For resident dogs in the US Central and Atlantic regions, the summer has been brutally hot. For California and Southern regions, the heat never actually goes away for long. What’s a furry dog to do when temperatures soar? Just lie around the house?
Raja says, “NO! Take to the water!”
Most dogs can swim, although admittedly some dogs do it more naturally than others. Who are the great swimmers in the dog world? The spaniels and the setters are usually naturals. Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs and Goldens also are often great swimmers. Is every individual in these groups a swimmer. Absolutely not. Dogs are land animals, and some just do not swim well or cheerfully.
This blog is not for them. A safe three inches of water in a wading pool is for them. Dogs, like children, should not be forced to do sports for which show no aptitude or interest.
Here’s Sherpa, the Tibetan Spaniel showing how a good doggy cools off on a hot day in his backyad pool. Returning to the idea of dogs who can manage in water, most dogs can learn to swim and most dogs end up enjoying swimming, which can be extremely beneficial. Water cools the core, exercises the legs, strengthens the spine and gives dogs a feeling of confidence discovering a new skill. While many dogs will leap into water and swim forcefully and competently, no dogs should be left alone in water and most dogs should be closely supervised.
To teach a dog to swim, gently carry him into a warm pool’s shallow end. Walk beside him supporting his mid section. Let him get his bearings, wait for him to paddle and gently release your tight hold, keeping a hand under his chest. Stay by his side. If your dog seems to swim feebly or drop in the rear quarters, fish him out and buy him a canine flotation device to make his swims safer and less strenuous.
As for Raja, seriously, how does he like his new sport? It went like this: surprise (what’s she thinking!?), disbelief (she actually did drag me in here?), paddling (hey this isn’t bad), stronger paddling (my tail seems awfully heavy), emerging confidence (yes, I can keep my tail up if I give it a little effort), pride (I am the new Michael Phelps). He likes it a lot, but he can’t be expected to jump in on his own, can’t be left alone in a pool and can’t be asked to swim for more than ten minutes dragging his water logged coat.
If you have access to a pool, never let your dog swim alone. Provide two exit ramps on either side of the pool and teach him to get himself out. Watch out for signs of fatigue. Stay in the shallow end. A scared dog might leap on top of you and it would be best to have your feet on the bottom and your upper body out of the water so you are safe if your dog panics. Swimming benefits the young and fit but also dogs who are recovering from injuries (by doctor’s permission), overweight dogs, dogs with joint troubles, elderly dogs, bored dogs and hot dogs.
For those of us who don’t have big pools, a hot little dog can get a large size blow up pool like Sherpa’s and have loads of swimming fun in a small space. Here’s Raja’s own backyad pool. Not Olympic in size, but Olympic enough for him!