Expert Advice on Swimming with Dogs
Do dogs enjoy the swimming pool as much as we do?
My dog Reggie hates the water, including baths. I let him swim in our friend’s inground pool a few years ago and he doggie paddled as quick as he could to get out. So you have to wonder if they enjoy being in the water. Besides Reggie, I put my money on yes.
There are things you should know about protecting your dog and your pool before you decide to let your best friends in the water. I reached out for advice from a bunch of experts to get the truth about letting dogs in the pool.
So let’s dive in! (pun intended)
Should You Let Your Dog in the Pool?
Most forms of exercise, mental stimulation and enrichment you can provide for your dog can benefit them — just don’t over do it. When it comes to dogs swimming in pools I say “Go for it!” Just remember to mind the health and safety of all family members, including your dog.
The decision to allow and/or encourage your dogs to use your swimming pool is a matter of personal choice. If you allow your dog to use the pool, it is vital that you follow some basic training and safety procedures. These include teaching your dog to find the steps so they can get out and to the best of your ability being able to prevent the dog from having access to the pool without supervision.
– Steven Appelbaum, AnimalBehaviorCollege.com
If you decide to let your dog swim, check out and follow these tips before you start.
9 Tips for Swimming with your Dog in the Pool
- The dog’s nails should be kept trimmed. An enthusiastic dog, or one that is using you as a floatation device, may rake you with sharp nails — not to mention the pool liner (if you have one).
- Groom your dog before swimming. Dogs that have lots of hair can do a number on your filter system. Clean out your skimmer baskets on a more frequent basis.
- Be careful about using dog toys in the pool. Many dogs have chipped teeth from grabbing at a toy that has bumped up against the concrete edge.
- Put your dog in a life jacket. Even a swimming breed, like Labrador Retrievers, can benefit from a life jacket. A tired or nervous dog will swim upright, head straight out and back legs down. Instead, a life jacket gets them swimming better. Dogs with smaller legs may have a harder time with swimming, than a larger breed of dog, but this is where a life jacket will come in handy.
- Dog owners should introduce swimming very slowly to a dog. Have your dog walk into shallow water with you, or get into the pool carrying the dog. If your pet is comfortable they will take off swimming, otherwise, watch for flying paws. Dogs are very adaptable, and most take to the water no problem, but life vests are a great alternative for dogs who don’t like the water, or can’t swim.
- Rinse them off after a swim. It’s a good idea to rinse your dog after he or she spends the day in the water to prevent irritation to the skin and eyes. You shouldn’t shampoo after swimming unless it is conditioning; Waterless Bath is an natural enzyme product that also uses Aloe Vera to sooth dogs skin and soften the coat that can be used between regular baths, and after swimming.
- Use sunscreen for dogs. Dogs need sunscreen just as much as their human counterparts. But any sunscreen used should be labeled for use on pets to ensure safety. Try using Epi-Pet Sun Protector Spray for Pets.
- Don’t let your dog drink pool water. Always keep an ample supply of fresh water around so your dog can drink without attempting to drink from the pool. Also make sure you give your dog many opportunities to relieve themselves after a swim as they’re likely to ingest water and may need to urinate more often.
- Keep a big potted plant near the pool exit. Dogs are known to have poor depth perception. If your pool has steps, use a big potted plant to mark the exit of your pool. If you don’t have steps, provide a non-slip ramp for getting out. Check out the Gamma Skamper Ramp Pool Ramp for Pets.
Teach Your Dog How to Swim in the Pool
Owners should introduce swimming very slowly to a dog. To get your dog into the pool, start slowly at the first step. This should allow them to have four feet wet but still feel like they can get out.
Don’t restrain them, just gently cradle under the tummy and feed them a couple of tasty treats. Let the dog get curious and resist the temptation to pull them into deeper water. When the dog begins to access the first step on their own, try coaxing them to the second step. A larger dog can stand here, get the body wet and still have all fours on a hard surface.
Find a friend or neighbor with a strong swimming dog. Seeing a dog swimming easily may help build your dog’s confidence. Swimming with your dog may also be comforting, but watch for clawing paws. Start slow and have patience, but keep in mind some dogs just don’t like the water.
Cesar Millan Teaches Dogs to Swim
Pool Care Tips After Swimming With your Dog
Use a pool enzyme chemical. Due to the oils and build-up on their skin they will add organics and phosphates to the pool water. You can use chemicals like Pool Perfect and PHOSFree. I would double up on the dosage — so instead of once a week do it twice a week if the dog is swimming regularly.
Keep your chlorine at an acceptable range (1 – 3 ppm). And make sure your pH (7.4 – 7.6) and alkalinity (100 – 150 ppm) are balanced.
- Shock your pool after heavy use. If you’re having a party and swimming with dogs, shock it that night.
- Constantly check the skimmer and pump baskets and remove any debris, including dog hair.
- If the pressure is high on your filter (about 5 – 10 psi above normal running conditions), backwash the filter.
Is your Dog Ready to Swim?
Besides all these tips for swimming with your dog, remember, dogs are just like humans. They react to water the same way and they can also fall victim to drowning. I urge everyone to swim safe , especially with dogs and novice swimmers.
A post about swimming with dogs would not be complete without a photo gallery of dogs in swimming pools, in my humble option. So I leave you with this small collection of adorable dogs in water. Happy Swimming!
All the expert advice was provided by:
- Amy Robinson of DroolSchool.com
- Tamara Dormer of Best Friends Animal Society
- Natalie Behlman with Unleashed by Petco
- Jennifer Davis of Natural Chemistry
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