Dogs MAY Need Swimming Lessons Too

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by Barbara Denzer No Comments

Last year I took a feisty little Pomeranian I was pet sitting and a 5 year old to the local recreational area which features a large park and a lake with a nice beach. The “kiddos” (kid and dog) spent the first hour chasing each other throughout the park. Then the child decided to ride a bike and the dog chased the bike for quite a while. Finally when they both seemed exhausted, we decided to go down to the lake to feed the ducks. It seemed like a good idea. The 5-year old was excited to have some bread to throw at the ducks. The dog, however, had another idea. She was going to catch one of the ducks.

She went tearing down to the beach, across the sand and into the water barking rapidly and chasing the closest duck. The ducks took off and flew to the middle of the lake. The Pom kept going and going and going. I was terrified. Obviously the dog could swim, but for how long? Not even I could swim as far out on the lake as she had gone, and besides I couldnt leave a child alone. I called and called and called but the dog was on a mission. Finally the whole flock of ducks flew far away from the annoying dog. She turned around and headed back. I thought she would never make it back. She slowed down quite a bit and we kept calling her. She finally made it back. I thought she’d flop down and possibly pass out. No, she trotted out of the water and started chasing a bird. We got a leash on her as fast as we could but it really taught me a lesson: Not to let a dog get in the water without knowing its capabilities. I should have had a life vest on her. I should have had a leash on her. And, since we were near a lake, I should have tested her to see if she could swim – or at least asked her family what they knew.

Water splashing, slip sliding, swimming, diving – all summer activities that we prepare our children for. But swimming lessons for dogs? Don’t they just instinctively know how to swim??  Not all dogs can swim enough to be safe in the water! Some don’t like water so they need to be accustomed to it. Any dog can drown, so make sure your dog likes water, can swim and doesnt overexert himself in the water. If he can’t swim, seek out a dog trainer familiar with teaching dogs to swim. And, if you have a swimming pool make sure your dog has a way to get out of the pool. Dogs can’t jump from the water up over the rim of the pool, they need to be able to walk up the steps or you need a ramp by the side of the pool where they can get on and walk out of the pool. And they won’t instinctively know where the steps are, you have to teach them to use the steps – or get a ramp.

Dogs that have a low % of body fat may not be able to stay afloat. Examples:  Boxers and Doberman Pinschers. (They also have sturdy bodies but skinny legs.) Dogs with short lets can’t move quickly enough to keep themselves afloat. Dogs with very short legs include: bulldogs, both French and English.

Steve Appelbaum, head of Animal Behavior boy and dog golden swimCollege, warns pet people that if we’re going to have a dog on a boat, we should have a PFD, personal flotation device, on the dog. One that has been fitted securely and we know how to attach. And, preferably one that has a handle on the back so you can lift your dog out of the water if he falls off a boat. Kids and pets can have lots of fun in the water. Make sure they’re safe.

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