6 Tips to Help Dogs Swim Safely

The temperature is rising across the country, making swimming holes and crystal blue pools look much more inviting. For many dogs, swimming can be really fun and rewarding, but safety should always be your top priority. We talked to our experts and rounded up some of the precautions you should take before you take your dog swimming this summer.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe Around Water

we dog wearing life jacket


Always Wear a Life Jacket

While most dogs may be physically able to swim, it doesn't always mean they want to. Whether they love paddling around or are a bit hesitant, they need to be in a life jacket — it can help prevent tragedy. "Water accidents aren’t limited to boating," Dr. Mary Fuller says. "They can happen while swimming in rivers, lakes and even the family pool. It’s easy to find [a life jacket] that’s not only comfortable for your dog but provides extra buoyancy to help prevent him from getting overly fatigued."

Golden Retriever Running


Come When Called Is Essential

Obedience training is essential to swimming safety. Your dog needs to be able to come when called whether he's on dry land or paddling in a pond. If you find yourself in a situation where your dog isn't listening while he's swimming, try throwing a toy or stick toward the shore to lure him back. It's no substitute for training, but it could save your dog's life.

Dog getting bandage


Learn Pet First Aid and CPR

One of the best things you can do to keep your dog safer is take courses in pet first aid and CPR. Some local Red Cross chapters offer these classes, and sometimes veterinarians in your community may teach them. A near-death dog rescued from the water may be saved by your prompt actions — if you know what to do.

Dog Drinking Water from bottle


Don’t Let Him Drink the Water

Dr. Marty Becker recommends that all dogs travel with fresh water, along with something to put it in. While this is especially important when you're in or near the ocean (to keep your dog from drinking salt water), it's also important at a lake or river. These bodies of water "may be contaminated with bacteria, protozoa or blue-green algae that can make your dog ill," Dr. Becker says.

Dog Swimming in Pool with Life Jacket


Never Let Him Swim Unsupervised

Dogs should always be supervised when swimming. You should be particularly careful with young and old dogs. "Young dogs can panic in the water, and old dogs may not realize they aren't as strong as they used to be," Dr. Becker says. "Keep them close to shore and keep swimming sessions short." He also recommends staying aware of your dog's condition as he plays. "When your dog is tiring, call it a day. An exhausted dog is in danger of drowning."

Bulldog and other dogs in shade


Keep Barrel-Chested Breeds on Dry Land

If you have a Bulldog or similar barrel-chested breed, Dr. Becker says you should "think long and hard before taking him swimming or boating. Not only are these dogs prone to rapid overheating, they’re also not designed for swimming." If you have one of these breeds, talk to your vet about swimming. "If your dog isn’t made for water, you’re probably better off leaving him home for his own safety. If you decide to take your dog along anyway, keep him in a life preserver and in the shade."

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