Summer is almost upon us. In some parts of the country, like Arizona where I live with my two dogs, temperatures are steadily climbing towards the triple digits. In this warmer weather, we spend more time in the yard and swimming in the pool, which in turn leads to an increased need for pool safety for dogs. Here’s some water safety advice to help ensure we have fun in the sun this year while keeping our beloved pets safe in and around the water.
If you are a new pet owner or just moved into a new place with a pool, you may be wondering if your dog can go swimming. Live in a pet-friendly apartment or condo with a shared community pool? It’s probably a good idea to find out if your dog is allowed in the pool first. The general rule, if there are no pet restrictions, is that as long as the pool is safe for human use, your pet will be able to enjoy it as well. Some dog breeds are more excited about swimming than others, like water-loving retrievers, while others may be wary of the pool at first.
But every dog can enjoy taking the plunge if you show them the ropes the first few times they venture into the water. When my poodle JoJo was first introduced to the pool, he absolutely hated it. Over time, however, seeing everyone else have fun in the water encouraged him to get back in and he started to love swimming. These days, we have a hard time keeping him out of the water because he enjoys himself so much.
You will know fairly quickly if your dog enjoys going in the water. To encourage a safe experience for your dog in and around the pool every time, here are some helpful pool safety tips:
Teach your dog to swim: As a first step, the American Kennel Club(AKC) recommends that you carry him into the pool and lower him into the water gently. Your dog may be unsure of what to do next, so you can help him swim to the steps, praising him for his efforts.
Familiarize him with the pool: You can guide your dog a bit further into the pool, then assist him back towards the steps. With some practice, your dog will start swimming for the exit on his own.
Ensure your dog learns how to safely exit: Another important element of pool safety for dogs is reaching the steps and finding the exit from any entry point. The AKC suggests putting him in the pool from different points and guiding him towards the exit. Knowing how to get out of the water will help eliminate panic in case of an accidental fall.
Confirm your dog is comfortable: If your dog seems to thrive in the water and is physically healthy enough to swim, you are all set to go. If he seems a bit unsure of the water after the first introduction to the pool, try again next time. You’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable he may be during the second or third try.
Always supervise: Even if your pal is a strong swimmer, you can never know when an emergency situation in the water may arise. By always keeping an eye on your dog while playing in or around the pool, you can be sure he is safe.
Have you ever heard of the doggy paddle? Dogs are natural swimmers, so once they get used to being in the water, they’ll be able to move around. By teaching them basic dog water safety from their very first encounter with a pool, you can be certain that your dog will know how to handle himself in the water.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider getting a life vest for your dog. Do you notice your pal needs a bit of help getting around, gets tired when swimming for long periods of time, or simply still seems a little unsure in the water? By aiding your dog’s ability to float in the water comfortably, a dog life vest can give every dog the confidence to swim and play in the water.
Another option, if you have a water-loving dog who tires easily or would rather relax than swim non-stop, is a flotation device. A flotation aid, such as a pool float or doggy raft, can be a great way for your dog to spend more time in the water without overtiring. A human pool float will do the trick, though an actual dog pool float may be better suited to withstand wear and tear from your dog’s nails.
In addition to life vests and floats, there are some other great tools to ensure pool safety for dogs. A dog pool ramp is designed to help dogs exit the water safely while swimming with you, or after accidentally falling in the pool by themselves.
Other products that can prevent accidental splash sessions, especially during the colder non-pool seasons, are safety pool covers and pool fences. Pool covers make your backyard pool safer for your pets by sealing off entry to the water with a sturdy tarp that is installed flush with the ground around the pool. Pool fences either block access to the perimeter of the pool or the section of the yard in which the pool is located.
There are also pool alarms and pet safety collars that respond to any activity in the pool and submersion under water, respectively. These are just some of your options to give you peace of mind if your dog likes to spend a lot of time in the yard near a pool.
For an additional level of pool safety for dogs, you can also learn basic dog Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) skills. In case of an accident in the pool, you will know the proper techniques to help your dog. You can learn more about pet CPR from the American Red Cross.
Part of a clean pool routine is treating the water with chlorine and other chemicals, which can leave us wondering about the effects of chemically treated water on our pets. Chlorine in large doses can be harmful to both dogs and humans, but according to petMD, the amount of chlorine found in a well-maintained backyard pool is at a very diluted level that should not cause any chlorine poisoning.
In fact, the expert at petMD points out that your pool is a safer option than swimming in a river or lake, which can lead to exposure to unknown microorganisms that can negatively affect your pet’s health. Just make sure to store all pool cleaning supplies, such as chlorine tabs and shock, safely away from your dog.
Along with swimming, another concern for dog owners is dogs drinking water directly from the pool. This can become an issue, especially in the hot summer months when some dogs, like my JoJo, see the pool as a refreshing oversized personal water bowl. Although we shouldn’t necessarily encourage it, petMD points out that drinking some chlorinated water should not cause any serious issues.
There can also be concerns that prolonged skin exposure to pool chemicals may lead to skin sensitivity. To prevent this, thoroughly rinse your pet off after his swim to ensure all the chlorine has been washed off. When drying your dog, pay special attention to drying the ears, since damp ears can lead to ear infections.
This depends on what type of pool you own. In general, any type of in-ground pool surface like plaster, pebble, or tile, will be fine for both large and small dogs to swim in. Above ground pools with vinyl liners may be less suitable, since the pool lining can sustain some damage from your dog’s nails while swimming or exiting the pool.
Also, consider the impact of your dog’s hair on your pool. If your pup has long hair or sheds a lot, give him a good brushing before getting in the pool to minimize the amount of hair that ends up in the pool filter. If your dog goes swimming regularly, clean your filter often to ensure the pool pump continues working at the optimum level.
Don’t have a pool of your own, but would love for your dog to go swimming this summer? Find a local pet sitter with a pool he can enjoy during his next overnight stay or doggy daycare visit.
All photos are © Melanie Lewis.