It’s summertime, and that means it’s time to get in the water. And what water-loving dog owner doesn’t throw tennis balls for Jake to fetch from the pool, take him to the beach or have him as first mate while power-boating, sailing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding?
Those are all great ways to spend time with your dog, but it’s important to ensure that he’s “waterproof.” People often assume that dogs know instinctively how to swim, but that’s not the case.
Teaching your dog to swim is an important part of his education, especially if you have a pool, hot tub or pond on your property.
• Summer is the best time to introduce your dog to the joys of playing in water. Even dogs such as Labs or Chesapeake Bay retrievers may balk if their first experience in the wet stuff is a cold one.
• If possible, take your dog to an area where he can get his paws wet gradually, such as a lake or an ocean beach that doesn’t have big surf.
• Never throw your dog in the water. That’s a good way to teach him to hate swimming.
• If you're introducing a puppy to water, it helps if you have an older dog who can show him the ropes. Pups will usually follow older dogs and copy what they do.
• As your dog gets more used to being in the water, up the fun level by throwing a bumper or floating ball into shallow water for him to fetch.
• As your dog goes deeper, support his body until he starts swimming on his own. Encourage him to swim to you.
• No easy access to a lake or ocean? A child’s wading pool is an equally good start. Let your dog splash around in it to get the idea that playing in water is fun. When he encounters the real thing, he’ll love it.
• Even the most water-loving dog can tire or panic for some reason. Always be sure your dog knows how to get out of the pool. Take him into the pool and show him how to find the stairs and climb out. Let him get in the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Practice this frequently.
• If you have a boat, the same rules apply. Put your dog in the water and then help him get back into the boat. Some dogs learn to use the boat ladder to scramble back on board. More important, keep a safety harness or canine life vest on him anytime he’s on board, whether you’re in a canoe or on a yacht. Choose one with a loop on the top so you can grasp it by hand or with a boat hook to haul him back in. The best choice is one with adjustable straps and quick-release buckles.
• Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. The ramp is easily visible because it’s white and it angles down, breaking the surface of the water and placing it at pet’s-eye level.
• Use a pool fence or other barrier to keep old or blind pets away from water. If they fall in the pool, they won’t be able to get out.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books.