Taking your dog to swim outside is great exercise and can be very rewarding, and something that many of us enjoy doing over the summer. However, to ensure your dog has fun and also makes it home safely afterwards, you need to be aware of the potential environmental risks that can accompany outdoor swimming for dogs, and take steps to avoid them.
This article will outline five to watch out for. Read on to learn more.
Knowing when it is safe to let your dog swim in terms of the temperature of the water can be challenging, and also, different types of dogs have different comfort levels and tolerances to cold and swimming in the cold too.
However, first-time dog owners or those that haven’t really dealt with a dog that liked to swim or had the opportunity to swim before can run into difficulties when it comes to assessing if water is warm enough for a dog to swim in.
You might think that if your dog voluntarily got into water for a paddle, they’ll be fine and happy to swim in it too; or that if you put your hand in the water and it feels reasonably mild, your dog with their fur coat should be fine. Neither of these things are safe indicators that water is warm enough for a dog to swim in, however.
Even if your dog gets their paws wet willingly, this doesn’t mean they’re finding the water warm; rather that exposure of a small amount of their body is tolerable. Immersion and moving into deeper water to swim is a different thing entirely, and just a couple of feet from where they paddled, the water might be cold enough to put your dog’s body into shock.
Additionally, water on the surface and that is shallow is the warmest; so putting your hand in at the shore only tells you about the temperature of that very shallow area, at a few inches deep. Once more, the water further in and at the depth your dog’s body would swim at will be far colder.
Water temperature is always cooler than the air temperature too, which is why a swim on a baking hot day is refreshing. Water takes a long time to warm up to a stable temperature; so even if it’s a very hot day, one day on its own is not enough to make water a comfortable temperature for your dog to swim in.
Don’t let your dog swim outdoors until it is late enough in the summer that we’ve had a lot of consistently hot days, and the water down to several feet below the surface is comfortably warm and safe.
A good sign of water that is reasonably clean and so, not likely to be toxic is that fish live within it. However, water where there are reasonable numbers of native fish species that grow to a fair size often attract anglers, both those dedicated to angling as a hobby and people simply wanting to have a go at fishing with a bit of kit they’ve put together cheaply.
Why is this a problem? Fishing with hooks tends to result in fishhooks getting lost and discarded around where they are used. Responsible anglers never leave hooks around and always take care to take them home; but hooks can get lost in or around the water, and not all anglers are as responsible as they should be.
This means that fishhooks tangled in undergrowth, in the water, on the bottom of the lake or pond or stream, and on the banks can pose a real hazard to your dog. They have barbs that pierce the skin and get stuck; and which you cannot pull back out without causing further damage.
Avoid letting your dog swim in areas people tend to fish in, and if your dog does get caught with a fishhook, don’t try to pull it out; call your vet and follow their directions.
Even water that looks clean and clear could be contaminated or dangerous. Run-off of pesticides from fields, contamination leeching into the water from the land, and natural contaminants like blue-green algae and even decaying wildlife can all make natural water toxic if your dog ingests it.
Do your research locally and ask other dog owners for tips before you let your dog swim somewhere; and if anything seems risky on the day (like a weird scum or something new or different about the water) play it safe and keep your dog out.
At the times of year when outdoor water sources are comfortably warm enough to swim in, wildlife also tends to be nesting; waterfowl, swans, and Canada geese may all have chicks, and nests in or by the water.
Swans and water-dwelling geese can be highly territorial and aggressive even without young, but if defending a nest, or if your dog gets into “their” water, they might attack them and will run a good chance of actually being able to drown a dog.
If you spot swans or geese and any nesting animals, don’t let your dog swim there, nor get too close.
Finally, the bottom of a lake or stream is more or less hidden from view, and may have hazards present; broken glass, rusty, sharp metal, and many other things that people discard there. There may also be obstacles in the water out of sight that could tangle your dog up or hurt them, so factor this in and try to pick a water source where the shore and how your dog gets in and out is visibly clear, and where there aren’t likely to be a high number of potential hazards in the water itself.