Swimming is the ideal activity to help pets beat the summer heat, stay active and healthy, but how do you keep them safe? Combine these simple to follow swim safety tips with a dog life jacket and your dog can continue to enjoy the water all summer long!
Teaching Your Dog to Swim
Not only is swimming fun, it’s a great way to help dogs cool down and get their exercise. Whether your dog is swimming to improve their mobility or to have fun nothing is more important than their safety. To keep your dog safe as they learn to swim, follow these simple guidelines:
1. Never Force Your Dog to Swim
Contrary to popular belief, not every dog is born knowing how to swim and don’t assume your dog will be comfortable in the water. Swimming isn’t instinctual for every dog. Some dogs will never be comfortable getting near water and you never want to force a dog to do something they’re uncomfortable with. Start in a quiet, shallow part of the water and let you dog slowly adjust to being there.
2. Supervise and Stay Close
It’s important to always stay close to your dog when they’re in the water, especially with beginner swimmers. Choosing a dog swim vest with a handle allows you to easily guide and control your dog in and out of water. This is especially helpful for dogs just learning to swim, knowing that you are nearby and holding on to them will help them to build up trust and learn to enjoy the water. And most importantly never leave your dog alone in the water. Prepare for the unexpected, a water emergency can occur quickly and if your dog is unattended can become dangerous.
3. Overexertion While Swimming is Dangerous
There are incredible physical benefits of swimming, it’s great exercise and it’s fun, but it’s also a workout. Playing in the water for hours on end can be tiring and a tired dog is at risk of drowning or near drowning. Remember, even dogs who are seasoned swimmers can get tired and overexert themselves. Regardless of how strong a swimmer they are, every dog should wear a life jacket. A swim vest or life jacket will keep your dog buoyant and above water even if they’re tired.
4. Be Aware of Any Dangers in the Water
Whether your dog swims in a pool, at the beach, or in a lake you need to be aware of the natural dangers in the water. In freshwater such as a lake, pond, or river different bacteria and algae lurk in the water and can be harmful when ingested. Blue-green algae can make your dog sick and lead to intestinal distress. At the ocean, dangerous currents and riptides can be dangerous for you and your pet. Avoid swimming in the sea if there are signs of rough seas or riptides that can sweep your dog out to sea.
5. Wear a Dog Floatation Device
Even dogs that are incredible swimmers need a life vest. Not only will the life jacket provide the buoyancy they need to stay afloat, dog life vests are designed to keep your dog’s head up and out of the water at all times. A life jacket is an important part of dog swim safety, in addition to helping your dog to swim it also makes them more visible in the water. This makes it easier to spot your dog swimming no matter where you are.
Benefits of a Dog Life Jacket
Every pet who is spending time in or near the water needs to wear a dog life jacket, even those that love water. Even good swimmers get tired once in a while. A dog life jacket keeps your dog afloat and keep their head above water. As an added benefit lifejackets provide additional warmth and insulation during cold swims.
When choosing a floatation device for your dog, the best dog life jacket will have these features:
- Bright Color – choose a dog life jacket in a bright color with reflective strips, this makes it easier to spot your pup in an emergency situation.
- Handle – the handle on a dog swimming vest allows you to easily lift your dog in and out of the water. As well as guide them if additional support is needed when the dog is in the water.
- D-Ring – a leash attachment is a must on a good dog life jacket, this allows you to keep your pet safe on the walk in and out of the water. A leash is also beneficial to control dogs who are just learning to swim independently.
- Support – a high quality dog life jacket has safety in mind and should secure tightly underneath your dog. Choose a swim vest that buckles underneath your dog for added security.
Hydrotherapy and Swimming with a Special Needs Dog
Water therapy or hydrotherapy is especially beneficial for handicapped dogs and special needs pets. Canine hydrotherapy sessions are guided swim exercises where a dog works with their rehab specialist throughout the physical therapy session.
The benefits of canine water therapy come from the buoyancy of the water. The water supports the dog and reduces the stress on the dog’s joint to make it easier to move. This is especially impactful in pets with hind leg weakness who are unable to support themselves on land without the aid of a dog wheelchair.
There are three types of canine water therapy:
- Dog pool – a swimming pool where dogs swim side by side with their trainer.
- Underwater treadmill – encourage walking in a controlled environment, where the CCRP can control the speed of the treadmill, water temperature, and amount of water in the tank to monitor the amount of buoyancy needed.
- Whirlpool – Whirlpools have warmer water is used to ease muscle pain, the motion of the whirlpool also relaxes the dog during their swim session.
Canine therapy session may consist of one or all three types of hydrotherapy. Every dog’s needs are different, and their canine therapy plan will be customized to fit their mobility needs. Rehabilitation modalities go beyond just hydrotherapy. Your dog’s therapeutic sessions may include laser therapy, massage, and acupuncture just to name a few!
Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Handicapped Dogs
There are numerous health benefits and reasons why a disabled dog should try hydrotherapy:
- Improve balance and coordination
- Relax and soothe aching joints
- Helps dog to rebuild their strength and muscle tone
- Improve blood circulation, digestion, and boosts the immune system
- Decrease pain and helps to relieve stress on the body
- Great exercise and can help pets lose weight
Special needs dogs should always wear a life jacket to keep their head above water and help them to stay afloat. Although in some cases the rehab specialist may remove a life vest to encourage the dog to kick with their back legs more, in this instance the dog would be fully supported by their CCRP the entire time. A handicapped dog should never be in a pool or near water unattended.