Summer Swimming Tips for Dogs

Summertime swimming safety tips don't just apply to children; they also apply to pets.

With more than 8 million swimming pools in the United States, one in 1,028 pets drown in them each year.

While many people believe swimming comes naturally to dogs, their ability to sink or float depends on more than just doggie paddling.

"They do have a natural instinct to paddle, but sometimes, some dogs are thicker than others or their muscle conformation is very dense," said Jean Marie Cooper, of Water 4 Dogs , an animal rehabilitation center in New York City. "So for example, bulldogs, pugs, French bulldogs -- they try to swim but they do kind of sink. Their legs are not long so they're not gonna get a whole lot of thrust out of their stroke."

Water 4 Dogs teaches canines how to swim so that they don't drown in the backyard pool. The organization, which boasts two underwater treadmills and a custom-made swimming pool, also also provides day care and boarding for dogs receiving rehabilitation services, senior dogs and dogs that need a more quiet and subdued environment.

"You can teach them how to swim, but I would not recommend letting your dog swim without supervision ," Cooper said.

She added that it's important that dogs wait two hours after eating before hitting the pool.

"You don't want them to have a full belly or stomach and then exercise intensely because in some large dogs the stomach can twist, and then you have a serious medical emergency on your hands," Cooper said.

People who own older dogs also should be careful because they may no longer be as agile as they once were.

Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Pool

The No. 1 rule when it comes to letting your dog swim is supervision, according to Cooper.

"Supervise at all times, assist them getting in and out of the pool and have a flotation device if necessary," Cooper said.

You shouldn't throw your pets in the pool because it could be a real shock to the system and cause a fear of water. Instead, you should start swimming slowly, and start in shallow water.

"If they're not orientated and they don't have any forward momentum they can panic," Cooper said.

It's also imperative that you teach your pet to find the stairs in your pool so that if the dog falls accidentally into the pool, it will know how to get out.

Additional Safety Tips

Lifejackets aren't just for people; they are made for dogs too. You can pick one of up in your pet store or order online. They range in price from $20 to $50 and come in different sizes for different breeds.

To aid your pet in getting in and out of the pool, there are special ramps called skamper ramps. You can put one on the side of your pool for your dog to get in and out.

They come in two different sizes -- the larger ramp works with a dock, bulkhead or boat as well, and can support an animal of up to 200 pounds. They range in price from about $65 to $100.

Make sure that pool covers are firmly in place when not using the pool because your dog can always fall in, and you wouldn't necessarily see it.

The Brickhouse Pool Alarm is a product that is typically used to put on a child's wrist but can also be looped around the dog's collar. If your dog falls into the pool and you're not outside, an alarm goes off inside your house. It costs $199.

Also, don't force your dog to be in the pool. If the dog is crying or seems distressed, that could be a sign they want out. Another sign is heavy panting. You can also check the dog's tongue, which should be nice and pink. If it is purple or pale, get the dog out.

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