dog water safety
Hit the water with your pup

As the weather heats up, open waterways start beckoning active women to participate in aquatic adventures. And what better way to spend a day at the lake, river or beach than with your favorite four-legged friend by your side? It’s common knowledge that most dogs love the water, but just like humans need to take precautions before diving in, it’s important that you pay attention to dog water safety tips as well. To make sure you’re keeping all of your family members safe the next time you hit the waves, we turned to Ruffwear Dog Gear to get a few tips on how to mix dogs and water safely.

Flotation devices for Fido

Most dogs are great swimmers who relish splashing in the water, but Ruffwear points out that there are certain breeds that can benefit from a flotation device, “There are a few breeds whose body structure or weight distribution make swimming difficult. Bulldogs, Boxers and Greyhounds, for example, have a body weight density and coat that challenge their ability to swim. For dogs with these body types, a canine life jacket functions as a swimming aid as well as a safety device.”

That said, it’s not just certain breeds that can benefit, “Many of us take our canine companions along on adventures that go beyond the dog’s comfort level, swimming ability and stamina. Our desire to share the experience with our four-legged friends may place them in dangerous conditions. For instance, moving water, long distances from shore and cold water temperatures can all test a dog’s ability to survive. A canine life jacket gives dogs of all breeds (and their humans) confidence and peace-of-mind in and around the water.”

It doesn’t hurt to think of your dog as a young child. Even though your dog may have an innate ability to swim, that doesn’t mean that he will enjoy swimming in every circumstance or that he will be able to swim for long periods of time without rest. In other words, if you’re in a situation where you would put a life jacket on a young child, go ahead and put a life jacket on your dog. It certainly won’t hurt, and it could end up being a huge help.

Dogs and hypothermia

Just because your dog has a nice coat of hair covering his body, doesn’t mean that it’s thick enough or water-repellent enough to stave off the chill of cold water. When a dog starts displaying signs of hypothermia, his swimming ability will be compromised, so be sure to keep the following tips from Ruffwear in mind:

  • Very young and very old dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia
  • Signs of hypothermia include shivering, decreased heart rate, dilated pupils, pale or blue mucous membranes, stupor, unconsciousness or coma
  • Also look for signs of fatigue – a drooping, dragging tail that is not held high and utilized as a rudder in the water is one of the first signs of fatigue and a stressed dog

And remember, it takes energy to stay warm in cold water. If your dog is spending all of her energy staying afloat, she’ll have a harder time also keeping warm, especially as she begins to fatigue. A doggie life jacket can help reduce stress from fatigue and give your dog extra energy to stay warm in the water.

Saving a struggling dog

When a dog begins to struggle in the water, it can be tough to know how to save it, especially if it’s a larger breed. Ruffwear suggests, “Use the handle placed along the back of the canine life jacket to assist the dog to safety. In the event the dog is not wearing a flotation device, gently lift the dog by his or her body. Do not pull on the legs, head or tail. If the dog has suffered some sort of trauma (broken bones, for example), place the dog on a board and lift him or her out of the water gently. A good indication your dog is struggling is to watch for the tail-as-a-rudder indicator.”

A few extra tips

If you took swimming lessons at some point in your life, you probably learned to “look before you leap.” In other words, you learned to have some foresight about the activity at hand in order to identify potential dangers and come up with a gameplan for dealing with those dangers. A little planning can go a long way, and dogs rely on us to provide this type of foresight for them. Here are a couple things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re taking your dog to a river or lake, make sure you find a spot that has an easy entry and exit point for your dog. High banks can be difficult for dogs to navigate, so look for areas with shallow water and firm rocks, gravel or sand for your dog to stand on to enter and exit the water.
  • Similarly, if you take your dog on a boat, and the dog jumps into the water, you need to be prepared with a plan for getting the dog back onto the boat. This may be relatively easy with small breeds, but heavier dogs can be tricky, so think it through and make sure you know what to do.
  • While kids and dogs can be great companions, be sure to remind your children that a swimming dog is not a flotation device. Kids should give dogs plenty of room in the water and should not pull on or try to “ride” them, as this can quickly lead to exhaustion or struggle.

Don’t cut back on doggie adventures!

All that being said, you should enjoy your favorite summertime activities with your four-legged family members! Both you and your dog will love sharing the experience, and you’ll be glad you made the memories. If you’re looking for new ways to bond with your pet, check out a few of these vacations geared to dogs and their owners:


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