Helping Your Dog Cope In Water
Swimming is great exercise for dogs, but sadly an estimated 5,000 pets drown in swimming pools every year. Swimming is good for dogs with chronic pain related to osteoarthritis and other illnesses such as cancer, though, and many dogs simply enjoy a good swim. Therefore, pet owners can rest assured that their dogs can enjoy the water, as long as they take steps to ensure their safety. Some swimming lessons and awareness of safety for dogs are all it takes to ensure they can enjoy the water just as much as you do during the hotter months.
Learning To Swim
Some dog breeds are better swimmers than others, such as Labrador retrievers and poodles. However, other dogs can learn how to swim, even if only to help them swim to safety should they be in danger. Some dogs, like pugs, may not enjoy swimming in deep water, so you should start in the shallow end and take it slow. Look out for signs of anxiety, and encourage them by adding some toys to the water to make the process fun. Add treats into the mix as a reward when they follow your instructions. You should use your arm to support their stomach while they learn to kick and paddle, much like when teaching a child to swim. Most importantly, don’t force it. They will learn when they're ready - if they want to at all. None of my dogs have enjoyed swimming, including the Dobermans and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Studies show that taking dogs swimming for two days per week for at least eight weeks can improve the function of osteoarthritic joints. However, it is important to choose a safe swimming spot. Swimming pools are best as they can be monitored, but dogs also enjoy a dip in the sea or a stream. Watch out for any obstructions like fallen trees or branches that your dog could get caught on. Larger bodies of water may have designated swimming spots and warning signs, so pay attention to these. Ensure that you are able to guide them out of the water at a spot you can reach on foot to avoid stranding your pet. Lack of close supervision is a common cause of drowning, for pets and people alike, therefore it is best to keep an eye on your dog and call them back if they swim too far out.
Keep a barrier around your swimming pool if you have a dog who may jump in without supervision. It is likely to be safe enough to save them from drowning in this controlled environment, but beware of doing this in larger bodies of water. To prevent drowning, avoid fast-flowing water, flooded rivers, reservoirs and canals. You can even provide your dog with a lifejacket if you plan on taking them swimming, or attach an alarm to them in case they fall into a dangerous area of the water. Life jackets are recommended when pets are taken on boats, as well. Call the emergency services if you cannot get to them easily.
After swimming, dry your dog’s ears thoroughly to avoid ear infections. Apply a drying agent into the ear canal. Dogs with anxiety or other health conditions may not be able to swim; therefore, it is best to check with your veterinarian to ensure they are safe to learn.
Water intoxication is another danger that may be associated with swimming when dogs are swallowing large amounts of water. Symptoms include loss of coordination, lethargy, bloating, vomiting, glazed eyes, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, seizures, coma, and death. If you notice your dog is gulping water, insist on taking a break from swimming and water play.