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Dog water safety should be top of mind for dog owners in the warmer months, as families venture out to lakes and oceans or enjoy time in their own pools. Of course, we all want our dogs to come along for these aquatic adventures! Still, there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with summer water activities, especially if you’ll be distracted by young children or a large group of people.

As veterinarians, we want you to be able to enjoy warm summer days with your dog and avoid unnecessary trips to the vet - or worse, a water tragedy! Following are some tips for ensuring your dog stays safe and develops a love for water-based activities.

Get Them Acquainted with Swimming

It’s easy to assume that dogs are natural-born swimmers considering the well-known “doggy paddle” swim technique, but not all dogs have the instinct. If you have a puppy or new dog, test their abilities in the shallow end of a pool or the edge of a lake and get in the water with them. Don’t force your dog into the water if they’re hesitant. Let them slowly get acclimated and figure out that it can be a source of fun and a way to cool down. As your dog gets comfortable and makes their way into deeper water, they should begin to paddle with their front legs. When this happens, lift their hind legs to show them how to float. Once you’re confident they are comfortable in the water and have tapped into the instinct, you know they’re ready for larger bodies of water.

Brown long-haired dachshund running in the water.

Invest in a Quality Life Jacket

If you’ll be in a water-focused environment where your dog will be roaming freely, consider buying a dog life jacket. As with small children, a dog can find themselves struggling in the water in the blink of an eye. This is especially important when boating with a dog, as a dog life jacket features a safety grab handle so you can easily grab them from the water in an overboard situation.

Safely Enjoying the Ocean

It’s important to remember that swimming in the ocean is a whole different experience than a calm pool or lake. If you’re venturing to the ocean with your dog this summer, be mindful of water temperature, riptides, and strong currents. Only a few breeds can handle ultra-cold water temps and fight strong currents. Also, watch carefully to make sure your dog isn’t drinking salt water, which can make them sick. Pack fresh water and keep them hydrated so they don’t attempt to drink ocean water to relieve their thirst.

Also, be sure to keep dogs away from fishing poles, as they can become entangled in the lines or step on a fish hook. Dogs may also accidentally swallow a fish hook if it has bait on it, which can become stuck in their mouth or throat. Be aware of other ocean dangers, such as jellyfish and stingrays.

Some dogs like to eat sand—we don’t know why. Unfortunately, eating sand can cause an upset tummy or, worse, an impaction in the intestine. If you see your dog ingesting sand, stop the behavior or leave the beach altogether.

Pool Safety

As mentioned earlier, your dog can find themselves in a scary situation around a pool, much like young children. Even rainwater collecting into puddles on a pool cover is a threat to your dog’s safety. A pool fence is a great safety measure to keep them out of the pool area when unattended. Also, be sure they know how to safely enter and exit the water using the steps or a ramp.

Golden Retriever & Poodle playing with a toy in a pool.

General Water Safety

Regardless of the type of body of water your dog will be experiencing, there are several rules of thumb to ensure they stay safe and healthy.

Some quick tips to remember when around water with your dog this summer are:

  • Rinse your dog off after they have been swimming in any type of water. Saltwater, algae, chlorine, and other irritants can damage their skin and fur.
  • Dry your dog’s ears completely to prevent an infection. There are ear cleaners available that include a drying agent. This is especially important for floppy-eared breeds prone to ear infections due to a lack of air-drying them naturally.
  • Learn canine CPR, as these mouth-to-nose resuscitations and chest compression techniques can end up saving your dog’s life.
  • Never leave your dog unattended near water!

We hope this summer is packed with fun-filled getaways with your dog, and with these tips, you’ll be stress-free around any body of water! Water-based activities can be a great source of fun and exercise for your dog and avoiding any scary situations is the key to ensuring they want to get back in the water again.

The AVMA offers some other warm-weather tips to keep your pets safe this summer. If you’re still unsure if your dog is ready to take on the pool, lake, or ocean, we’re happy to answer any questions you have—give us a call!

Body photo 1 by Kojirou Sasaki - Body photo 2 by Gayatri Malhotra


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