Pool safety issues for dogs are almost synonymous with those for children. As with a child, they go far beyond just careful supervision and one can’t assume that either a dog or a child can be watched all the time. It only takes a minute or less of distraction for either one to run out the door and into the pool.
With that said, having a pool and a dog can either be a lot of fun or a disaster. Here are just a few of the issues you should consider:
Don’t assume your dog will naturally know how to swim–even if it’s a Retriever. Never throw a dog into the pool as panic may set in and your dog may not be able to climb the pool’s wet and slick sides to get out. And, if your dog is a rescued dog, it may have had negative experiences with a pool that you don’t know about and may panic even more. Observe your dog’s first reaction to water and take it from there. Even if your dog knows how to swim, never leave your dog unsupervised around the pool. Always be there just in case.
Young puppies, senior dogs, overweight dogs, dogs who tend to overexert themselves, double-coated dogs, snub-nose dogs, short-legged dogs, dogs with large heads and barrel chests, dogs who are ill, have a medical problem, or are on medication are not great candidates for the water so consider that before putting any one of the above into a pool.
Wait at least an hour after your dog eats before putting him/her into the pool. Swimming is a physically taxing exercise, and your dog can easily become fatigued and overexerted. Take breaks and watch for signs of exhaustion.
Teach your dog that the pool steps, ramp, or ladder are the only entry and exit points. Put a large vertical marker that moves (such as a plant or a flag) by the steps, ramp, or ladder so your dog can associate that with entering and exiting the water. Make sure to reinforce this entry/exit procedure as many times as needed until you feel comfortable that your dog knows what to do.
You may want to maintain control of your dog in the water by using a leash or long line attached to a life jacket, a flat buckle collar, a swimming harness, or a regular harness with the leash attached from the front rather than the top. Even if you don’t use anything extra, make sure your dog is comfortable in the water and is never too far from you at any time.
After pool time is over, rinse or shampoo your dog and be sure to dry the ears thoroughly. Check your dog’s eyes because they may have been irritated by the chlorine or salt water and may need to be rinsed.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the unthinkable happens, and you find your dog motionless in the water. Once out of the water, if your dog is not breathing, hold his rear legs up to let water drain. Put him on his side and clear any debris from his mouth. Close his mouth with your hand, and apply mouth-to-nose resuscitation and chest compressions. Take him to the vet immediately even if he begins to breathe on his own. Hopefully, if you’ve taught him how to swim and where the steps are, this situation can be avoided.
Having access to a pool definitely has its advantages during these “dog days” of summer, but please remember that a pool also holds the potential for a family tragedy all year round if you are not careful. So please be careful, vigilant, and use common sense at all times!