Tip of the Week: Swimming Safety

by Dr. Kelly | 10th May 2011

Dog on a raft

Swimming can be wonderful, low impact exercise for your dog as well as lots of fun! By following a few precautions, swimming can be a safe and fun activity for your pet!

Can your pet swim?

Among the dogs that swim naturally are water spaniels, setters, retrievers, akitas, Kerry blue terriers, poodles and Newfoundlands.

Not all dogs love the water and there are some dogs that should not swim. Dogs with respiratory difficulty, especially laryngeal paralysis, should not swim. There are also some breeds of dogs that aren’t strong swimmers like Basset hounds and dogs with low body fat. Other breeds that can’t swim at all or swim only with great difficulty are bulldogs, dachshunds, pugs, corgis, Scottish and Boston terriers and greyhounds. If your dog isn’t an ideal swimmer or hates the water, don’t try to force them into the lake or pool.

Likewise, tossing a dog into water is NOT a good way to teach them to swim. Approach it gradually just like with a small child. Let them get used to feeling the water. You may even want to support their weight while they get used to swimming. Give your dog lots of praise as he’s learning to swim. Limit swimming time and distance until your dog gets used to it and builds endurance. Make sure your dog knows how to get out of the water. Never leave your dog in the water unattended.

Before swimming:

Ensure the water is safe:

Make sure your pet has an accessible exit such as a ramp or steps if in a pool. Evaluate lake or pond water for algae that can be toxic to pets if ingested.

Remove flea/tick collar:

Wet flea collars can irritate skin. Also, if you recently applied a topical flea/tick preventative, your pet should wait a couple of days before swimming.

Put on safety devices:

Life jacket

Particularly if this is your dog’s first time swimming, you may want to put a life jacket on your dog. If in a lake or pond, foot protection may be necessary. Ramps are also available for use on the sides of boats or pools where a natural grade in and out of the water is not present.

Safety devices:


Boat ladder

Boat ladder: makes it easy for your dog to get back into the boat after swimming.

Pool ramp

Pool ramp: for pools without steps or if your pet has difficulty getting out of the pool.


Life jackets:

Life jacket

Extra protection for weak or strong swimmers alike. Also makes it easy for you to spot your dog in the water.


Safety Turtle:

Safety Turtle

For pets that don’t swim and owners who have pools without a way to fence it off from the rest of the yard, there is a handy babysitting device designed to alert you if your pet accidentally falls into the pool. Granted, it is no substitute for not leaving your pet unattended, but it is an extra measure of safety.

Foot protection:


Shells, rocks, and debris all pose potential hazards for soft paw-pads. If you take your pet swimming at a pond, lake, or ocean, you may need to provide protection for their feet.


Don’t drink the water!

Chlorine, salt water, and blue-green algae all pose risks to pets if ingested. If your pet can’t stop drinking the water, it may be necessary to keep them OUT of the water.

After swimming:

Bathe your dog:

Bath time!

Your dog needs a good rinse after swimming whether it’s been in a pool or natural body of water. Chlorine is drying to their skin and lake water is less-than-clean. A thorough rinsing from the hose is sufficient but shampoo may be desired to keep your dog fresh smelling.

Clean ears:

Ear cleaning

Moisture is an ear’s worst enemy and will set your pet up to get frequent ear infections. Luckily, you already know how to clean your pets’ ears, right?

Do your pets like to swim? Share a picture of your pet in the pool, the lake, the boat, or at the beach on our Facebook page!


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