Keep Your Dog Safe in the Water

I used to think that if you throw any dog into water, it will swim. But according to AnimalPlanet , this is not necessarily true. Any number of structural or genetic qualities can put your dog somewhere in the range from great swimmers to instant-sinkers. When I tested Monty's swimming ability in a shallow lake, I found that he could swim, but he basically hated it.


Take these steps for safety

If you plan to take your dog out on the water for the first time (even on a boat), you need to take steps to ensure his safety. I recommend the following:

  • Test his ability to swim: Conduct a test in a controlled situation. Remaining by his side, place him gently in the water, and be prepared to lift him to safety.
  • Pick a safe place: Leave your dog at home if you plan to go white-water rafting. Not being an ocean-lover, I personally would avoid areas attractive to surfers. But I'll leave that decision to someone who knows more than I do in that area, particularly since some dogs are great on surf boards. Just take some time imagining the potential dangers, and choose accordingly.
  • Look into safety equipment: Yes, they make life vests for dogs. Even if your dog is a natural-born swimmer, he should certainly wear some form of flotation device any time you would wear one. A motor boat on the high seas springs to mind.
  • Be prepared to rescue: Even adults should not swim alone, and the best child swimmers still require supervision. This is true for your dog, too. Anything can happen: he can get hit by a nearby personal watercraft, or maybe a rock will fall out of the sky and hit him. So, just as you would do with anyone, make sure you have a rescue plan in mind.

Mothers: take note
Last week I witnessed a great example of what not to do with a dog in water. After a major storm, our street was flooded, with the water coming above the knees of a young boy who was jumping around in it. I can't comment on the boy's choice of water sports — I remember riding my bike through flooded streets when I was his age. But when his mother took their little dog out for a walk, the boy walked to the sidewalk, took the dog in his arms and dropped him in the filthy water. So here's an important rule to follow: if you're a mom, keep the dog away from your child while he plays in flood waters!

You can stay cool in or out of the water

Nothing beats the cooling effects of water on a hot summer day, and your dog may love a good swim as much as you do. Monty preferred other methods for keeping cool. He preferred a nap under a shady tree with a bowl of ice water in reach, but he would tolerate a quick water spray in emergency heat situations.

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