With the warm weather here and many people opening their pools for Memorial Day and the season, keeping your dog cool during the summer months is extremely important. It can prevent heat stroke, dehydration or even death. Dogs not only need to drink plenty of water to keep cool, many of them like to swim in it as well. While it is a great form of exercise and will help to keep Fido from overheating, many dogs drown each year from pool accidents that could have been avoided.
If your dog loves the water and loves to jump into the pool, make sure he knows how to get out safely. If a dog falls into a river or lake, its instinct will tell it to turn around and try to get out from the point at which it fell in. This may work well in a lake or a river, but in a suburban swimming pool the dog may drown if it adopts this instinctive action. Therefore it is important to teach your dog where and how to get out of the pool regardless of where he went in.
To teach a dog how to exit a pool, first attach a recall leash to its collar. Gently place the dog into the pool from the steps. The dog will instinctively turn around and get out from the point of entry – the steps. Place the dog in the pool from the steps several times. Once it realizes that it can scramble out via the steps, move to the other sides of the pool and again gently place the dog into the pool. Use the recall leash to guide the dog to the step area, giving as little help as possible to the dog.
Once the dog has oriented himself to the steps in relation to the house and understands how to use the steps to exit the pool, the danger of it drowning in the pool will be reduced. Practice as much as possible with your dog, especially with pups, but make certain your dog does not become exhausted. The most you will be able to achieve at any one time is three or four entries and exits.
With regards to exhaustion, it is also important for you to keep an eye on your dog while in the pool because swimming can be very tiring for a dog. Just like many dogs will chase a ball or Frisbee again and again until they nearly collapse, many dogs will continue swimming without any thought as to how tired they are. And unlike chasing a ball on land, they have no solid ground on which to rest.
If a dog has year-round access to the pool area, you should conduct pool safety in all weather, hot and cold. Try to keep the pool’s water level as full as possible as the dog has a much greater chance of being able to get out the closer the water level is to dry land.
If you don’t have access to a pool that allows dogs but still want to take him swimming, nature offers other enjoyable options. However, be aware of the surrounding area if you take your dog to the beach, lake or pond. Watch for trouble and make sure your dog will come to you as soon as you call. Recall is one of the most important lessons you can teach your dog. It can literally save his life.
With a little planning and forethought, you can help your dog swim without incident in most any environment during the hot summer months. We love our pets and want them to be with us for as long as possible, and the above tips will go a long way to ensure their safety.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.