Hot weather is the perfect time for you and your pooch to go for a dip to cool off. Swimming can be a great low-impact exercise for dogs that’s good for circulation, weight management, and relaxing muscles. It’s also a great way to bond with your dog while having heaps of fun!

However, there are some precautions that need to be taken when going for a dip with your pup. Some dogs are natural swimmers whilst others don’t have the body type best designed for swimming - some can find it difficult to swim, leading to dangerous implications. It’s important to take the time to teach your dog to swim, introduce them to the water, prevent accidental drownings and prevent water poisoning.

How to introduce dogs to water

Some pups can be cautious of water and others are natural-born swimmers. Take the time to introduce them to water and make sure they can enjoy themselves. Short-legged or long-bodied breeds struggle in the water.

Introduce your dog to the water slowly and let them do everything at their own pace. Never push or pull your dog into the water as this can scare them. 

If you have a friend of a neighbour whose dog is a strong swimmer, invite them around to your place as your dog may be more tempted to try swimming themselves if they see another dog enjoying the water. But make sure you’re also there to hold them afloat till they get the hang of it!

How to teach dogs to swim

Create a situation that encourages your dog to enter the water on their own, like playing with you, a pool-safe toy or throwing a ball. 
Start in shallow water and stay close to your dog, let your dog get used to getting their paws wet. Don’t move out of the shallow water until your dog seems happy where they are.

Encourage gradual movement into deeper water and use lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Anytime your dog seems overwhelmed or scared, move to shallower water or dry land and let your dog calm down before trying again.

It’s also important to teach dogs how to exit the water so they can allow themselves to get out when they’re tired or they want to get in again.

Point dogs to the pool ramp, ladder or ledge when swimming together. Pool ramps can also be bought specifically for dogs! If you’re not able to enter the water with your dog, it’s important to stay near the exit to help your dog find the way.

Continue these steps until your dog understands how to get out of the water.

How to prevent your dog’s skin from being irritated

Redness or irritation can occur when dogs go into the pool and the chemicals (such as chlorine or salt water) react negatively with their skin – particularly if exposed for a long period of time!

To prevent your dog’s skin from getting irritated after being in the pool for a continuous amount of time, it’s important to:

  • Bathe your dog after every swimming session.
  • Restrict them from going in the pool if they had a previous allergic reaction.
  • Dilute the pools chemicals (within a safe and hygienic capacity)
  • Take your dog to the vet if their condition worsens.

Check your dog’s paws and ears!

Too much exposure to chlorine can cause dry skin. If you notice your dog licking their paws excessively after being in the pool, their paw pads could be irritated.

Water in the ears can also lead to an infection, and dogs with floppy ears are prone to infections so make sure you give your dog’s ears a quick rub with a cotton ball to soak up excess moisture.

If it seems they’re pawing at their ears, shaking their heads more than usual, or you notice redness in the ear, then give your local vet a call.

How to prevent accidental drownings

Dogs need constant supervision when they’re inside or near the pool.

To prevent accidental drownings, you can:

  • Teach your dog to swim (we highly recommend Puppy Scent Work!)
  • Train them to enter and exit the pool using a ladder or stairs.
  • Supervise them constantly when they’re in the pool.
  • Get them a fitted life jacket.
  • Ensure the gate to the pool is locked when your dog is outside so they can’t access the pool unsupervised.

How to prevent water poisoning

Water poisoning or water intoxication can happen when a dog swallows too much water and as a result, the sodium levels in their blood become diluted.

Chlorinated and salt water can also be bad in excessive amounts so make sure to watch out for excessive drinking.

Preventing water poisoning is a key issue when it comes to pool safety for dogs so make sure you:

  • Keep a bowl of fresh water outside the pool for them to drink.
  • Keep an eye on them and take breaks for when your dog needs to urinate.
  • Encourage a break every 10-15 minutes to eliminate the risk of swallowing too much water.
  • Don’t throw large toys in the water for your dog, instead use a small, flat toy like a flying disc or a ball that can float and fits their mouth.