It’s a common misconception that all canines instinctively start dog-paddling their first time in water. In fact, about one in 1,000 dogs drowns each year. Dr. Lloyd Keddie, a veterinarian in Fairview, Alta., and president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, shares these pet-friendly water safety tips.
Give him some swimming lessons
If you spend a lot of time around a pool or at the lake in summer, ‘teaching your dog to swim and enjoy the water is important,‘ says Keddie. You can take your pet for lessons; here are a few places that offer swimming for dogs (and in some cases, for cats): Vancouver’s K9 H20; Calgary’s Pet Planet; Montreal’s Spaws; Stratford, P.E.I.’s Unleashed Potential K9; and Toronto’s Fit Dogs. Or create ‘the environment yourself with a kids’ wading pool.
How to start
If you’re patient, you can teach pets of any age to become expert paddlers. On average, it will take several attempts for a dog to learn. Support your pet’s midsection until he feels comfortable propelling himself.
Even if your dog is a seasoned swimmer, never assume he’ll be fine if left alone near water. If he falls into a pool, repeated attempts to get out can exhaust him and he could slip under the water’s surface. To provide an easy escape, Keddie recommends installing a ramp designed for pets. You can purchase them online and from pool and pet stores. ‘It takes some training, but it’s important to make sure the dog knows where the ramp is and how to climb out,‘ he says.
If you take your dog out boating, a doggie life jacket is a necessity, especially if you own a breed that has difficulty swimming (e.g., a bulldog, corgi or basset hound). A life jacket will keep him buoyant and help prevent drowning if he falls overboard.
At lakes, inspect the shoreline, dock and water for dangerous obstructions such as fishing nets, fishing lines or hooks that could entangle or harm your pet.