Whether in a pool, lake, ocean, or river, take these commonsense measures to help your doggie paddle safely.
- Never leave your dog unattended while she’s swimming.
- Make sure new swimmers can touch the bottom. “If they can’t feel the bottom, they panic,” says Jean Marie Cooper, who manages Water 4 Dogs in New York City. It’s better to have a shallow area, where they can walk around and get used to being in water before trying to get them paddling.
- Use a life jacket for all first-time or novice swimmers. For safety’s sake, it is a good idea to put one on any dog in an uncontrolled area, such as a lake or river.
- Stay beside a new swimmer and guide her, with a light hand under the belly, chest, or with a hand at the base of her tail.
- Wait two to four hours after a meal before hitting the water. Swimming is vigorous exercise, and a full stomach could promote bloat.
- If you have your own pool, make sure your dog knows where the stairs or ladder are located.
- Discourage drinking pool or pond water.
- Watch for signs that your dog is getting overtired, such as pale or purple gums.
- Rinse off with warm water. Shampoo may be used, but frequent swimmers should not use it after every dip because it may dry the coat.
What to Pack:
Don’t look for Bichon bikinis or frilly caps. Most accessories for four-legged swimmers are designed for safety and buoyancy. These include:
- Life jackets
- Ramps to ease entries and exits to pools
- Pool alarms, also useful with small children
- Swim Snood
- Floating toys, many made of neoprene, the same fabric used in wetsuits