Two dogs at a lake

Joyful Swimming for Dogs

Water safety tips for dog swimming


Most dogs love to refresh themselves in cool water when it is hot outside. But there are a few things that need to be considered to make a swimming session safe for your dog. Dogs are unable to foresee and assess dangers, e.g., currents can be dangerous, high bank edges can be a hindrance when entering and/or leaving a lake or river, or cardiovascular problems and muscle cramps can occur if the outside temperature is high, and the water is rather cold. Dog owners should always keep an eye on their dog while they swim.

Dogs cannot regulate their own body temperature by sweating like we humans do, they perform thermoregulation mainly by panting. Thus, a trip to the pond/lake can be a pleasant cool-down opportunity for the dog. For the dog’s safety, it is crucial that the owner knows the fitness condition and character of his dog.

Set limits

Dogs are unable to set their own boundaries and hence, can tire themselves out to the point of exhaustion. Dog owners should know their dog and be able to judge when he/she needs to take a break. Always check and make sure that your dog is not panting too much when he or she is playing in the water and then leaves it.

Not every dog is a good swimmer

Some breeds like bulldogs or dachshounds are not built to be good swimmers. Their body shape, e.g., short legs, makes it hard for them to stay at the surface. For these breeds and/or unsecure dogs, special dog swimming jackets are a good option to provide support for them. However, putting them on/wearing them should be trained and practiced in small steps and in a positive way before swimming. To secure your dog if she/he is not a good swimmer or to set some boundaries on the movement range, you can put a drag line on, recommend together with a harness, so that you can pull her/him out of the water in case of an emergency. You should never force your dog to swim.

Positive experiences and success

Water toys that float on the surface and are clearly visible for the dog can motivate the dog to swim. Dog owners should not throw the toy or another object too far away but within a reachable proximity so that the dog has a sense of achievement and is successful in getting it. Over a long distance the dog can lose sight of the toy, begins to look for it in panic and loses its strength on the way.

After the swim session

To prevent inflammation, the dog's ears must be properly dried and cleaned after swimming, especially for breeds with (long) floppy ears, e.g., Cocker Spaniel, Basset etc., which are less well ventilated. At cooler temperatures, it is advisable to dry the dog off after the bath. This is especially true for animals with an undercoat to avoid skin irritation and matting. Despite the contact with water before, enough drinking water should always be available after a bath. In particular when the water is salty additional drinking water needs to be provided. Dogs should never drink salt water under any circumstances, as this can lead to stomach and intestinal problems.

Many dogs become very active on land, especially after a joyful bath, and run around wildly or dig holes to release their (usually newfound) energy. Please remember to fill them up again afterwards so that other people do not injure themselves or stumble into them.

Be careful when choosing a swimming area

Consideration is required when choosing an appropriate swimming area. Waterfowls, such as ducks, coots, geese etc., often have their nesting places on the bank or next to it, and after breeding season they swim across the water with their chicks. Spawning grounds of different fish and amphibian species should also be bypassed so that nature is not harmed in any way.Predominantly at dusk, beavers can also be found near the shore or in the water and can be a great danger to dogs, in particular near nests/beaver lodges, especially if there are young animals nearby (offspring are born between April and June) or if a beaver feels too confined. Please always keep your dog on a lead in known beaver areas.

Dog outside

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