Spending time in the water can be a great source of fun and exercise for humans and dogs alike; low impact activities like swimming are great for your dog’s joints, too. Whether you and your pooch frequent the beach, a river or stream, or a backyard pool, understanding proper water safety is a must. Water temperature and conditions, weather, fatigue, and distractions are all real factors to consider before hitting the water.

In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 5,000 dogs drown in backyard pools every year.

When it comes to water safety, the first thing to consider is the type of dog you have. Contrary to popular belief, most dogs are not good natural swimmers. There are many breeds well-suited for swimming, but most are quite the opposite due to generations of breeding particular traits.

The Best Dog Breeds at Swimming:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Newfoundlander
  • Irish Setter
  • English Setter
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Portugese Water Dogs
  • Standard Poodles

Dog breed types such retrievers, setters, shepherds, and most medium to large breed hunting dogs, are among the best swimmers in the world. This is because their bodies are still very similar to their canine ancestors, making them agile and quick in most environments. Their elongated snout allows them to breathe well while treading water, and their aerodynamic bodies makes it easier to gain speed.

The Worst Dogs at Swimming:

  • English Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Basset Hounds
  • Corgis
  • Boxer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Bull Terrier
  • Sharpei
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Chow Chow
  • Pekingese
  • Daschund
  • Basset Hound

Whether it’s their dense, barrel-shaped bodies, or poor respiratory systems, certain breeds require extra care and attention around the water. Overweight and elderly dogs are at especially high risk.

While there can be many unexpected risks when enjoying the water, it is important to be aware of the most common ones.

Water Safety Tips for Dogs:

Life Jackets Save Lives

A well-made, properly fitted life jacket is the most essential water safety product you can buy.

This will allow your pooch to spend plenty of time in and out of the water without the risk of going under. Doggy life jackets are designed to keep your dog afloat in a natural doggy-paddling position, which means it won’t complicate the act of swimming. Depending on the model, life jackets typically have many safety features like reflective materials for extra visibility in and out of the water, grab handles, and quick-release buckles.

Stay Close

Swimming is an exciting activity for dogs, so they generally don’t take much time to rest. This can become dangerous because an excited dog will keep swimming until they are out of juice. Even the strongest swimmers can become exhausted quickly, especially in open or moving water. Keep your dog in close proximity so that you can respond swiftly if necessary.

Always Provide an Exit

This point primarily pertains to pool safety, but can also include areas where your dog may be jumping off of a boat or dock. Many pools only have a ladder for entry and exit, so unless your dog can climb a ladder, there is no safe exit point. Dogs who usually climb a pool ladder may get confused, or could be at increased risk for ankle injuries, making it impossible for them to take their usual route out of the water.  If a dog cannot identify a point of exit in a pool, he will continue to swim to the point of exhaustion. There are many pet-friendly ramps made specifically for pools that provide a safe and easy exit.

After the Swim

Whether it is chemicals in a pool, or bacteria in a river, there are many things your dog may be exposed to during a swim. Regardless of where your dog swims, it’s wise to rinse him off with clean water to ensure any unwanted elements are washed away. Dry the ears with a clean towel afterwards. Dogs with wet/damp ears are especially prone to irritation and infection, so keep those areas clean and dry when swim time is finished.

Know Basic CPR and First Aid

This is one of those things every pet owner should know, and hopefully never has to use. Taking a basic CPR and first-aid course teaches essential life-saving techniques. While we’re at it, it’s smart to have a first-aid kit with you at all times in the event your pet is injured.

Playing in and around water is a great way to bond with your dog and get quality low-impact exercise at the same time. However, when it comes to water safety, you can never play too safe. Be alert and be prepared! But, most of all, have fun!

About Brandon Forder

Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. He has a passion for helping people become great pet parents. Brandon has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, web, and radio.

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