Is Swimming Safe for Dogs?

Many people assume that dogs are natural swimmers. It is true for some dogs but not for others. Some breeds, such as retrievers and poodles, were developed specifically for wading into the water to fetch hunting prizes. However, swimming is not instinctive for all dogs, and some have physical limitations that make it dangerous for them to venture too far into the water.

Even if your dog is of a breed that can swim, the water can still be dangerous for him. Therefore, you may still need to take some safety precautions to keep your mutt safe around the water.

Dog Breeds That Can't Swim

Before you start talking to pool builders in Austin on behalf of your pooch, you should check whether she is of a breed that cannot swim. There are many dogs that can't swim for a number of reasons. Some dogs are brachycephalic, meaning that the muzzle, i.e., the area around the mouth and nose, is very short. If these dogs venture into water that is too deep for them to touch the bottom, their short snouts prevent them from keeping their noses above the surface. Examples of brachycephalic dogs include boxers and pugs.

A dog's main swimming power is in his legs. Therefore, dogs that have unusually short legs won't be able to stay afloat, at least not for very long. Some dogs with short legs have two strikes against them because they are also brachycephalic, such as the Shih Tzu. However, short-legged dogs with long snouts, such as corgis and dachshunds, also struggle in the water.

Some dogs are built a little more sturdily than others. They have outsized heads in proportions to their bodies, dense muscle mass, and large barrel chests. Characteristics such as these negatively affect a dog's ability to stay afloat. Examples of breeds with swimming handicaps such as these include Staffordshire bull terriers, basset hounds, and chow chows.

There is one breed that has all three of the traits that prevent a dog from swimming. The bulldog has a short, brachycephalic muzzle; a deep chest; and short stubby legs.

Water Safety Tips for Dogs

Whether your dog is a swimmer or not, water poses certain hazards to your pet. You should exercise constant vigilance to keep your dog safe around water. That means supervising at all times and training your dog to find the exit so she can get out of the pool in an emergency.

If you have a home pool, the same safety measures that you would use for young children are appropriate for your dog. These include barriers such as fences and alarms that alert you when someone falls into the pool. Avoid a soft pool cover that cannot bear your dog's weight. Even if he knows how to swim, falling unexpectedly into a pool can be disorienting. He may not be able to find the steps or ramp even if trained to do so.

Dogs that can't swim should wear a specially designed canine life vest whenever they are around water, including when they are riding in a boat or are near a swimming pool. A dog life vest works the same way that life vests for humans do; it allows the dog to float with her head above water until help arrives.

Even if your dog does swim, the water is not always healthy for him. Swimming can lead to water in the ears, which can cause a painful infection. Any time your dog spends time in the water, you should clean his ears after he comes out. This is especially important if your dog goes into a lake or ocean where harmful bacteria may live. In fact, any time your dog plays in a natural body of water, he should receive a bath, or at least a good rinse of his entire body, thereafter.

While water can be a lot of fun for both you and your pets, it can also pose significant dangers. If there is any doubt about safety, do not allow your dog to play in the water.

About the Author:

Mia Morales is a loving wife and mother of twins from Colorado. She is a self-described “DIY addict”, and loves to decorate her house and office with her creations. As a mother, Mia is really passionate about health, nutrition, and what she puts in her body. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing with her little dog and kids. Who says moms aren’t superheroes?

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