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Can All Dogs Swim?

All dogs have a different relationship with water. Some love it as much as their favorite tasty treats, and others hate it as much as those mean, scary fireworks. Whether your dog relates more to the former or latter, there are a few tips and tricks that can help them embrace a more aquatic lifestyle.

What Breeds Of Dogs Are Good Swimmers?

Some dogs are natural born swimmers, like those bred to be working dogs. For example, Labrador Retrievers and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were bred to recover water birds for their owners on hunts. Other breeds even have “water” in their name, like the Potuguese Water Dog (hey Sunny and Bo Obama), or the Irish Water Spaniel. These dogs have the natural build for swimming and will love being in the water. If you don’t know the breed of your rescue pup and want to know if they might be a good swimmer, you can check their feet for webbed toes. Seriously! Webbed toes are a good sign that your doggo descends from a breed that will feel at home in the water.

Dog Swimming Safety

Basic Swimming Safety For Dogs

Introducing your dog to water should be fun for both of you, not scary. Never throw your dog into water; instead, let them choose to go in on their own time. While some dogs have the swimming aptitude of Michael Phelps, others will sink like a brick when placed in water. Dogs with shorter legs (like dachshunds), or dogs with meatball body types (like bulldogs), usually have difficulty swimming. If your pup struggles in water, do not take them on a boat or swimming without a doggy life jacket.

Life Vests for Dogs

Before giving your dog swimming lessons (at home or with a professional), you should purchase a life vest that fits them comfortably. Even if your dog may have flirted with water before by chasing the waves at the beach, it doesn’t mean they know how to swim. When dogs encounter deeper water for the first time, they can panic, causing them to gulp water. This puts them at risk of drowning before their instinct to paddle kicks in. With a life vest, they can safely float while they get their bearings and learn how to kick their feet.

Here are the basics you should look for in a life jacket for your doggo:

  1. The vest should be made with durable, waterproof material.
  2. It should be adjustable to ensure a snug fit on your pup, regardless of their body type.
  3. Reflective trim and bright colors provide extra visibility for safety if you pup enters the water unexpectedly.
  4. The vest should have a handle to allow you to lift your dog out of the water (like a suitcase). A D ring is also useful to attach a leash, which is convenient when visiting the beach.

Potential Swimming Risks For Dogs

  1. Cold water: When testing out locations for your swimming lessons, ensure that the water temperature isn’t too cold. The combination of the water and air temperature should be at least 100 degrees, otherwise your dog could get hypothermia or swimmer’s tail (when their tail becomes limp). Puppies are particularly prone to these issues. If your dog is swimming and suddenly stops using their tail or starts shivering, take them to the vet immediately.
  2. Water intoxication: This can happen when your dog swallows too much water, and can be fatal. The most common symptom to look for is vomiting shortly after swimming. To prevent this from happening, keep each swimming session less than 10 minutes long.
  3. Predators: When in natural waters, beware of water snakes, snapping turtles, alligators or other animals that may want your pup as a snack.
  4. Fishing tools: Baited fishing lines can be dangerous. The bait is enticing to your dog, and if they go after it they may hurt themselves on the fishing hook.
  5. Dehydration/overheating: When your dog is outside, ensure they have plenty of shade and fresh water, especially during summer months.

How To Teach A Dog To Swim

You can work with a professional or give your pup swimming lessons at home.

  1. Put on your dog’s life jacket, and ensure it fits snugly. Then, try to entice them into the water with a treat or a toy. Create a situation that brings your dog near the shallow edge of the water.
  2. When teaching your pup to swim, you should also wear a life vest. If your dog panics, they may try to climb onto you in the water, which can put you at risk - especially if you have a large dog.
  3. It’s helpful to let your dog see a confident swimmer in action, so bring along a water-loving four-legged friend to the swimming lessons!
  4. Start in the shallow end, and stay there until your dog feels comfortable being wet. Encourage your dog to go into deeper waters with lots of treats and positive reinforcement.
  5. If they seem overwhelmed, move your dog to shallow water or back to dry land.
  6. It’s also important to teach your dog how to get out of the water. Point your pup in the direction of the stairs or ramp while in a pool, or steer them towards the shore in a lake or at the beach.

Once your dog has the knack of swimming, you can take them to these great Denver watering holes.

Fun Alternatives For Dry Land Dogs

You need to know when to call it; not all pups will be able to master the doggie paddle. If your pooch isn’t a water fan, take them hiking in Denver instead! If the weather isn’t suitable for a day in the great outdoors, there are plenty of indoor activities to keep your pup active.

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