid kit for your dog!

Finding the right swimming spot

Whether you’re swimming in a pool, lake, river or pond, make sure there’s a place where your dog can enter and exit the water easily and safely. Dogs can’t tell us when they’re tired or worn out, so don’t count on them letting you know when they’re done swimming.

Keep an eye out for algae and bacteria, too, especially if you’re going swimming in a lake, pond or river. Stagnant and warm water are ideal breeding grounds for algae blooms and bad bacteria, both of which can make your dog ill. Even rivers that look clear and clean could contain traces of e-coli or other diseases, so do a quick Google search on the location and see if anything negative pops up.

When you get to the location, check the shoreline and shallow areas for sharp rocks, wires, broken glass, pieces of metal or any other sharp objects that could cut your dog’s paws. Just like our human fingers and toes get squishy and wrinkly in the water, a dog’s pads get softer and more tender after prolonged time in the water and are therefore more susceptible to cuts and scrapes. 

During the swim

Taking your dog swimming means you are their on-duty lifeguard at all times! 

Your dog could be the strongest of swimmers and the toughest of canines, but there’s always the chance that something could go wrong. Your pup could paddle too far from shore out of sheer excitement and get too tired to swim back. They could unknowingly swim into a strong current and get washed away to destinations unknown. The water may be just cold enough to slowly induce hypothermia which, if left untreated for too long, could result in their muscles overtiring and them drowning.  

And, as with anything, bring plenty of fresh water for your dog so that they are staying properly hydrated and aren’t left to drink the water they’re swimming in!

After the swim

Giving your dog a good clean and bath after a swim is vital for avoiding infections and bacterial diseases commonly associated with swimming. A dog’s thick, wet fur can also cause hotspots on their skin if it doesn’t dry properly, leading to sore spots and rashes. 

Here’s what to do after your dog is done swimming:

  • Rinse their fur with clean, fresh water
  • Dry their fur thoroughly with a towel or hair dryer on low power
  • Dry your dog’s ears with a soft cloth (the outer-inner ear and the exterior of the ear)
  • Talk to your veterinarian about ear-drops for avoiding inner ear infections
  • Brush your dog’s fur and tail and check for ticks, bugs, dirt or debris
  • Give your dog a cool, shady place to nap and rejuvenate after a long day swimming!

Go out and have fun!

Swimming is a great way to get your dog some exercise and give them some new experiences. By following these tips and being aware of your dog, your surroundings and your environments, then you can turn any swimming day into the best one your pup has had yet!

Have fun!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/947051

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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