When it’s too hot to go for long walks, taking your dog swimming is a great way to make sure they get enough exercise without getting overheated. It’s a full body workout that’s sure to wear out even the most energetic dog. Swimming does have risks though, especially if you go to a natural body of water like the ocean or a lake, but with these tips, you can keep your dog safe.

Before You Take Your Dog Swimming

Your local bodies of water may contain parasites and harmful bacteria. It’s worthwhile to schedule a check-up with your veterinarian before you go. Ask your vet about what waterborne illnesses are prevalent in your area.

Your veterinarian may recommend extra vaccines like giardia or leptospirosis. You may also want to look into heartworm preventatives, as the mosquitoes that lurk around some bodies of water may carry heartworm.

Always bring plenty of fresh drinking water and a travel bowl when you take your dog swimming. Make sure your dog does not drink water from the lake or ocean.

You may also want to consider getting a life jacket for your dog. It’ll keep them afloat if they get too tired to keep swimming, or if they venture into waters that are too deep for them to navigate. Most are equipped with a large handle you can use to pull your dog out of the water.

How To Teach Your Dog To Swim

Every dog is equipped with the mammalian diving reflex. When your dog makes contact with water, you may notice them flapping their paws about.

Though your dog may already have enough innate swimming know-how to stay afloat, they will not necessarily enjoy swimming. Some dogs simply do not like water, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Start off by walking with your dog along the shoreline of a shallow body of water. If your dog doesn’t mind getting their paws wet, you can try bringing them to waters that reach their ankles. Never drag your dog in by their leash, throw them in, or otherwise make them progress faster than they’re comfortable.

You can encourage your dog to swim by seeing if they follow you in, by throwing toys into the water, or by using treats. Keep in mind though, that your dog may not necessarily enjoy the water even if you’re able to coax them in.

Some dogs do not need to be encouraged at all. Your dog might run out into the water, especially if they see a bird they’d like to chase flying over it. Your dog might, quite literally, be in over their head if they realize too late that the water is deeper than they are tall. That’s why it’s important that you keep your dog close until you know they’re ready for deeper waters.

Dogs with short, thin coats might get cold quickly. Brachycephalic dogs, like the Pug or Pekingese, might get tired faster than other dogs. Keep in mind that every dog is different. Some will never want to venture beyond the shoreline, and that’s okay.

Where To Take Your Dog Swimming

Naturally, you’ll need to go to swim spots that do not prohibit dogs. Many human beaches allow dogs during the off-season and they also tend to be clean and great for swimming. Some dog parks have bodies of water, and may also have amenities like poop bag stations and trash cans.

If a body of water looks contaminated or unsafe, avoid it. Be on the lookout for blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, as it is fatal to dogs if they drink it or swim in it. Blue-green algae can be found in fresh and saltwater, and it is sometimes red or brown in colour.

Keep your own safety into consideration when choosing places to swim. In deep waters, your dog could actually pull you under. Never go swimming alone with your dog, even if you consider yourself to be a great swimmer.

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