By Erica Radhakrishnan


Pools, boats, beaches and swimming are synonymous with summer.  Now that summer is here, you may consider some water fun with your dog.  Here are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

Just like us, not all dogs are natural swimmers.  It is important that you gently acclimate your canine companion to the water.  The earlier in their life you begin this process, the easier and greater chance for success.  Never force or throw your dog into any body of water.   If you have a pool, train your dog to enter and exit the water from steps and the shallow end.  This will teach them where they can stand or safely exit, if fatigued.   

Turn your training into a game.   Using two people, a ball, and some treats, one person can safely follow the dog to make sure it stays afloat while the other person throws the ball a safe distance from the steps.  This person then calls the pet’s name to return to where they are standing on the steps and the exit.  Be sure to reward your dog with a tasty treat upon success.   Repeating this process will condition your pet to enter and exit the pool from a safe location.  

It is important to note that even with the best training, NEVER leave your dog unattended near a pool or body of water.   

Pets can easily fall into pools, panic, fatigue to exhaustion, and drown.  During the offseason, falling in and becoming stuck under a pool cover is a real possibility.  Install a fence around your pool to protect all of your pets and friends from accidental drowning.  You can also purchase a special alarm device that loops through your pet’s collar.  If your pet falls into the water, the alarm will sound and can only be turned off when reset manually ensuring immediate attention.  At the beach, use good judgment when allowing distance between you and your pet in the water.  Riptides and strong currents can easily disorient and drag you and your dog into dangerous waters.  

We may not have seaside beaches, but Kentucky does have some great lakes, rivers, and creeks; and boating is a great activity to do with your dog.  Invest in a properly fitted canine personal floatation device from your favorite local pet store.  As recommended and required for humans, your dog should also wear a floatation vest while on a boat.   This will help keep them afloat should they accidentally fall overboard, be dragged away in a strong current, or become exhausted.  Use caution when allowing your dog to wander waterside.  Dead fish may be smelly, but to a dog very tasty.  Consuming dead carcasses of any variety is a health risk.  This is true about water sources, too.  Never allow your pet to drink pool, river, lake, or ocean water.  Chemicals used to treat pools, as well as, bacteria and possible parasites in natural water sources can make your dog sick.  Always have fresh clean, tap water available for your dog, especially when enjoying outdoor water activities.  When finished with your day in the water and sun, rinse your dog with clean water to remove any chemicals or natural contaminants from their fur and be sure to dry their ears.   This will help protect their skin and ears from exposure to certain irritants.  In the end, a little common sense is some of the best water safety advice you can use when it comes to having fun with your favorite canine.