Some dogs love to splash around in a pool, while others avoid water as vehemently as they would a trip to the vet. It’s a common misconception that dogs have a natural ability to swim, but if you do your homework, you’ll find this just isn’t true (in other words, don’t throw your pup in the pool to “teach” him how to swim—it could do more harm than good). Either way, the weather is warming up and just as with a child, you need to know a few things to keep your dog safe around water.
The first rule of pool use: Respect your dog’s boundaries. Never force him into the water. Teach interested dogs how to swim by coaxing them into the shallow end with treats, toys or calling his name. If you have another dog who is comfortable around water, have the new swimmer follow his lead.
Look for signs he’s slowing down or tiring. Some dogs will wear out quickly, especially if he has a wide body and short legs. Make sure your dog knows where the stairs and ladders are located, but don’t expect him to be able to climb up on his own. A dog’s nails can make it tough to gain traction on slippery surfaces.
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Give your dog a fresh-water rinse after his swim, as chlorine can irritate his eyes and skin. And don’t let him drink the pool water—always have a fresh water supply available.
Just as you wouldn’t let a child swim unsupervised, hold the same rule with your dog. Pool fences are a must for keeping your dog out of the pool when no one is around. Ensure pool covers are always firmly in place; dogs have been known to slip beneath them and become trapped.
Photo by nikoretro via Flickr
Keep in mind that most pools were designed for human use, which means you need to prep your pool to ensure your dog can swim safely. Make sure you:
Maintain proper chlorine levels. When humane societies open public pools to dog use at the end of the season, they may raise residual chlorine levels as high as 2.0 ppm a day before the event and maintain them at 1.0 ppm thereafter. You may not need to go that high for a dog or two, but you do want to make sure levels are adequate to help prevent disease. Never go higher than 5.0 ppm.
Consider installing a ramp. Ramps can make it easier for your dog to get in and out of the pool on his own, although you may want to remove them when you’re not there to watch him.
Keep an eye on filters and drains. Dog hair and other debris your dog may bring into the pool can clog things up quickly. Hose off your dog before he uses the pool.
Clean up messes promptly. If your dog poops in the pool, react quickly with a pool net and garbage bag. Never use the pool vacuum. Sanitize the net and pool deck areas as needed with a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts cool water.