Taking your dog swimming

DrPaul -

Taking your dog swimming

One of the biggest misconceptions is that all dogs love water and are born knowing how to swim; this is a myth. Just like humans, dogs can be put into three categories when it comes to swimming. Those who can swim and enjoy it, those who can swim but are not strong swimmers and would likely be terrified of being in open water and need assistance. Finally there are those that simply cannot swim and will probably sink like a stone.

Breeds such as Labradors, Retrievers, Spaniels and Otterhounds are designed to be natural swimmers and have the physical conformation and ability to manage well in the water. Some dogs such as the Newfoundlands have such superpower swimming ability that we use them as rescue dogs.

There are many breeds such as Dachshunds, Corgis, Pugs, Bassets and Bulldogs, that due to their physique or because of the way their weight is distributed simply cannot swim unaided and if they are exposed to water should be fitted with a life jacket. It is important to never throw your dog into water unless you know they are strong and confident swimmers, even with life jackets they should be introduced to the idea of swimming slowly and with care.

Now that’s not to say that these sorts of breeds should never be exposed to water at all. Water is a great rehabilitation and fitness tool for our canine companions with hydrotherapy having some excellent health benefits for all dogs. Life jackets are now available for all doggy shapes and sizes and almost all dogs will be safe and enjoy having a splash around in a paddling pool on a hot day.

Water Health and Safety

If your dog loves the water there are lots of things to consider when taking your water baby out for a swim. The first being location. Good swimming spots include dog friendly beaches, slow moving rivers, lakes, private pools or paddling pools. Avoid reservoirs, canals or fast flowing rivers and rough seas.

It is essential that you take your dog to a place that is familiar and that has shallow banks and is accessible for you to get to your dog if they get into any trouble. If your dog is not an experienced or strong swimmer but loves the water a life jacket should be fitted or in a swimming pool a flotation aid should be available.

Always look out for any warning flags for rough seas or high tides before you commit to letting your dog into the sea.

There are also some diseases and poisons related to open water swimming that owners should be aware of. Both of these risks are associated with stagnant water so are always best avoided.

Leptospirosis - this is an infection spread via rat urine and contaminated water. Thankfully you can vaccinate against this so it is wise to keep your dogs vaccinations up to date especially if they are keen swimmers.

Blue-green Algae - this highly toxic substance is distinctive by the blue/green sheen or scum like appearance on the surface of the water. If you spot this it is best to avoid letting your dog in altogether as if ingested even in small amounts can make your dog seriously unwell.

Finally always give your dog a good shampoo after any kind of swimming to clean off any dirt and residue from the fur. Use a gentle pet friendly or baby shampoo that will improve the condition of their coat and take away that unpleasant smell of dirty wet dog!

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.