Most dogs love the water. They’re natural swimmers (thus, the term “doggy paddle”) and they have a hard time resisting the fun of getting into water and splashing around. But just as you would take precautions for yourself or your children, you need to take precautions for your dog.
Drinking the water
One of the biggest issues with dogs is that they will often drink whatever water they’re in. You know not to do that, but to a dog, water is water (even the toilet bowl). Dogs that drink pool water ingest chlorine. Dogs that drink seawater ingest salt water and whatever is in it. Dogs that drink water from a stream or pond also ingest whatever organisms may be in the water.
How can you stop your dog from drinking the water he’s playing in? Make sure he’s not thirsty. Yes, he’ll get water in his mouth, especially if he’s jumping in with his mouth wide open, but if he’s not thirsty, it is less likely that he’ll consider the water feature a great big water bowl.
Dog safety equipment
Wherever your dog plays, be sure to have a few safety items handy. Always take your dog’s own water bowl and a supply of clean drinking water. Be sure to water him before and after he plays. Too much water can dilute electrolytes in the system in your dog as well as in people – which is why people drink electrolyte drinks. So be sure to provide a healthy treat, like Saint Rocco’s Salmon Treats or Sprinkles, to replace some of the vitamins and minerals from excessive water ingestion and to settle the stomach.
Have a good quality doggie life vest that is the right size for your dog. You may not need it for a small stream that’s only a couple of inches deep, but in most other situations, it is a valuable precaution and could be a lifesaver. Your dog can’t tell you when he’s getting tired, and in running water such as a river or the ocean, he could easily be swept in deeper than he can handle.
Remember that dogs can get too much sun, just as we can, so be sure to have a way for him to get out of the sun and relax.
Safety in pools
Most public pools do not allow pets, so a backyard pool is probably where your dog will get most of his pool fun. However, you do not want to have him in the pool if it has been recently treated with chlorine or other chemicals. Different chemicals have different strengths, so check the website of the products to see what they recommend about pets.
Always supervise your dog in the water, just as you would a child. Keep the pool fenced in so he can’t dive in whenever he wants. The pool should have a ramp or steps so he can easily exit. Include some fun doggie floating toys and a floating dog lounge so he can relax on the water when he’s tired.
Safety in wild waters
In our local area, Bucks County and Montgomery County, PA, we are blessed with lakes, ponds, streams, and the Delaware River. And while most are safe enough to wade or swim in, and we can eat fish from most streams and lakes, safety for your dog may be more questionable. Consider each body of water separately before letting your dog in it.
For instance, at Bucks County’s Lake Galena, dogs may go in the water, but they must be kept on a leash and be under control at all times. Swimming is not permitted in Lake Galena, and we have heard it is not safe for dogs to drink the water; however, the fishing is excellent, so as always, just limit the amount of water your dog may ingest.
Dogs who are properly trained may also enjoy a ride on a canoe or paddleboard, but again, make sure he is wearing a life vest.
Watch for wild animals along our lakes, ponds, and streams, including water snakes. Keep your dog away from stagnant water or algae bloom, and stay in areas that are kept clean to avoid the chance of your dog stepping on glass or other submerged debris.
Be especially cautious if you allow your dog to play in rapidly moving water, such as the river. Keep your dog on a leash and in shallow water.
Safety at the beach
Not all beaches allow pets, so check the rules at the beach you are planning to visit. If you are able to take your dog to the ocean, a life vest is a must. Do not encourage your dog to go too deep by throwing a Frisbee or other toy into the water to retrieve. If it floats out on a wave, he will go after it.
Take a walk along the shoreline and let him splash in the shallow water. But again, make sure he’s not thirsty and try to discourage drinking the water. Carry water with you and give him a treat when he drinks clean water from a bowl or your palm.
Alternative water fun
If you have a small dog, a puppy, or an older dog, you may want to avoid large water features. Even if you have a big dog, consider providing alternative opportunities for water fun, in which you can control the water quality and the environment.
Dogs love sprinklers. Or on a hot day, you can spray him with the hose. You could also get a small wading pool for your backyard for your dog to splash in. Make sure it’s made of sturdy plastic rather than a blow-up kiddie-pool or his nails will likely rip holes in it. Kids may also enjoy playing water gun tag with the dog, bounding around the yard, and giving your pooch fun, gentle spritzes.
There are lots of options for giving your dog fun in the water. Just be sure to take reasonable precautions.