Waterproofing your pooch – how to play safe

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As the warm weather continues, it’s a great opportunity to let your dog enjoy some funtime in the water to stay cool. Whether your water-loving dog enjoys a game of fetch in the stream or you have a pond that he likes to take a dip into, it is important to ensure he’s “waterproof”. Here are our golden rules on playing safe in the wet stuff…

Playing safe in water

  • Firstly, never assume your dog knows instinctively how to swim. Teaching your dog to swim is an important part of his education, especially if you have a swimming pool or pond at home, or you take your dog on walks close to canals, rivers and reservoirs. If you have a pool or pond on your property, then fence off or create a barrier around the water to keep very young, old or blind pets away from the water. If they fall in the water, they won’t be able to get out.
  • This time of year is the best time to introduce your dog to the joys of playing in water. Even traditional water-loving breeds like the Labrador may balk if their first experience in the water is a cold one.
  • Never throw your dog in the water – that’s a good way to teach him to hate swimming. Instead, take your dog to an area where he can get his paws wet gradually, such as a small stream.
  • If you’re introducing a puppy to water, it helps if you have an older dog who can show him the ropes. Puppies will usually follow older dogs and copy what they do.
  • Be aware that even the most water-loving dog can tire or panic. So, if he is in a pool, show him how to find the stairs and climb out. Let him get in the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Practice this frequently until you are sure he is prepared.
  • As your dog gets more used to being in the water, you can raise the fun level by throwing a ball that floats into shallow water for him to fetch.
  • As your dog builds his confidence, you can teach him to swim in deeper areas. To do this, get into the water with your dog and support his body until he starts swimming on his own. Have a friend / family member with you, so you can support your dog while they can call him – encouraging him to swim over.
  • Take a common sense approach – some dogs are at higher risk of drowning if they fall in the water due to their breed characteristics; those with big heads or short legs, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Dachshunds and Basset Hounds like my dog Howard!
  • If you don’t have access to water close by, then a child’s wading pool can be just as fun or a large bucket of water. Let your dog splash around in it to get the idea that playing in water is fun. Toss some treats or a toy in the water and encourage him to pop his head down into the water and retrieve the treats or toys. Once he gets the idea, you can then enjoy games such as ‘Bobbing For Balls’ and see how many your pooch can collect.

For more game ideas or want to know how to ensure playtime stays safe – read ‘Playing With Your Dog’ by Hanne Grice – ISBN: 978-1-4535-2964-5.

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