Reducing the risk of drowning in dogs during the summer
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Reducing the risk of drowning in dogs during the summer

Dogs
Health & Safety

Taking your dog swimming in the summer of even just taking them for a scenic walk around lakes, a marina or docks and other water sources should be rewarding and enjoyable for both of you. But whether you intend to let your dog swim or simply take a stroll, it is important to be aware of the dangers that water can pose to dogs.

As long as you’re aware of these and mitigate any specific risks, the chances of your dog drowning are very low. This article will provide some advice on keeping your dog safe in or around water and reducing the risk of drowning in dogs in the summer. Read on to learn more.

First find out if your dog can swim!

The first thing you need to do to ensure that your dog could swim safely or to understand the risk factors if they did fall into water, is to find out whether or not your dog is able to swim full stop. This doesn’t mean that dogs need to be taught to swim; the instinct to make the correct movements to swim is innate to dogs.

But the conformation of some dogs prevents them from being able to stay afloat or keep their muzzle out of the water, due to the weight of their head and neck, flatness of the face, shortness of the legs, or thickness of the body… Or all of these things in some cases, such as for the English bulldog.

Keep your dog on a lead around water they might leap or fall into

If you don’t intend to let your dog swim, ensure they don’t take the decision out of your hands! Also, it is important to ensure that where you let your dog get into the water if you do intend to let them swim is safe; and that the same spot can be used to get them out.

If you think there’s a chance they might leap into water without your go-ahead or there’s any risk they could fall in, keep them on a lead; and well back from the edge.

Use a lifejacket on your dog if they’re at high risk of drowning if they did fall or jump in

If your dog cannot swim, either due to their conformation or because they’re old or not in great health, consider using a lifejacket on them if you’re spending time around water. This will ensure they stay afloat until you can rescue them if they did fall or jump in.

Don’t tie a dog up alongside water, or near the side of a boat

Keeping your dog under control and ensuring they don’t wander off or worse, wander into water unplanned is very important any time you are around a watercourse, or perhaps on or around boats.

This will mean in most cases keeping them on a lead, securing them below decks in the case of a boat, or otherwise physically ensuring that they can’t wander off or take a dip.

However, you should not tether or tie your dog up alongside of water, and particularly not alongside of a dock or boat, or on the deck of a boat. If they did jump, slip or fall into the water, they would hang on the lead; unable to either swim or get free and to safety.

They could also get crushed between a boat and the dock. It is very risky to tie a dog up alongside of water they could fall or jump into.

Don’t try to let a dog swim on an extending lead

If you want to give your dog the chance to swim but have concerns about whether or not they’ll be able to, think they may not return to shore when you call them, or want to ensure they’re kept under control and can be brought back to you, it might occur to you that you could let your dog swim using an extending lead.

However, this is potentially very dangerous, for a number of reasons. The first being that the length of the lead will sink and may get caught around something under the water and drag your dog down, or actually prevent them from swimming back to shore. It might also tangle your dog up too; and if your dog pulls the lead out of your hands, the chances of this happening (and for very petite dogs, the weight of the lead handle sinking) are higher again.

Also, if your dog is pulling to get further away and you pull them back, you will probably pull them under the water; don’t try to use a lead on a swimming dog.

Plan swimming with care and foresight

Taking a dog swimming if you do decide to do this is something you need to plan; in terms of where to go, checking the weather and water temperature, and ensuring as far as you can that everything is safe.

Spotting a pretty-looking source of water when you’re out can make you think that it may be a great spot to let your dog take a dip, and it might be; but you should check it out properly and return properly prepared to let your dog swim, and not just let them hop in on a whim.

Never leave a dog unsupervised around water

It should go without saying, but a dog that is near to water or actually in it needs direct and constant supervision; to ensure they don’t fall in or if they’re already in the water, that they’re not struggling.

Use a sturdy and snug harness with a handle on dogs around water

Finally, if you walk your dog around water and/or wish to let them swim, take them in a sturdy, well fitting harness; not just a collar alone. It can be very hard to physically pull, lift or help a dog out of water if needed, even a small dog; and for larger dogs, this would be virtually impossible without a harness. A harness with a handle on the top is the best choice for safe swimming or waterside walks.

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