The sun is shining and it’s the perfect day to head down to the dock with your dog for a swim. Your pet has had lots of swimming practice in the pool, so he should be fine in the lake right? What you may not know is that water play in natural bodies of water and in a pool require very different types of preparation and training for your pet to ensure that the activity stays safe and fun. To make sure that your dog is prepared to dive in, read on for our tips on how to safeguard your pet while swimming in natural bodies of water.



Obedience classes and training sessions are very useful tools when practicing safe swimming with your dog. The basic skills learned in class or in your backyard such as sit, stay, or come are vital to ensuring that your dog does not swim too far away from you. If your dog is very obedient on land, try testing out their skills in a body of water that is fairly shallow or without a current. A great way to begin water obedience is with a baby pool in the yard. Encourage your dog to splash around in the pool, and then call them back to you and provide a reward. This balance of play and obedience teaches your pet that it is ok to play in the water, but that they have to come back to you when they are commanded to.



Know the area that your dog is swimming in! Familiarize yourself with the area by checking out the quality of the water-you don’t want your pet swimming in anything murky, stagnant, or algae covered as the water could contain parasites like Giardia. Keep an eye out for signs indicating that dangers could be present in the water such as submerged objects, undertow, strong currents, etc. that could harm your pet. A turmoil of currents can exist underneath the water’s surface that can make swimming difficult for your pet. Scan the shoreline for sharp objects such as broken glass, fishing line or hooks, or pieces of metal as such objects can do severe damage to your dog’s paws. Finally, make yourself aware of the local wildlife in the area that your pet is swimming in. For example a large fish with sharp teeth, jellyfish, birds that swarm, or even sharks can cause serious harm to your pet.



If you and your pet are going to be swimming in deep water, boating, canoeing, kayaking, or if your dog is not a great or practiced swimmer, consider purchasing a life vest for your pet. You can find a variety of different styles online or at your local pet store within your budget. In order to properly measure your dog for a great fitting life vest:

  • Meaure your dog while they are standing up
  • Weight your pet so that you know which weight category to shop in
  • Measure their length from the neck to the base of the tail
  • Measure the widest part of your dog’s chest by wrapping the measuring tape around the rib cage

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When shopping for your dog’s life vest try to pick one with bright colors for high visibility when your dog is in the water. A life vest with grab handles sewn on the back will assist you in pulling your dog out of the water if a rescue is necessary. Before entering the water, make sure that the straps on your dog’s life vest are adjusted to fit snugly but comfortably so that the safety features of the life vest can be maximized. A life jacket is a great tool for your dog and could potentially save their life, so finding the best fitting vest is essential.



Swimming can be a difficult and even frightening venture for some dogs, so try to introduce them to the water slowly. Understanding that not all dogs enjoy swimming, just like not all humans enjoy swimming, is important as well. You may be very excited for your pet to swim, but your dog may not be so enthused. Teach your pet to wade in slowly, perhaps swimming around with them if they are calm. Allow your dog to paddle around and become acquainted with the water; you may find it helpful to provide support by placing your arms under their chest and belly so that they are able to practice swimming without the fear of sinking. If your pet enjoys playing fetch, the game can be a great tool to get them into the water. Securely adjust your dog’s life vest around their body and begin throwing the toy into the water at very short distances, gradually increasing how far the toy is thrown to encourage swimming to retrieve it. A word of caution, if your dog is swimming in a river or another fast moving body of water strong currents could pull them underwater. Taking a pet CPR class with a registered trainer or veterinarian is also a good way to ensure that you are prepared for any emergency that might occur.



Consider creating a portable pet first aid kit to keep with you whenever you’re enjoying the outdoors with your pet. An emergency might arise and you’ll be surprised how useful a kit designed specifically to treat pet ailments might be. Some things to consider adding to your pet first aid kit might be: gauze to wrap injured paws, hydrogen peroxide to disinfect wounds or induce vomiting, a tick remover tool, extra water bottles, instant ice packs, and an extra leash. These tools will enable you to treat common injuries that can occur when your pet is swimming in natural water such as stepping on glass or sharp objects or suffering from overheating.



Watching your pet while they are in the water is essential to ensuring their safety. If you plan on letting your pet swim far away from you, you might consider a pair of binoculars so that you can monitor your dog more closely when they are in the water. With a bright life vest and careful observation, your dog can have an enjoyable and safe time in the water.



After your pooch is done swimming you need to take the proper steps to groom them effectively. It is always a best practice to bathe your dog thoroughly after swimming in a natural body of water, or at least to rinse them off with fresh water. Make sure to check your dog for any nasty critters such as ticks or leeches that could have latched on to their skin and remove them promptly. Dogs who spend a lot of time in the water are often susceptible to ear infections, so a good cleaning/drying of your dog’s ears with pet-safe ear wipes or thick tissues is a great preventative measure. Performing an inspection of your dog’s paws is another essential grooming measure to make sure that they have not stepped on any sharp objects, burned their paws on hot pavement or sand, or picked up a tick. Make sure to check between the toes!


Following these tips can help to make swimming a fun and safe activity for both you and your pet. Have a cute photo of your pet swimming? Show us by tweeting to @ProPetware or by posting on Instagram with #propetswim


Stay tuned for the next blog in our summer series: Safe Swimming Tips for Dogs: Pool Edition!

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