Around here, warmer weather means spending time around some of Missouri’s wonderful lakes, ponds, and creeks! Whether you prefer to kick back and relax or you are more of the adventuring type, it is important to always keep water safety in mind, including for your dogs if you bring them along.
It is a common misconception that all dogs have an innate ability to swim. While many dogs are very good at treading water (AKA: the doggy paddle), not all dogs are born with the ability to maneuver well in water or swim. Swimming can be especially difficult and dangerous for our short-legged and flat-faced friends (like corgis, bulldogs, etc).
The good news is, with proper training and safety gear the majority of dogs can learn how to stay afloat in water and cool off with us! Whether your dog is a wizard of the waves or completely new to water life, these tips will help you have the best possible time on the waterways!
Always supervise your dog while they are in or near water
Even if your dog is a very strong swimmer, accidents in the water can happen very quickly, and unfortunately, accidents can turn tragic very quickly. Make sure you always have eyes on your dog while it is splashing in the water, even if it is fairly shallow water. Likewise, always make sure you keep your dog away from strong currents and/or waves.
Make sure your dog knows how to swim before letting them into the water.
If it is your dog’s first time swimming, start in calm, shallow water. If your water-shy pup needs extra assurance, try wading into the water yourself to show him everything is safe. However, you should never ever throw a reluctant swimmer into the water – there is a decent chance this could backfire and lead to a fear of the water!
Watch out for signs of fatigue, sunburn, overheating, or hypothermia in your dog.
Like us humans, dogs can easily get overly tired, too cold (in cooler lakes), too hot, or even sunburned while enjoying the water. Even though most dogs’ fur and their black noses protect them from the sun, there are a few exceptions. If your dog has a lightly colored nose or white short hair you will want to use a dog-specific sunscreen – especially on the thin skin near their nose, their ears, and the underbelly (reflections off the water can burn their bellies!).
Make sure that there is a nice shady spot for your dog to take swimming breaks so they don’t overexert themselves. Some dogs don’t know when to quit (we’re looking at you, retrievers), so forcing a time out for them to catch their breath can help avoid physical exhaustion.
Make sure the waters are dog safe!
Weather in the midwest is hot and humid, which can allow blue-green algae to grow in our lakes and ponds. This isn’t actually even algae – it’s called cyanobacteria – and it is very toxic to dogs and humans, so it is important to avoid any body of water where it is present (look for dark green water or thick foam or scum on the water’s surface).
Generally speaking, swimming pools have chlorine levels that are low enough to be dog safe, just do not let them drink lots of pool water because they may end up with an upset tummy.
On that note, it is important to bring fresh drinking water for your dog on your adventures! While a lake or creek might be safe to swim in, the water may not be the best to consume in large quantities!
Have the right stuff
Like any outdoor adventure, having the right equipment with you will make it more enjoyable for everyone involved! We recommend having the following:
Whether you hit the lake or lounge by the pool, we hope that you and your pup have the best summer ever and that these water safety tips helped. Stay cool, everyone!