May is National Water Safety Month and with summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to brush up on water safety for everyone in your family, including your four legged kids. Here are five great tips to ensure both you and your pup enjoy the water during the dog days of summer.
- Remember Not All Dogs are Natural Swimmers
Don’t assume your dog will automatically be able to swim. Instinctively they will start to paddle when they are in water but that doesn’t mean they will stay afloat. It’s always best to introduce your pup slowly to the water and see how they do. Start in a shallow area with two people so one can stay with the dog and the other can call it to come to them. Make it fun for them with lots of praise, treats or toys as their reward. As they become more comfortable in the water you can increase the distance and depth of the water they are in but always make sure to stay close in case they need help.
- Invest in a Good Canine Life Vest
If you plan on spending any time this summer with your dog near or on the water do yourself and your pup a big favor and purchase a well fitting, comfy life vest for them.
It’s perfect to use when teaching your dog water safety and an absolute essential if they are boating with you. Not only will it keep them afloat but it also serves as a handle for you to steady them or pull them up into a boat if necessary. Keep in mind that your pooch will weigh more when wet so make sure you are able to actually lift them this way before you go out on the water. A bright colored vest with reflective strips will keep your dog visible to you and others. Get your pup used to the vest by putting it on them around the house. Tell them how great they look in it, offer them a super treat, or even take them for a walk in it and they will begin to associate it with “good” stuff. The vest fit should be snug but comfy. Measure both girth and length in addition to weight for the best fit. Breathable mesh on the under belly can prevent chafing which your dog will thank you for.
- Teach Your Dog How to Get Out of the Water
This is particularly important when it comes to swimming pools. If a dog falls into a pool they will instinctively head toward the nearest edge and try to pull themselves out. Panic will quickly lead to exhaustion and they could drown. In your own home and when visiting a friend’s pool, take the time to teach your dog where the steps are located. Repeatedly get in and out with them using only the steps until it becomes clear they know how to exit the water. If your dog is too tiny to use the steps there are numerous water ramps that can be installed that will provide a safe exit. Being in the water with you pup is a great way to supervise and make the experience fun for them. Try inventing a water game they enjoy (fetch the ball or swim for treats) and they will begin to think swimming is the best thing ever. In fact, at our pool, we keep the treat jar next to the pool steps which offers great motivation but also requires more supervision to make sure the treats don’t all disappear at once.
- Have Fresh Drinking Water Available for Your Dog
Discourage your dog from drinking the surrounding water. Chemicals in pool water, parasites in lakes or rivers, and salt in the ocean can cause stomachaches, vomiting or diarrhea. Have a source of fresh water available for them which will also help to prevent dehydration or heat stroke. It’s also advised to rinse your pet off after swimming to remove any chlorine or salt water. And don’t forget to dry their ears.
- Protect Your Pet from the Heat
Summer heat can be deadly for pets. Since dogs do not sweat like humans it is harder for them to keep cool when temperatures and humidity sore. Direct sun, hot sand and concrete can not only burn your pup’s paws but also cause heat stroke. Symptoms of overheating include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, lethargy, drooling, vomiting and even collapse. If you believe you dog is experiencing heat stroke immediately take action to cool them down. Find shade; provide fresh drinking water; lay down a wet towel for them to lie on (dogs cool from the bottom up so a towel underneath does more than if placed over their back); pour or spray cool water (not cold) on them including their paws and belly; and fan them.
Whether it’s your backyard pool, a lake, or the beach following good water safety practices will help ensure your families, including the four-footed furry members, enjoy a fun and safe summer.
About K.J. Hales
K.J. Hales (www.elliethewienerdog.com) is the author of the “Life’s Little Lessons by Ellie the Wienerdog” educational, children’s book series. The lessons are inspired by Hales’ own dachshund, Ellie. The second book in the series “It’s Hard to Swim” is now available!