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  • Dr. Hilary Jones

Paws Above Water: Keeping Your Pup Safe While Swimming

All dogs must be able to doggy-paddle, right? Not so fast! Most dogs are natural swimmers, but some dogs will find the water unpleasant due to their breed, age, or health issues.

If your dog has never been swimming before, make sure they have a good first experience with the water. You should never force your dog into the water or throw them in -- even if you’re jumping in right after. Introduce them to water gently, let them take their time, and keep them on a leash in case they get startled by a wave or fishy friend.

Can All Dogs Swim?

Lots of dogs go wild for water! Labradors, Setters, and Newfies are known water lovers and great swimmers. Several breeds were designed with swimming in mind. Others, not so much! Brachycephalic dogs like Frenchies, Pugs, and Bulldogs aren't always the most aquatic. Their squished faces make breathing difficult on dry land, so adding water into the mix doesn't help.

Breeds with larger heads and shorter legs may have trouble keeping themselves afloat and could benefit from a doggy life jacket. Small dogs will long hair may also appreciate a life jackets as they may find swimming extra hard work as their wet hair gets heavy!

Water Safety Tips

Don’t Let Your Dog Drink the Water

No matter where you and your dog take a swim, make sure they don’t drink the water. Stagnant water from a lake or pond can contain harmful algae or disease causing bacteria. Drinking too much salt can lead to vomiting and salt toxicity. Backyard pools contain chlorine and other chemicals that can irritate skin and and eyes and make them sick if they drink it.

To keep your dog from wanting to drink water, make sure they’re well-hydrated before you go for a swim.

Avoid Strong Currents

Make sure to check the currents and tides before letting your dog swim. You don't want them getting pulled away in current that is too strong for them or trapped in a riptide. A small dog with small legs may find a small current lots of work!

Swimming After Care

Always rinse your dog in clean fresh water after swimming. You want to remove any salt or chemicals that could irritate their skin and any germs they could swallow while grooming.

If it’s cold out, make sure you dry your pup off once you emerge. Older dogs and dogs other health issues may be particularly sensitive to the colder temperatures.

Clean your dog's ears with dog specific ear cleaner to help remove the extra moisture. Swimming is one of the biggest causes of ear infections in dogs. Need ear cleaning tips, check this out!

Take It Easy!

It may take a few tries for your dog to feel comfortable swimming. Bring a favorite toy with you into the water for a little reassurance.

Make sure you don’t swim for too long, especially if your dog is new to the water. Swimming can be quite a work out!

Going boating? Get extra tips here!


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