Warning: I am not a veterinarian. All advice I give should be taken with a grain of salt, as with a lot of advice you may read online. I just like to help animals, through helping their pet parents, with the 19 years of experience I have gained by working in veterinary medicine. Ultimately, you should consult your veterinarian before trying anything yourself at home.
If you have a swimming pool, and you have a dog, you should always teach them how to swim. Even if you never plan on them swimming regularly, in the event that your dog happens to fall into the pool, you want them to be prepared and know how to get out safely.
It broke my heart when a woman called into the clinic, a few years ago, to tell us that her dog had fallen into her pool and drowned.
This isn’t really a summertime warning, more of a “If you have a pool” warning, but since we all think about ways to cool off during the hot summer, and swimming is one of the ways a lot of people cool off, I thought it would be a good time to bring it up.
Even if you have a fence around your pool, it’s still a good idea to teach your dog how to swim and where they can exit the pool, in the event they get stuck inside the pool yard.
If your dog is not really interested in swimming, it’s a good idea to start them off slow (early in age, if possible) and have someone to help you get them into the pool, help you help them navigate, give more encouragement, and help guide them to get out at the proper spot. Especially if you are teaching a large dog how to swim for the first time.
Doggie life vests can be purchased for first time swimmers, if you’ll be taking your dog to a lake, or they will be going on a boat.
Once they get used to swimming with the vest on, in your own pool, it’s good for them to learn how to swim without it as well. In a situation where they may happen to fall in on accident, they probably won’t be wearing a life vest.
Always use vests in lakes and on boats.
Make sure that when you start to teach your dog to swim that the area is as calm as possible. Lots of noise, anxiety, and distractions will make it a stressful situation for your pup and make it more difficult and stressful to teach them.
It’s best to start them off slowly; coaxing them with words, treats or toys, to get their feet wet.
Slowly work them deeper and deeper, one step at a time, and possibly over several training days, until you’re able to get them into the water at the shallow end if the pool. In the shallow end of the pool you can walk beside them, while giving them encouraging and soothing words, and then show them where they can exit safely.
Staying in the shallow end allows you to use your arm to help keep them afloat. It also helps to guide them, from underneath their body while walking with, and beside, them the whole time. This will also help to encourage them to paddle, which is how they swim.
Continue to use encouraging words when they do the things you want them to.
Give them a break if you notice they are getting tired, struggling a lot, or getting stressed.
If there are multiple spots where they are able to get out of the pool safely, show them one until they get to know it well, and understand that spot is where they’re supposed to get out.
Once they get the one safe exit spot learned, then you can teach them the other exits.
In an emergency, you don’t want them getting confused about where they’re supposed to go to exit the pool.
Once the lesson is over, make sure to increase the excitement, encouraging words and add some treats to make the swimming lesson a positive experience.
If you ever find your dog struggling in a pool, get them out immediately and contact your veterinarian, or emergency vet office, A.S.A.P.
If you want to be especially cautions, some facilities off pet CPR classes. Google locations for your area.
It’s always a good idea to have the number of the closest emergency veterinary clinic handy, or already programed into your phone, for situations like this.
If you have a dog who turns into an avid and regular swimmer, it might be a good idea to rinse them with fresh, chlorine free, water and use a towel to help dry them off faster.
Dogs who stay wet can get some nasty skin issues, and chlorine can be irritating to the skin.
It’s also a good ides to use a cotton ball to wipe out any excessive water that has gotten into their ears.
If your dogs has the types of floppy ears that are so cute, be careful and keep a close eye on them. The way the ears are made help to trap moisture and heat, causing ear infections.
You can talk to your veterinarian about using an ear cleaning solution for frequent swimming if you want to be on the safe side and stay away from an expensive vet visit and painful ear infection for your pup.
I am a huge advocate for pet insurance, especially for those families who may have financial difficulties.
I consider pet insurance a type of savings plan for my pet. I may not need it now, but you never know when the unexpected will come up and a financial situation comes between keeping your pet healthy, or even alive in an emergency situation, and being able to afford what your pet needs.
I have seen too many pets go untreated for minor, but chronic, illnesses. Not because their owners didn’t want to make them feel better, but because they couldn’t afford the treatment. It will often make the pet owners feel guilty. They want to be able to afford whatever it is that their pet needs, they just can’t afford it.
Pet insurance can be a “cushion” to help absorb the financial part of your animal’s care, and allow you to care for your pet in ways that you may not have been able to do otherwise.
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