Water Safety Tips for Dogs

By Langley Cornwell

As the mercury rises, our thoughts turn to summertime activities. If your plans include taking your best four-legged friend along for a trip to the beach, the lake, a swimming pool, or on a boat, there are a few water safety tips you should be aware of.

Water magnifies the sun so it usually feels hotter around beaches, lakes and pools. Watch your pet to make sure he doesn’t overheat when you’re near water; it’s good to be aware of the signs of heat stroke. Also remember that dogs are susceptible to sunburn, and hot sand or cement can blister your dog’s paws, so find ample shade for both of you.

Keep a lifejacket on your pooch when you’re near the water or on a boat. Not all dogs are good swimmers and even if your dog is, he can get cramps, get caught in a rip tide or simply get too tired to continue swimming.  Hose your dog off after a swim to get the salt water, lake water or chlorine out of his coat.

Bring along plenty of fresh water for your dog and if possible, keep him from drinking the “recreational water.” Salt water may give him a stomach ache, lake water can have muck and parasites which may lead to diarrhea and vomiting, and pool water is full of chlorine and other chemicals.

If your water activities involve boating, there are additional precautions to keep in mind. Modern Dog magazine has a clever acronym that makes boating safety tips easy to remember: SCRUB.

S is for Safety. When you’re on a boat with your dog, safety should be a top priority. Living in a coastal town, we hear stories all summer about dogs that go overboard. There are special lifejacket-type flotation devices that are designed especially for dogs that go boating. These devices have a lift-handle on the top so if your dog does go overboard, you (or a passing boater) can easily pluck your pooch out of the water.

C is for Comfort. A day on the boat should be as fun for your dog as it is for you. Therefore, if your dog isn’t a seasoned boater, introduce him to the concept gradually. Invite him to first come aboard when the boat is tethered to the dock. Remember, there is a lot of new stimuli for him to get accustomed to; the rocking of the boat, the noise of the engine, the smell of the motor, and the confinement of the space. Once your dog seems comfortable entering the boat, hanging out, and exiting the boat while it’s tethered, take a short trip to gauge his sea legs. Build up to longer distances and rougher waters gradually. Remember, some dogs get motion sickness so it’s wise to have the proper doggie medication on hand.

R is for Routine. As with all things, dogs respond well to routine. They like knowing what’s next and what’s expected of them. This is especially true with boating. Feed your pet his regular CANIDAE dog food at the same time in the same place. Moreover, designate a safe place for your dog to go on the boat. Let him know that he has defined quarters that are accessible to him at all times.

U is for Understanding. In this case, understanding means you should extend it to other boaters. In the waters where we boat, there are sandbars where people anchor and congregate to enjoy the sun and surf. Lots of people have their dogs with them so it’s important for everyone to be considerate of each other and the environment. Nothing can ruin a good day on the water like a chorus of barking, lunging dogs or poop scattered in every direction. Make sure your dog is well-behaved, clean up after him and please don’t let him harm the environment (sand dunes, sea oats, native wildlife).

B is for Be Aware. Be aware of where your dog is at all times. Pay close attention to him when he boards or disembarks the boat, especially if you are tied to other boats (rafted).  You don’t want your dog to fall into the water between two boats.

With these water safety tips in mind, you and your pet can enjoy a safe, fun-filled summer.

Top photo by Nathanmac87
Middle photo by Feeferlump
Bottom photo by Jon-Eric Melsæter

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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