Water safety for your dog

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dog wearing life jacket
Life jackets FOR dogs are great, but the human version will do in a pinch
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Not ALL dogs are going to give Michael Phelps a run for his money

All dogs can swim. Not all dogs can swim well.


Dog water safety, especially swimming and boating safety for dogs, because we know you love him as if he were your own flesh and blood, is every bit as important as water safety for your children.


There is the Michael Phelps type of dog, who can swim until the dogs (or cows) come home. And then there are the flounderers, landlubbers and water-haters among the canine set. Do not assume that your dog is going to automatically glide into a perfect Olympic-worthy breaststroke, or, oops! dog paddle, if he falls out of the boat into the depths of a lake.


Some dogs are naturals in the water. Most of these dogs have webbing in between their toes. Did you just rush to check the space between his toes? Most dogs bred for water retrieving, like Labs, Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners, and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have webbed feet, in addition to the kind of fur that traps air, which makes them quite buoyant in the water. These breeds are natural swimmers.



Other dogs are not naturals in the water because of their body weight density and their coats. Those canines that would prefer to sun on the beach and leave the water sports to others include Greyhounds, Boxers and Bulldogs. If you force them into the water you would be wise to outfit them in a dog life jacket. With these non-swimming pups, dog water safety is a serious concern. Keep your eye on a non-swimmer, just as you would a child, because a toy or other distraction might entice the dog in over it's ability to get out.


If you have an ancient dog or one with hip dysplasia, a life jacket is a must.


Like humans, dog do not always have good judgment. We sometimes subject our dogs to situations that are beyond their realm of experience, their ability and stamina and their comfort level. Encouraging a dog to get into fast-moving water, or very cold water, is not a good idea. Dogs can suffer from shock just as can human swimmers when subjected to icy water.


Dogs get tired, just like their masters. If your hound is wearing a life jacket this will allow you to intervene and save him if he gets caught up in rapids or is simply too pooped to keep on swimming. You can tell when your dog is exhausted, or under stress, because he will drag his tail in the water. Normally, a dog will hold up his tail and use it as a rudder when in the water.


Unlike humans, dogs do not know to look out for hazards that can create problems for them while in the water. A dog can get tangled up in natural obstacles, debris, fishing gear, boats and rocks and this can make it virtually impossible for the canine to swim.


Dog water safety is greatly enhanced if he is wearing a canine float coat, which increases his buoyancy significantly. The handle on the float coats can be used to easily pull your dog to safety. This is especially useful if your dog is very large, and if you have to hoist your dog out of the water onto a dock or a into a boat. Boating safety makes a canine float coat almost imperative.


If you have a puppy or a very old canine, dog water safety is vitally important. An old or young dog is prone to hypothermia. When hypothermia sets in your dog will shiver, his pupils will dilate, his heart rate decreases and he may become unconscious. When your dog wears a life jacket, he can expend more energy on staying warm and less energy on staying afloat. Float coats, particularly the Ruff Wear version, is made of closed-cell foam that provides insulation from the cold.


When you get to the dog life jacket store, purchase one that fits and works properly and will ensure dog water safety. You need to take your dog with you for the fitting. The life jacket should be snug and capable of providing your pet with the right amount of buoyancy so that he can float in a horizontal swimming position. If the life jacket is too big, he can slip out of the jacket.

Besides swimming in water, there are other dog water safety concerns. Drinking out of a creek, lake or stagnant pond can make your dog sick because bodies of water often contain parasites and algae. Try to prevent this as much as possible. Take fresh water for him to drink.


When you and your dog get home, rinse him off, removing debris or chemicals if he has been in a pool, and salt if he has been in the ocean. Dry out his ears so that he does not get an ear infection, which can result because damp dog ears are a great place for yeast spores and bacteria to reproduce.


References: Canine Water Safety dog water sports and safety dog water safety tips

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