Fact or fiction: All dogs naturally know how to swim. Believe it or not…fiction! While all dogs instinctively can do the “doggy paddle,” not all pups can stay afloat for an extended period. Nor do some dogs know how to keep themselves above water from the get-go. Certain breeds are at a higher risk of drowning because of their barrel-chests, short noses, and short legs. Here are the most popular dog breeds who aren’t naturally built for swimming: basset hound, boxer, bulldog, bull terrier, corgi, dachshund, and Shih Tzu. So, if you don’t want your dog “swimmin’ with the fishes” (in a bad way) here are some tips based on the type of water you’ll be visiting:
Before even attempting to get Max into a pool, gently get his paws wet in the shallow end to see how he responds to water. You may have to repeat this stage a few times before he understands that water = fun! Gently coax him in further with a toy or in the safety of your arms (be wary if he freaks though – so it’s important to know your dog’s temperament first and never force him) and monitor his swimming ability. You can also get a life jacket with handle, which is a safe backup until he is fully trained or too big for you to rescue quickly on your own, or for him to wear each time if he is of a breed that will never be able to master swimming on their own. Once he’s in deep (in a good way) keep checking on him to make sure the chlorine isn’t bothering his sensitive eyes, ears, and nose, and hose him off afterwards with clean water. Don’t let him drink the pool water and keep fresh water available instead. Most importantly, teach your dog how to get out of the pool on his own and have a suitable egress available to him.
Beach sand gets HOT. Ever see “that guy” walking like a champ…only to see him start booking it to his blanket after his feet start to light up like a Blackstone Grill? Don’t be “that guy” with your dog. Their paws are tough, but sensitive, so make sure your dog has a cool spot to stand on. Be sure to have clean drinking water and sunscreen as dogs can get sunburned too, as well as get melanoma. In fact, one of our employee’s dogs was diagnosed with skin cancer. She is a lovely, apricot poodle with hair and loves to paddleboard with kayak with mom! We’re happy to report that she’s doing fine now and gets lots of shade (in a good way.) Use a dog safe sunscreen that doesn’t contain zinc oxide - which is toxic to dogs - and apply it to her nose and ears. Don’t let your dog overdo it while you’re at the beach either. Running in the sand is a great workout, but be on the lookout for muscle strain, sharp rocks, coral, and litter on the beach. Lastly, for beaches that allow dogs, be nice to your neighbor and keep them on a leash. If you have room to run, a long lead is a great way to give them space yet be safe. Other than that, Life’s a Beach, so go for it!
If Gilligan loves a ride in the car, then he’ll probably love a boat ride too! When taking your little skipper out for a three-hour tour, be sure to bring the following with you: life vest, puppy pads/disposal bags, extra towels or outdoor mat, clean water and bowl, sunscreen, food, and a safety plan in case he accidentally goes overboard so you can retrieve your retriever - or a solid plan if you end up on a desert island with the Professor, Ginger and Mary Ann. You might not want to be rescued in that scenario, just sayin’.
If you decide to take Daisy in the water, ensure there are no motorboats or water recreational vehicles around such as jet skis. She’ll be fixated on fetching the ball you throw and won’t be paying attention to oncoming boat traffic. If playing fetch, throw the toy half of the distance she is able to swim. She may make it out there but could struggle to get back. Lake water can harbor bacteria, especially leptospirosis, so limit the amount of drinking your dog does from standing water. Fortunately, there is a leptospirosis vaccine available if you plan to frequently visit lakes with your dog. Ask your veterinarian if this vaccine is a good choice for your level of adventure. Also, as with any water activity, you should gently dry out her ears when the day is done. This is especially important for dogs with long, floppy ears to avoid potential ear infections.
Do you love all of the above? Here are some handy links to everything we’ve discussed, as well as some nautical accessories to make you and your dog’s life beachy keen: