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Doggone doggie paddling summer safety

by Therese on July 14, 2008

in Dogs

Is your dog getting along swimmingly this summer? For some dogs, getting around in the water is as natural as running in a field. That’s not so for other dogs. Some of them have to be taught how to do that doggie paddle.

A lot of dogs are naturally great swimmers. Some breeds come by that skill due to centuries of training. Retrievers have been bred to retrieve birds from water for hunters. Portuguese water dogs used to carry messages between boats in the days before cellular and satellite communications. But not all dogs instinctually take to the water. Some excellent paddlers, as with humans, have actually had to hone those skills with swimming lessons. Keep the following in mind, therefore, before unleashing your dog into the water.

The Importance of Water Safety
In addition to exercise, teaching your dog to swim is an important safety precaution. Scores of pets drown each year in water-related accidents. If your backyard has a pool, or if you take your dog out on your boat, get your pup to feel comfortable around water. You can teach it to swim — and to get out of the water. “A dog is not going to know how to exit on its own,” says Lisa Peterson, spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club.


How to Teach Your Dog to Swim
Just like a child who takes swimming lessons, a canine needs to gain confidence before it can swim comfortably on its own, experts say. Here are five steps to getting your dog’s paws wet:

1. Start with water exposure Get your pup used to water with a spray bottle, a hose or a shallow plastic pool, Hassen says. This ensures that it gets accustomed to the feeling of water.
2. Start at a pool or lake with a gradual slope Your first lessons should take place in a body of water in which your pet can gradually walk in the water with you, Peterson advises. You can promote a positive attitude by bringing toys, such as a ball, and encouraging your dog to retrieve.
3. Move into deeper water with your support As you move into deeper water, support your dog’s backside or belly to help it learn that it can float as it paddles with its paws. Hassen says it’s important that the dog learns to “level out” its torso to actually swim in the water.
4. Help your pup find the exit Once your dog is in the water, make sure it follows your commands to find the exit — be it from a swimming pool or into a boat. Hassen suggests leading the dog gently on a leash.
5. Don’t overdo it Dogs that have not swum a lot before don’t necessarily have the muscle conditioning for a strenuous swim. “If your dog never swam for more than five minutes before, don’t ask it to swim out a mile to a raft where you’re going,” Peterson says. “The dog may be too tired to swim back in.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jan July 15, 2008 at 4:09 pm

good information, a dog drowned in our town in a backyard pool so they can’t just be expected to be Moby Dick.


Danielle Chonody July 15, 2008 at 6:50 pm

I have a retriever that should love water – but he hates it! I took him to a dog day at the local water park and he wouldn’t even put his paws in the water when we got to the walk in pool.

We have a pool in our backyard and we did attempt to teach him to swim and show him the exit but he kept trying to get out along the side. He’s never out there along other than to go to the bathroom but it still worries me if he should fall in he’d still have trouble getting out.

Anyone have advice?



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