keeping your dog safe around the pool

We think about pool safety when it comes to our human children, but pool safety for dogs is often overlooked. The water can be enticing for most breeds, and it can be just as dangerous for them as it is for our children.

It is with great sadness that I share a recent tragedy with you. One of my pet sitting clients, Renee*, lost not one, but two, dogs to drowning in the past two weeks. Neither dog had ever been near their pool, and neither dog had shown the slightest bit of interest in the water prior to their drownings. When she told me about the passing of the first dog, I was heartbroken for her family. But when she told me about the second just a few days later, it was almost too much to bear. Both dogs were short-muzzled, elderly, and the home did not have a pool fence. Since there are no children in the home, the couple didn't feel the need for one. They have other pets. Renee says that they are installing a pool fence. She said, "I will never ever assume anyone is safe around the pool again. So tell your other pet parents do not let your pets near an open pool. If it is not fenced, then you need to be with them. Watching them."

Wait. What? Don't dogs naturally know how to swim?

Yes and no. Unlike humans, all dogs are genetically programmed to paddle in water. It's a survival skill, but it's not "swimming." Some dogs are naturals in the water, but some can't swim at all. If you have a dog and you have a pool, it's critical that you protect your pooch. Here are some things to consider:

first thing's first. who can't swim?

Though all dogs will paddle in water, some really can't swim based on anatomy. Dogs who aren't water friendly are:

dogs with short muzzles: Dogs with short muzzles such as Pugs and Pekingese are unable to hold their heads in a position to take on air instead of water. They are not good candidates for swimming.

dogs with short legs in proportion to their bodies: Dachshunds and similar breeds and mixes have a really difficult time paddling and staying afloat.

dogs with heavy heads: Perhaps the most important type of dog to steer clear of the water. Bulldogs' heads, for example, will quickly sink to the bottom of a pool. 

So how can these types of dogs be part of the family pool party? If they are going to be around the pool, it's important that they wear a life vest. There are vests made just for dogs in all shapes and sizes. Another great idea for cooling off is a kiddie pool. Just a couple of inches that your pooch can lie in is a great way to include him in the fun. 

all dogs and dog owners need to learn about pool safety

If you have a pool and you have a dog, chances are, he'll fall in at some point. He needs to know what do do.

 Make sure your dog knows where and how to safely exit the pool.

Make sure your dog knows where and how to safely exit the pool.

Whether you plan to swim with your dog frequently, or you're simply wanting her to be safe around the pool, it is important to teach your dog how to get out of the pool. Your dog needs to know where to get out, whether it's a graduated entry, steps, or ladder. Teach your pooch to swim there, first, and make sure she can get out on her own. If she knows where to go to get out and how to get out, odds are, even if she falls in unexpectedly, she'll be able to navigate to that spot and get herself out. If she doesn't know, she may struggle against a side of the pool she can't get out of, eventually leading to exhaustion and drowning. There are special steps and ramps designed to make pool entry and exit easier for dogs, so if your pooch struggles with getting in and out of your pool, it's wise to look into these options.

Learn pet CPR. Though the idea is the same, pet CPR is quite different than human CPR. One basic difference is that CPR for dogs is done with the dog laying on it's side. Pet CPR courses are offered, and it's a great thing for any pet parent to take. I took mine at PetTech

Teach your dog to swim. Swimming can be great exercise for dogs in good cardiovascular health, so be sure your water-loving pooch knows how to do it properly. One reason it's important for your dog to know how to swim properly is so he is calm in the water. A panicked or fearful dog may bite if you try to assist him in the pool. If he's calm and confident, he won't panic. Some dog trainers offer swim lessons.

We've all been told to wait to swim thirty minutes after eating to prevent cramping. Though that myth has pretty much been thrown out the window for humans, it holds true for dogs. Dogs–especially large breeds–are at risk for bloat if they swim on a full stomach. Allow your pooch time to digest her meal before swimming.

Be mindful of underwater pool features. Dogs may jump onto features beneath the surface of the water such as built-in stools or platforms, which can result in serious injury, such as broken bones.  It's best not to have these types of features if your dog likes to swim, but, if that can't be avoided, be sure to steer your dog away from these features. Also be sure to remove pool vacuums before allowing your dog to swim. Dogs can become tangled in the tubing and risk drowning.

Though a refreshing splash in the pool can be great for water-loving dogs, hot tubs are a big no-no. Dogs can't tolerate the heat of a hot tub. 

Remember that pool decks may become hot, especially during the summer months. If the deck is to hot for your feet, it is too hot for your dog's feet. Be sure you provide an area of shade where your pooch can stand so he doesn't burn his paws.

Some dogs like to lap out of the pool, but chlorinated water isn't really healthy for your pooch, especially in large quantities. Provide a fresh bowl of water next to the pool so your dog can stay hydrated.

No matter what, never leave your pet unattended around a pool. You should treat your pet as you would a small child. Pool fencing is an excellent idea. Make sure it is tall enough to keep your pet out, as some dogs will attempt to scale fences to access a pool. 

clean up after a swim session

After you're done swimming for the day, remove all toys from the pool. This includes dog toys as well as human toys. If left in the pool, they become temptations, especially for water-loving dogs. You don't want your dog to try to reach a toy in the pool when he is unattended, so it's best to remove these things to be safe.

Wash and dry your dog. If your pool is chlorinated, rinse your dog of with the hose or a shower. Not only is chlorine a chemical that shouldn't be allowed to sit on the skin, it can be very drying to your pet's skin and coat. It's also a good idea to dry your dog's ears thoroughly after a swim to remove excess moisture and keep the ears healthy.

know your dog and make swimming a fun activity

Though there is a lot to consider regarding pool safety for dogs, swimming should be an enjoyable activity you can share with your pooch, and it is an excellent low-impact exercise because it puts very little strain on your pet's joints. If your pooch loves to swim, go for it. A dog who doesn't like the water should never be forced to swim. f your dog doesn't like the water, it's still important to teach basic safety such as where to exit if she falls in.  

Does your dog like to swim? Do you plan to swim with your dog this summer?

This article, written by me, originally appeared on Brie Brie Blooms and is reposted here with minor changes with permission.

* Names have been changed.