Many dogs love a trip to the lake, river or ocean, and many others love to go boating. But preventing accidents that could injure your dog? That’s up to you. Even dogs who swim well can drown, just as people who are good swimmers sometimes do. People and dogs both often overestimate their skills, and they frequently don’t give enough respect to the water and the weather.
You may think your dog swims better than you do, but you’d better believe that his life is in your hands regardless. You need to think ahead before you go boating or swimming to help prevent catastrophes, and you need to keep thinking about how to protect him as conditions change.
Assess Your Dog’s Risk
If you have a Bulldog or similar barrel-chested breed, think long and hard before taking him swimming or boating. Not only are these dogs prone to rapid overheating, they’re also not designed for swimming. In fact, bulldogs and other short-nosed, top-heavy breeds find it difficult to stay afloat, and disaster doesn’t take long to develop for these dogs. If your dog isn’t made for water, you’re probably better leaving him home for his own safety. If you decide to take your dog along anyway, keep him in a life preserver and in the shade.
Remember, too, that even dogs who once swam like dolphins can be at risk in the water as they age. For these dogs, too, it’s important to bring them back to shore at the first sign that their energy is flagging.
And of course, the most important rule of all: Never leave your dog unsupervised in the water.
All dogs need to travel with fresh water, and something to put it in. While this is very important at the ocean (to keep dogs from drinking salt water), it’s even important when at a lake or river, which may be contaminated with bacteria, protozoa or blue-green algae that can make your dog ill. Also bring a towel; you can use it to dry your dog off, of course, but you can also soak it in cool water and apply it to your pet’s groin and other areas if he overheats.