July 17, 2019 Pet Safety

Not all dogs can swim: how to protect your dog from drowning

A dog lingers by a pool

Not all dogs can swim: how to protect your dog from drowning

The Animal Medical Center’s intensive care unit recently cared for a dog that nearly drowned in the family’s swimming pool. This brings up a common misconception about our canine companions: that all dogs can swim. In this post, I’ll discuss a few practical steps you can take to protect your dogs from the water.

Drowning in Dogs

A recent review of “submersion” incidents in pets had a few interesting findings. Falling into a swimming pool was the most common body of water dogs fell into. (Here is a great video of a dog stranded in the pool being saved by his dog friend.) Dogs also fell through thin ice on frozen lakes and ponds. One really unlucky dog got stuck in the mud on the bottom of a small pond and nearly drowned. The fact that most dogs nearly drown in the family’s swimming pool suggests there are interventions to decrease your dog’s drowning risk.

Don’t let your dog swim alone

You wouldn’t swim alone, and neither should your dog. This is a cardinal rule. Don’t break it.

Swimming lessons

Since not all dogs are born swimmers, a swimming test is necessary if you have a backyard pool. First, suit up and coax your dog into the shallow end to test their swimming prowess. Do this when you have extra help in case you need to haul your dog out of the pool if he doesn’t intuitively know how to swim. If he paddles happily around the pool, the next step is to teach him where the stairs are located so he can get out of the pool when he gets tired or if he falls into the pool. Stand on the stairs and use treats to encourage him to come toward you and walk up the stairs. Be sure to do this a few times and give a refresher course every now and then.

Pool barrier

Most swimming pools are surrounded by a fence. If your dog can’t swim, then it should be a dog proof fence. If your pool doesn’t have a fence, consider having an invisible fence set up around your pool to keep your dog away from the slippery edge. There are also devices to alert you to unwanted swimmers in your pool. The technology behind pool alarms is mind boggling. There are motion sensors, wave sensors, subsurface disturbance sensors and wristband sensors. It seems to me the wristband sensor could be strapped on to a collar quite easily.

Life jacket

If swimming lessons fail and a pool fence will spoil the esthetic quality of your backyard, consider a doggy life jacket. Our friends at the American Kennel Club have recently reviewed dog life jackets.

Since most dog drownings occur during the summer months, today is a good day to start making your dog pool-safe and your pool dog-safe.