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17 Jun Taking your dog swimming: what you need to know

Isn’t it strange that your dog is quite happy to dunk their head into the muddiest puddle they can find, and yet acts as if having a bath is probably the most awful thing you could ever do to them?

Whilst we may never solve the mystery of why dogs seem to hate bath time, we can shed some light on why some dogs love to swim and how you can help bring out their inner water puppy in a safe way.

Which dogs can swim?

Some dogs are literally built to swim. These include Labrador Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs, amongst others. They often sport handy adaptions like oily, water resistant coats to keep them warm, and webbed feet to help them propel through the water. For these dogs, swimming is not only a great exercise, but also incredible fun! 

Which dogs can’t swim?

Boxer dog lying on the beach

However, some dog breeds simply aren’t cut out for anything more than a paddle in a shallow stream. This is because their bodies are not designed for swimming, whether due to having short muzzles, thick, heavy fur, or disproportionately large heads. These breeds, which include Bulldogs, Pugs, and Basset Hounds are usually best kept away from deep bodies of water.

How to introduce your dog to swimming

When you first take your dog for a swim, you want to ensure it is a pawsitive experience for them. These are our top tips for introducing them to swimming.

  1. Find shallow, clean, slow moving water. A natural stream or slow river works well, whilst a doggy pool will have everything you need. Avoid the sea for your first swim – tides and currents can be intimidating to a first-time swimmer.
  2. Be prepared to get your feet wet! Sometimes the best way to encourage your pooch is to have them follow you in.
  3. Take a fun toy that floats – you’ll be able to throw it into the water to encourage them to retrieve it.
  4. Take it slowly – don’t force your dog into the water if they aren’t keen. Start off by letting them get their feet wet and get steadily deeper.
  5. Consider getting a doggy life vest – it will help them stay buoyant and provide a handhold if you need to lift them out of the water suddenly.

Where to take your dog swimming

There are plenty of places that you can take your dog swimming, but there are a few things you should be aware of, especially if swimming outside.

Doggy swimming pools

The best place to take your dog swimming are doggy swimming pools. They are a safe environment for your pooch, with entry and exit ramps, professionals on hand to help and excellent facilities and equipment. However, they do come at a cost and are usually frequented by dogs needing hydrotherapy or on weight management programs. You will usually need to book a slot in advance by calling your local centre.

Natural water sources – rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes

Wet Springer Spaniel

Natural water sources can be excellent places to exercise your dog. When choosing a river or stream for your dog to swim in, make sure you consider the following:

  • That the depth of the water and speed of the current is appropriate for your dog’s experience level 
  • That you would be able to carry out a rescue yourself if needed
  • That dogs are permitted in and around the water (look out for signage and boundary fences)
  • That there aren’t any nesting birds or other wildlife on or around the water sources that your dog might disturb
  • That there is an easy entrance and exit point for your dog that won’t damage the sides of the water source 
  • That the river or stream is visibly clean and free from sharp objects (such as glass) and litter
  • That the water has been tested recently for types of algae, bacteria or parasites that could be dangerous for your dog (local dog walking groups often have useful information about this)

Coastal waters

Swimming at the seaside presents a slightly different challenge to fresh water sources. It’s really only for the more confident pooches – the tides, strong currents and deep water can present a higher risk. Before taking your dog to the beach for a swim, consider the following:

  • If dogs are allowed on the beach, whether they are allowed in the water and whether they are allowed off lead. 
  • The general weather conditions (avoiding bad weather and low visibility)
  • The strength of the currents and tides, especially the presence of any riptides
  • The presence of others enjoying the beach that your dog might disturb, such as sunbathers, surfers, and children.
  • The cleanliness of the water and the beach

Swimming is a fantastic exercise for many dogs. Even better, since PitPat is waterproof, you can rest assured knowing even swimming is being tracked towards your pooches daily activity levels. 

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