Protect Your Pets with These Water Safety Tips

Chocolate lab swimming with a tennis ball in its mouth.

There's nothing better than cooling off in a pool, lake or the ocean on a hot day, particularly if you wear a fur coat year-round. Unfortunately, our pets aren't aware of the dangers that water can pose. A few precautions can help you ensure that your pet enjoys the water safely this summer.

Can Your Pet Swim?

All dogs are not natural swimmers. Some dogs, and most cats, don't even like the water. If you encourage your dog to enter the water without verifying swimming skills, you may need to perform an emergency rescue. Test your dog's skills by following these steps:

  • Encourage your furry friend to step into a few inches of water in a lake or kiddie pool. If you try the test in a lake, use a leash so that your pet can be quickly reached if necessary.
  • Pay attention to your pet's reaction. If it's positive, add a few more inches to the pool or venture a little farther in the lake. Use treats or a clicker to encourage your furry friend to venture into deeper water. If your dog strongly dislikes the experience, try again on another day. Forcing him or her into the water may only create a fear of water.
  • Evaluate your pet's swimming skills. If your dog seems comfortable, walk farther into the water until it's deep enough for your pet to swim. Your dog will begin paddling with all four paws if he or she can swim. If your pet doesn't automatically move the back paws, gently move them to demonstrate the proper technique. It's a good idea to put a special pet life jacket on your pet before this step.
  • Even if your pet can swim, he or she may need a little instruction in making turns, rather than just swimming in a straight line. Keep your pet in a life jacket until you are confident that he or she has strong swimming skills.

Follow These Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe

If you live or play near the water, pet water safety is particularly important. Follow these tips to prevent accidents and injuries.

  • Use a fence around your pool. Fences keep pets and children from falling into the water when the pool is not in use.
  • Buy pool alarms that attach to your pets' collars. If your dog or cat falls in the water, an alarm will sound in your home. Pool alarms are a good idea even if you have an indoor cat, since it only takes a second for a pet to slip through an open a door.
  • Keep a bowl of drinking water by your pool, and bring a supply of fresh water when you visit the beach or lake. Drinking chlorinated water or lake, river or ocean water can make your pet sick.
  • Always put a life jacket on your pet when you take him or her on a boat. If the boat capsizes, your pet may not be able to swim for a long period of time on his or her own.
  • Consider buying a pet water ramp for your pool or boat. These plastic ramps allow pets to easily enter and exit the water.
  • Give your pet a bath after swimming. Bathing removes chlorine that can irritate the skin and bacteria from lakes, rivers and the ocean that can make your pet sick if licked.

Surf Doggies: Teaching Your Dog to Surf is Easier Than You May Think

Want to enjoy your favorite beach activity with your pet? Try these tips.

  • Use a surfboard with a foam top, as it's easier for pets to grip these types of boards.
  • Place a life jacket on your dog, then coax him or her on to the surfboard while it's on the sand. Give the sit/stay command.
  • Ask your dog to sit/stay on the surfboard in a few inches of calm water. Pull the board into deeper water to help your pet adjust to the feeling of being on the board in the water.
  • Catch a wave in waist-deep water. Look for waves that have already broken and are beginning to foam. Push the surfboard into the wave and watch your dog enjoy the ride.
  • Move out a little farther in the water and help your dog catch the bigger waves. Don't move into deeper water unless it's obvious that your pet is comfortable surfing in shallow water. Before long, your furry friend may be ready to enter a dog surfing competition!

Sources:

Water Safety Magazine: Pet Safety Tips, 6/4/12

http://www.watersafetymagazine.com/pet-water-safety-tips/

WebMD: Dogs and Water Safety

http://pets.webmd.com/pets-water-safety

San Antonio Humane Society: Water Safety

http://sahumane.org/news/animal-resources/pet-care-tips/water-safety

Skamper-Ramp: Home Page

http://www.skamper-ramp-store.com/

DogsLife: Teach Your Dog to Surf, 6/27/14

http://www.dogslife.com.au/dog-news/dog-training/teach-dog-surf

Surf Dog USA: Teaching Your Dog to Surf

http://www.surfdogsusa.com/teach-your-dog-to-surf.html

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