While many dogs are instinctive swimmers and master the doggie paddle at an early age, dogs of all shapes and sizes are increasingly participating in water sports with their humans.
Here are eight suggestions for keeping your canine safe while in and around the water:
1. Choose a water environment that matches your dog’s skill level. Dogs unfamiliar with the water should always wear a canine life jacket until they are more experienced and comfortable in the water.
2. Use a canine lifejacket. Fast-moving water, significant distances from shore, or cold-water temperatures can shock even the strongest swimmers.
3. Ensure the swimability of your dog life jacket. When choosing a canine flotation device, be sure your dog can move freely in it, that the jacket is sized correctly, and that it allows the dog to swim in a comfortable, horizontal position.
4. Know when playtime is over. Choking, gasping for air, and climbing on top of other swimmers are signs of a struggling dog. Do not pull on legs, collar, head, or tail to remove dog from water.
5. DO NOT AT ANY TIME secure your dog to watercraft with a leash or other device. Tying a dog to watercraft means almost certain death should the boat flip or sink.
6. Prevent ear infections. Drying out your dog’s ears after he or she gets out of the water can prevent ear infections. Your vet can offer advice and potential solutions to prevent future ear infections.
7. Avoid hypothermia. Very young and very old dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia. Shivering, decreased heart rate, dilated pupils, pale or blue mucous membranes, stupor, unconsciousness, or coma are all signs of hypothermia.
8. Keep an eye out for hazards. Rocks, boats, fishing gear, and other manmade or natural obstacles can easily bog a dog down in the water, limiting their ability to swim.