Summer is in full swing and while we’re all overheating your pup still needs to get some exercise. What do you do? Head for a swim of course! Whether you have a pool, head to the lake, hang out by the river or happen to know a fabulous hike that has a swimming spot on route we can all agree that being in water is one of the best things about summer. Too often we hear about preventable accidents involving pups and water so here are a few tips to make sure your pup stays safe.
Not all dogs are born to swim: Before you let your pooch head off into the middle of the lake or in a strong river make sure you have a few practice swims near the shoreline. Just because they have swam before doesn’t mean that they will enjoy swimming every time. Even if your pup is a breed that is known for swimming (e.g. retrievers, spaniels) doesn’t mean that they will automatically take to the water. It’s best to be patient and let them get used to the water on their own terms with gentle encouragement/rewards. It may take a while for them to get used to swimming but it’s well worth the time!
Consider a life jacket: Sure some people might laugh at you but if your pup loses energy are you able to safely get them back to shore? What type of life jacket you need depends on where you are going and what type of activity you plan on doing. We recently reviewed a number of life jackets and have summarized our reviews below (click the links to read the full review):
- Hurtta Life Savior: Our current top pick for life jackets – this jacket checks off every box you could ask for – adequate flotation, full wrap belly panel, durable materials and a sturdy handle for lifting in and out of the water. After months of testing this jacket still looks as new as the day it arrived.
- Kurgo Surf N Turf Life Jacket: This jacket is great for shoreline activities. It has adequate flotation and some neat bonus features (e.g. a bottle opener) but doesn’t have a full belly panel which can mean lifting in and out of water may not be ideal. This jacket was put through the ringer in and out of water and has barely shown any wear and tear.
- Outward Hound Fun Fish Life Jacket: The current best value for price point. The Fun Fish life jacket may be written off as too cutesy but when put to the test it proved to have better sizing, better handle design, and sturdier belly/restraint system than it’s competitors at the same price point.
- Alcott Mariner Life Jacket: This life jacket had one of the sleekest fits of all the jackets we tested but it was designed to be an aid to for naturally good swimmers to allow less energy output. It wouldn’t be ideal for dogs who cannot swim or for lifting out of water.
Watch out for water intoxication: Have you heard of water intoxication? Excessive water consumption, which can occur in many ways including swimming or fetching toys in water, leads electrolyte levels to drop, thinning of blood plasma and potential swelling of the brain or other organs. What do you need to keep an eye out for? The following are common signs and symptoms of water intoxication:
- Loss of coordination
- Glazed eyes and/or dilated pupils
- Light coloured gums
- Excessive salivation
- Difficulty breathing
- Collapse/loss of consciousness
How do you prevent it? The best way to prevent it is to make sure your pup is taking enough breaks. This allows the body to process the water they are consuming and lowers your risk. Additionally, be careful on what type of toys you are using or limit the amount of throws – if they are swimming around with their mouth open they are inadvertently ingesting water. If your pup is showing signs of water intoxication it is important to get them to the vet immediately.
Get rest and stay hydrate: If you live somewhere like we do swimming is not a year round activity – sometimes it’s barely a 2 month activity – so your pup may tire out pretty easily. With all the excitement of swimming and chasing after toys they may not WANT to take a break but it is your responsibility to ask them to. Use the break as an opportunity to offer them some fresh water so they stay hydrated.
Clean up after swimming: Just like humans dogs can get swimmers ear or swimmers itch. If your dog has sensitive skin they may need to be toweled down immediately to prevent rashes or irritation from being wet. Consider bringing along a packable towel like the Alcott Mariner Shammy (review here) or an ultra lite towel. In addition, be prepared to rinse your pup down after a swim. A lake or river may not be as clean as you’d like and chemicals found in pools or salt water can dry out their skin. Make sure you dry their ears well to prevent infection!
At the end of the day a dip in the water should be an enjoyable experience for all. Make sure you are paying attention to the cues your dog is giving you on whether they are having fun or not and know when to call it quits.
Disclaimer: The advice we offer above is based on our own personal experiences, research and talking to professionals but every dog is unique and what works for one may not work for another. If you have any specific concerns about your dog please talk to your vet.