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Tips for water fun with your dog

When the temperatures sizzle, beat the heat with a trip to a pool, lake or ocean. It’s more fun to go with friends, so don’t forget your pooch!   

Before you leave home, be sure your destination allows dogs. Then use our tips for dog safety tips for water to keep your pup happy and healthy during a day at the beach or pool.

  • Despite what many people think, not all dogs are natural-born swimmers. You can teach yours, and in general, the younger he is, the more easily he will learn. If he dislikes the water for any reason, or resists going in, never force him. He may be happier on shore or on staying aboard your boat, but don’t leave him unattended. Have a responsible person watch him at all times. 
  • If your dog can’t swim, ask your vet if it’s okay to teach him. Breeds with short snouts, such as pugs and English bulldogs, can easily get in trouble in the water. 
  • Start your pet in out in a safe body of water with a shallow spot or slope, so he can get in and out easily. Look for a pool with broad steps, not just a ladder. Make sure your dog understands how and where to exit the water.
  • Get in the water with your dog. When he starts to paddle, gently support him, and lift his hind legs until he floats. Stay in only as long as he wants to. Your goal is to make swimming playful and stress-free. If you’re not up to teaching him, your vet may be able to recommend a swim class.
  • Outfit your pet with a lifejacket. Shop at a reputable pet products store, so you get the right size and fit. Keep the lifejacket on your dog whenever he’s around the water. Even the best swimmers can go under if they tire or are overcome by waves. Watch for currents and riptides that might carry you and your dog out to sea. 
  • Learn canine CPR, in case of an emergency. PetMD offers CPR instructions specific to your dog’s weight.
  • Give your dog has a shady spot to rest, like under an umbrella or beach tent. Recognize the signs of heatstroke in a dog. And keep in mind, his nose, ears and skin can burn, so you may want to buy a sunscreen made for dogs.
  • Don’t let your dog drink from the ocean, pool or even a lake that appears to be clean. Bring plenty of fresh water and a collapsible water bowl. Avoid swimming in any water with algae in it. It can make humans and pets sick.
  • Watch for broken glass and other items in the sand that might harm your dog’s paws. Don’t let him eat things he finds. Keep any fishing gear safely stowed, so your pet doesn’t step on a hook or open knife.
  • Carry a scooper and disposable bags. Some places don’t provide them, but most will require you to clean up after your dog.
  • Make sure your pet is chipped, and/or wearing an ID tag. Store your dog’s vaccination and microchip certificates on your mobile device. Editor’s Note: You can store your pet’s microchip information, medical and vaccination records, and photographs in the Figo Pet Cloud.
  • Give your pup a freshwater shower to remove sand and saltwater after your beach visit, or chemicals after a dip in the pool. Dry him thoroughly, including inside his ears. Your vet may recommend the use of an ear cleaning with a drying agent in it.

Remember to bring along some water toys, so you can play while you’re both paddling around. You can even buy your pup his own pool float, so while he stays cool, he can look cool, too!


Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.

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