Water safety and activities for dogs

Many dogs cannot swim naturally and can drown if left unattended near bodies of water. Dogs with broad chests, short legs or large heads such as Staffies, Pugs, Corgis and Bulldogs particularly find it difficult. 

It is a common misconception that all dogs can ‘doggy paddle’; however there are things we can do to help make them more confident in the water.

How to teach your dog to swim

While it is easier to train a puppy how to swim as they are able to learn new things quickly, you are able to teach a dog of any age. Introduce your dog to a small, quiet body of water with no waves or currents, such as a paddling pool or a small pond.

Encourage your dog to put his front feet in the water. Stand in front and offer them treats or their favourite toy, particularly one stuffed with treats, works well. (We suggest using our Hearties treats!)

One method is to place the puppy/dog into the water and, once the paddling action commences, allow them to swim across the water to another person.

Safe swimming

If you are planning your own family boating trip there are safety vests and buoyancy jackets that are available for all sized dogs. These tend to have handles so if a dog goes overboard you are able to haul them back easily.

Consider tides, currents and underwater hazards particularly in lakes and rivers.

Check the overall condition of the water, some algae that can form on standing water can be extremely toxic and if swallowed can be fatal.
Making it fun

For water loving breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Springer Spaniels, Border Collies and other high energy working dogs swimming can be a great way to stimulate them and encourage their natural instincts.

If your dog is not a huge fan of getting in the water there are other ways to include water in a more fun way. A good example is using a hose pipe and creating a jet of water that they can chase. This can also be used if you have a dirty pooch that could do with a bath! Make sure that the water force is not too great when sprayed and be careful not to directly hit the dogs face. For the safety of everyone, it’s best to stand a good distance away from the dog. And stop from time to time for obedience training.

For the more advanced canine swimmer, retrieving items underwater is a fun and challenging sport. Weighted toys suitable for diving will enhance the benefits of exercise and aquatic play.

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