Dogs can be safely allowed into pools, however. With a few precautions, it’s entirely possible for a well-trained dog to enjoy the pool as much as we bipeds do. The following are some tips on swimming with dogs.
The First Steps
Before letting a dog into any pool, it’s best to prepare them. That means taking several steps.
- Trim the dog’s nails; long nails can damage pool liners.
- Make sure the dog is well groomed, so as not to leave too much fur in the water.
- Make sure your dog has done it’s “business” before it enters the pool. Unfortunately, a plastic baggie over your hand won’t be adequate to deal with any “accidents” of the excretory sort.
- Remember that normally, dogs seek shade, which can be hard to come by in a pool. Use sunscreen made specifically for dogs, as they are almost as vulnerable to sunburn as humans. Apply a few minutes before swimming.
- Consider a doggie life jacket. Several manufacturers produce them, and even strong swimming dogs like Labradors can benefit from them.
Most importantly, make sure that your dog is acclimated to the pool and comfortable in the water. Starting them young is best, but regardless of age, one should introduce the dog to the shallowest water first, or begin by carrying the dog in. Once the dog is comfortable, he or she will swim to their heart’s content. If the pup seems scared or skittish, however, return to the safety of dry land.
Gently introducing a dog to water, in such a way that the dog can retreat from the pool when it wishes, is the best way to encourage swimming. Never force a dog that isn’t ready into a pool. Like any dog training, teaching your dog to swim will require some patience and probably some food rewards. Some dogs will take to the pool immediately and without hesitation; others may need to see another dog with strong swimming skills take the plunge first. Some won’t be interested. In that case, it’s best to respect your pet’s decision.
If a dog is going to swim in a pool, it needs to know exactly how to get in and out. There are manufactured pet ramps specifically for pools, but at the very least your dog must know where exactly the steps are. Marking the steps with a large potted plant or other “landmark” will help the dog understand where the exit is. Be sure he or she is capable of climbing in and out.
While in the pool, be careful in activities your dog is engaged. Water fetch? Absolutely – but don’t throw any toys too close to the edge of the pool, especially a concrete inground pool. Dogs have been known to chip teeth on pool edges while playing. Don’t let small children try to ride or hold on to a dog while swimming; they may pull the dog under or even make the animal defensive.
After a swim, be sure to thoroughly rinse your dog’s entire body. Chlorine left on the fur and skin can become an irritant.
The regular presence of a dog may necessitate an adjustment in your pool care and chemical practices. Organic matter, oils and phosphates will be released into the pool in greater concentration than that which comes from humans. Therefore, a pool enzyme chemical might be in order. Keep an eye on chlorine levels, pH and alkalinity to make sure they aren’t being adversely affected and adjust accordingly.
Swimming is as good for dogs as it is for humans. An excellent form of exercise, swimming can do well to maintain a dog’s fitness at all ages. With proper training and precautions, there’s no threat to your pool or your dog. You love them both, so enjoy them both, together. After all, we are talking about your best friend.