Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson
June 2006

Dear Lisa: I have two wonderful German Shorthaired Pointers I got from rescue. The older male could care less about our pool but the younger female wants to be near the family when we go swimming. I’ve heard chlorine is bad for their eyes, bad to drink and causes ear infections. How true are these claims and can I safely take her swimming with us? – Swimming with Shorthairs.

Dear Swimming: Many dogs enjoy a plunge in the pool with their owners during the warm summer months. Most “pool people” will tell you that chlorine is safe at the levels used in pools. Humans swim in it and occasionally will ingest some water accidentally without great harm. A dog’s eyes, nose and ears are more sensitive than a human’s and as such may be a tad more susceptible to the effects of chlorine. I wouldn’t want the dog to drink large amounts of chlorine. Some dogs think of the pool as one big personal dog bowl to lap up, not unlike the toilet bowl. This behavior should be discouraged. As for the ears, most infections in dogs with floppy ears are caused by water and dampness, not the chlorine in the water.

Some pool owners opt for non-chlorine chemicals like bromine which may be less harmful to pets. To be on the safe side, give your dog a quick spray with the hose to rinse off the chemicals after a swim and give his ears a dab with a dry towel or use a blow dryer to keep them moisture free.

Safety Rules
More important than what your dog swims in is how it learns to swim. Your younger Shorthair may be very interested in joining the family in a round of ring toss, but first you must build confidence in your dog around the pool. Many dogs are fearful the first time they enter the water. Take it slowly and praise your dog each step of the way. Making it a pleasant experience will have the dog swimming in no time. You don’t have to teach the dog to “swim” since they are natural swimmers. It is easy to teach a dog to jump in the pool, either toss a toy in the pool or escort her over the side.

However, most dogs begin to panic when it is time to get out for the first time. They are unaccustomed to exiting using the human steps or ladder and need to be taught how to use them. A thrashing dog trying to escape will get tired and may drown. Never leave your dog unsupervised in a pool. They may need your assistance if they are in trouble and can’t bark to grab your attention. With proper guidance you and your pet can have lots of fun in the pool and if you are lucky he can teach you the proper way to do the dog paddle.

Dear Lisa: I have a 1 year old Norwegian Elkhound that hates getting a bath. It is a struggle and we don't bathe him as often as I would like. When its bath time, he runs. If I try to lead him into the bathtub with his leash, he freaks out. Once he is wrangled into the tub, he puts his toenails out like a cat and its just torture. I tried a kid’s wading pool outside and that was a disaster. I got the bath, not the dog. Anything you might have, please help! I want a clean dog, not a “stinky pete.” – Smelly Elkie Belly

Dear Smelly: I know all about Elkhounds! But like most dogs, a bath is not their favorite activity. It sounds like you have already established enough of a routine for him to know when it’s bath time. You are going to have to un-establish your behavior when it comes time for baths so he doesn’t get a “cue” from you that it’s pending.

Try putting the leash on him and just walk him around the house, not near the bathroom, if all goes well, give him a treat, reward and release him. Get him used to having the leash not be associated with the tub.

Practice Makes Perfect
Next, using just his collar, lead him into the bathroom and close the door. Sit on the floor and play with the pup and then get up and leave. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Do this for a few weeks. Then one day just pick him up and put him in the tub. Make sure you place a rubber mat on the bottom so he won’t scramble when he pops those nails out. Also, keeping them trimmed short will help.

Once in the tub, hold him there for a few seconds. If you notice he relaxes, such as letting out a big sigh, then praise, give a treat and take him out. After a few good sessions, try turning on the water, but don’t get him wet. Eventually, you should be able to convince him that bathing isn’t the big deal he thinks it is, especially if he thinks he’ll be getting lots of treats along the way for good behavior.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2006 The American Kennel Club, Inc.