Fun in the Sun - Water Play

Jul 19, 2019

Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs have the instinctual talent or taste for water play. Some dogs, such as the Newfoundland, Standard Poodle, Labrador Retriever may be more natural than others. Don’t assume your dog can swim just because his breed was previously mentioned. My Standard Poodle puts on the brakes big time when it comes to playing in the water. However, most dogs can learn to love to swim in a lake, ocean or pool, but it is important to take it slow. You don’t want to traumatize them.

Start with a kiddie pool and get them acclimated to their feet getting wet. Put a rubber mat on the bottom to prevent sliding on the slick bottom. After that, time to go to a quiet lake or a pool. Initially, start off with a lifevest. This will keep your dog safer until one is more confident in the water. Be sure to wear a life vest of your own. If your dog panics, he might climb on you to escape, and particularly with a large dog, this can put your safety at risk.

If you know of a dog that can already swim, invite them along to help demonstrate so your dog can watch and learn. It’s important to start in the shallow end and get into the water with them. You never want to just toss a dog into water. Support them under their tummy to help them initially and use a significant long lead to prevent your dog from getting out too far. It’s a good idea to bring some treats and a water toy for encouragement. You always want that first experience to be fun!

Additionally, teach your dog how to get out of the water. It’s important to teach your dog a strong recall inorder to signal him to swim back to the shore, boat or pool. In swimming pools, it’s important to show your dog where to exit. There are ramps in the marketplace that are dog specific for pools and boats.

No matter how strong of a swimmer your dog is, it is important to keep a watchful eye. Keeping swimming sessions short, 10 minutes maximum, will help prevent exhaustion. Be careful of water toxicity, when a dog swallows too much water. A common sign is throwing up after swimming. Medical attention is recommended.     

Make sure the water is free of predators and hazards. Dogs can seem like a tasty snack for animals like alligators, snakes or sharks. Monitor for undertows, sharp rocks and blue-green algae. Some bodies of water may contain parasites and bacteria, which may also harm your dog. Always rinse your dog off after they have been swimming. The sand, salt, chlorine and other chemicals can be irritating to the dog’s skin and coat.

Swimming is a fun way for your dog to get great exercise and entertainment, especially in these warmer months. Hope you and your dog can enjoy fun in the sun this summer!

Dr. Michelle Mayers