Warm weather is here, bringing increased activity in and around bodies of water; coupled with the common misconceptions that animals inherently know how to swim and that all dogs enjoy being in the water, this increases risk of tragic accidents. Please be sure that you are taking the same care and concern with your pets that you would with small children, as the dangers are quite similar, and please kindly educate any family, neighbors, and friends on the proper pet water safety precautions, as outlined here.
Water Safety Tips for Pets
These tips are geared towards canine care, but could be used with those special felines that are offered closely supervised exposure to the outdoors, as we do not encourage allowing cats to roam freely.
- If fiscally possible, invest in a secure pool fence, and make sure that small breed animals cannot squeeze through fence openings.
- Never throw your dog into the water. Using positive training methods, teach them to safely enter and exit the water at the proper locations, and help them with their swimming form if necessary – contrary to popular belief, not all dogs will pick up on the “dog paddle” right away. See videos linked below for tips.
- Teaching good pool manners is a must to keep them safe – engage a trainer as necessary, and teach them to “wait” at the pool’s edge, to always use the stairs or ramp, and to “come” when called.
- Don’t let your dog overdo it and always be aware of where they are; swimming is very hard work and he may tire quickly, compromising their ability to make it out of the pool safely.
- Be sure and check with your veterinarian first before allowing your dog to swim, if they are seniors, overweight, or just normally very sedentary.
- Buy your dog a life jacket and use it religiously.
- Never leave your dog unattended in the water, and unless your pool cover is solid and strong enough to support your weight, do not leave it on when your dog is unattended near the pool. Even accomplished canine swimmers have drowned following an unexpected tumble into a covered pool. The pool cover can be disorienting making difficult or impossible for a dog to find his way out.
- Dogs have poor depth perception so if the pool has steps, mark them with a large object or furniture that will not be moved around (a large potted plant, for example) and be sure he associates the plant as the exit marker. If there are no steps, provide a non-slip ramp for getting out and train him or her to use it, and how to find it.
- If your dog gets into trouble in the water, try using a preserver attached to a long line, as dogs can panic easily in the water, and a frantic, flailing dog can accidentally drown any person trying to assist it. Keep one of these handy at all times. Try to snare your dog with the life preserver first, and reel them in to safety, before physically trying to help it out. If that does not work, be sure you have your own life vest on or a preserver in hand, before jumping in.
- Be sure to rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from a pool, or bacteria and dirt picked up from a pond or lake. Be sure to remove wet collars and life vests to prevent hot spots.
- Keep plenty of fresh water handy to combat dehydration and to keep your dog from drinking chemically treated pool water (although not toxic, these chemicals can cause digestive issues and should not be ingested); water from lakes, ponds, and rivers should also be avoided as it often contains parasites that cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other health issues.
- Don’t assume your pet will automatically take to boating, and be sure to introduce them slowly to the pastime just as you would any other new adventure – they may not like being on unsure footing, the noise of the engines, and/or may get seasick.
- Be sure and secure any hazardous items for your pet’s reach – fishing hooks, flammable materials, etc.
- Make sure you have created a shaded area on your boat for your pet, keeping them from too much heat exposure, just as you would anywhere else and protect their paws from hot surfaces.
PLEASE NOTE: While warm weather increases risk around water, water safety is a year-round concern, especially for homeowners with pools Also, if you are traveling and leaving a pet to stay with friends or family that have a pool or water feature on their property, be sure and exercise same pool safety training you would at your own home, and educate their “sitter” on how to keep your pet safe while on their property.
Get more water safety information here:
- Pool Safety For Pets
- Life Jackets For Dogs
- Pool Safety Fences
- Doggy Docks
- Paws Aboard
- Boat Dock Pool Ramps
- Alarm System – Notifies If Animal Falls Into Pool
- Teaching Your Dog to Swim
- VIDEO – Dog Training : How to Teach a Dog to Swim
- VIDEO: Dog Training Tip #3 – Learning To Swim
- VIDEO: Teaching Your Dog How to Swim