Water Safety Tips for Dogs

Water Safety Tips For Dogs: A Helpful Guide For Pet Parents

When it’s warm out and vacation-mode kicks in, there’s nothing better than packing up the car and taking your pooch along on a day trip. Whether hitting the beach, a campground by the lake, or even the backyard pool, it’s natural to want to involve pets in family activities – including summer fun in the great outdoors. However, many folks assume dogs automatically know how to swim, but that’s actually not true: while canines instinctively know how to tread water if they fall in (known as dog paddling), they aren’t born swimmers. Therefore, it’s important that all pet parents acclimate dogs to water as early on as possible.

In order to effectively teach a dog to swim, the first step entails obedience training. The reason is quite simple: if a dog doesn’t obey his owner on land, he’ll most likely disobey his pet parents in the ocean, lake or pool, too! This article will address the various aspects of dog water safety, including dog swimming safety practices to follow at the beach, in a swimming pool, and other outdoor locales.

Water Safety for Dogs: Understanding Why Certain Breeds Can’t Swim

While there are many breeds who are considered “water dogs” – such as the Irish Water Spaniel, the Portuguese Water Dog, and the Labradoodle – not all dogs automatically know how to swim, even if they were bred to work in the water. Therefore, it’s essential to introduce your pooch to the water early on to ensure his safety and create positive associations with the water so he doesn’t fear it.

As mentioned, certain dog breed families including spaniels and retrievers are natural swimmers and don’t require much encouragement to get into the pool, a lake, or even the bathtub. However, other dogs have certain body types that are much less suited to swimming and require special supervision around water. Below, a list of breeds who (as a general rule) cannot swim, primarily due to their specific build and/or anatomical features:

Additionally, other types of brachycephalic dogs usually find it difficult (if not impossible) to swim. Other dogs who need to be closely monitored include breeds (mixed as well as purebred) who are top-heavy and densely-muscled with large heads, as well as canines with very heavy double-coats (such as the Chow Chow).

Furthermore, some dog breeds may have an aversion to the water – such as Siberian Huskies– because going in the water wasn’t an inherently instinctive activity and could have actually been dangerous to them in their natural habitat (i.e., freezing weather conditions). In other cases, there are some dogs who simply dislike water, or have had a negative experience in the past that may have instilled fear or anxiety. 

While each individual dog is unique – for example, breeds who aren’t known for their swimming abilities that have learned how to under the guidance of a loving pet parent – it’s still essential for owners to supervise the dog’s progress very closely until he has proven himself able to swim with confidence.

According to the American Kennel Club, no matter what type of breed the family dog is, he should always wear a life jacket when first learning how to swim. The AKC also suggests a lifejacket with a handle so owners can guide dogs in the water and attach the leash to the D-ring as an added safeguard.


Swimming & Your Dog: Teaching Him the Basics

For pet parents who are introducing the family dog to the water for the first time, there should be a certain degree of planning involved to ensure his safety. Here are a few water safety tips for dogs to keep in mind when introducing him to the water for the first time:

  • Ready, Steady: Whether it’s at a lake, the ocean, a pond, stream, or the family pool, be sure to expose dogs gradually to the water
  • Keep It Positive: Whenever possible, opt for ideal conditions to make swimming and water-related experiences a positive activity for the dog – choose warm, sunny days, and provide him with plenty of praise and tasty treats and toys (waterproof, float-y toys are the best in this case)
  • Slow & Low: Select a shallow spot in the water, preferably quiet and free of distractions, if possible, and take it slow – the main focus it to teach your dog to enjoy being in the water
  • Safety First: Always keep the dog on a leash during training
  • Stay By His Side: Owners should be in the water with the dog at all times– never leave a dog unattended in the water
  • Dress Appropriately: Since pet parents are going to be in the water with their faithful companion, be sure to wear a suit or whatever is most appropriate for the location (i.e., a shallow stream may just require rolled-up jeans and flip-flops)
  • Be Proactive, Stay Alert: At the lake, beach, pond etc., start out at the edge of the water, and only remain in as long as the dog seems to be enjoying himself. If in a pool, remain in the shallow end until the dog displays more confidence
  • Go Easy On Him: If the dog displays hesitation, fear, or simply doesn’t want to go in, do not force him, as this can instill a fear of the water
  • Show Him The Way: When the dog begins to paddle with his front legs, gently lift his hind legs to show him how to float in the water
  • Take A Dog CPR Class: Dogs are part of the family, so it’s natural for pet owners to want to take every precaution to protect their beloved four-legged companions. Pet CPR is an excellent skill to have, especially for owners of dogs who swim frequently.

In addition to following these swimming tips, pet parents should always try to remain positive, have tasty dog treats on hand, and keep each swimming e