Swimming pools provide endless fun for both pets and humans. But just as you would supervise a child, it’s important to keep an extra-close eye on your fur baby when she’s in the pool.
“One of the most important things is a secure fence so the pet cannot enter the area unattended,” says Dr. Laurie Coger, DVM, CVCP, and owner of HealthyDogWorkshop.com. “Even if you know your dog is a great swimmer, many dogs get so excited about swimming that they overdo it, becoming dangerously fatigued and at risk for drowning.”
If your pup loves splashing, diving and swimming in the pool, here are some other safety tips to keep in mind.
Introducing Your Dog to a Pool
Dogs intuitively know how to swim, so there’s no need for dog swimming lessons. However, it’s important to train your dog on correct pool behavior to ensure a happy and safe experience for everyone.
Some dogs may dive paws-first into the pool without a second thought. Other dogs are more hesitant. In fact, some dogs may downright refuse to go near a pool; it’s best if you respect their choice and do not push the issue.
If your dog is interested but cautious about swimming, it’s important to gently introduce him to the idea of dog swimming. Don’t toss him into the deep end. Take it slowly. For example, start by playing in a specifically designed dog pool (similar to a baby pool), such as the Cool Pup Splash About Dog Pool.
Once your dog is accustomed to playing in water, introduce him to the real pool by playing nearby, then on the steps, then in the shallow end as you hold him. Give your dog lots of praise throughout the process. You can reinforce good behavior with small treats.
Getting In and Out of the Pool Safely
While dogs are natural swimmers, most dogs will struggle with exiting a pool. “Stairs are the best for pet entry and exit,” says Dr. Coger, who points out that pools with ladders can be much harder to navigate. Dogs who cannot exit a pool will begin to panic and are at risk for drowning. Spend time training your dog where the steps are and how to get out of the pool. You can even get a special dog pool ramp that can be used so your dog is always able to get in and out of the pool safely.
Above all else, never leave your dog in the pool unsupervised. Dogs who love swimming will play in the pool until they’re close to exhaustion. Always stay with your dog as he swims, and be sure he takes regular breaks on land.
Does Your Dog Need a Life Jacket?
Puppies and pools can be an adorable combination, but you may want to consider getting your dog a life jacket. A dog safety jacket is essential if you’re going to take your dog in a boat or on a lake. Just remember that a life jacket is not a substitute for proper supervision.
It is important to choose a life jacket that suits you and your pup’s needs. There is a slew of options when it comes to puppy life jackets, so here are a few options to get you started:
The Outward Hound Neoprene Dawson Swimmer Dog Life Jacket is a great option for dogs that live for the water. The streamlined design provides a less-bulky life jacket that will allow your dog to splash and swim with ease. It has an additional flotation piece that goes under the chin to ensure that your pup’s head stays above water.
The Paws Aboard Pink Polka Dot Dog Life Jacket is an adorable option for pups that appreciate fashion and function. This bright and buoyant life vest features reflective stripes, so if they do decide to go for a swim, you can keep an eye on them easily. It also has a mesh netting for the underbelly so your pup stays cool and dries off faster.
The KONG AquaPro Dog Flotation Vest is the perfect standard doggy life vest. It comes in bright neon colors to make sure you can always see your pup while they take a dip. It also has an extra leash attachment ring so you can make sure your dog is always safe.
Is Chlorine Dangerous for Dogs?
Many owners are concerned about their dog’s safety in chlorine pools. Chlorine is added to most pool water to keep the water clean and free of microorganisms. However, these chemicals can irritate a dog’s skin, eyes, nose and ears. Like humans, some dogs are more sensitive than others to chlorine. Therefore, it’s important to rinse your dog off with fresh water when she’s done playing in the pool.
When your dog’s ears are wet for an extended period of time, he can develop an ear infection. Once pool time is over, be sure to provide proper dog ear care. Give the inside of his ears a gentle rub with a dry towel to make sure you get rid of potential trapped water and moisture.
“Chlorine can also be irritating to the stomach if swallowed. This happens more when dogs are extremely excited about swimming, are retrieving toys, or are overly fatigued,” says Dr. Coger. “Excessive water swallowing is associated with bloat, so owners must be observant. Should a dog’s abdomen look distended, he seems uncomfortable, or he’s trying to vomit with nothing coming up, seek vet care immediately.”
Whether you get a dog pool ramp or a pup life jacket, investing in your dog’s water safety is essential.
Keep these tips in mind while outside by the pool with your pup to prevent any accidents and to ensure a fun afternoon with your four-legged friend:
Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies include trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.