Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Guest Post by Aaron Smith
Nothing says summertime like splashing around in a swimming pool. A nice, refreshing dip on a hot day is a time-honored tradition for everyone in the family. In fact, sometimes even the family dog jumps in and paddles around!
Swimming in the pool is a great way for your pet to beat the heat and have some fun, and it’s a particularly great, low impact exercise for aging dogs. However, swimming can also be very dangerous; an estimated 5,000 dogs drown in swimming pools every year. Before you let your dog jump in, you need to know what it takes to keep them safe.
Invest in safety
Safety is an essential part of pool ownership, and it becomes even more important when you have a pet in the house. You need to make sure that your pets will be safe anytime they are near the water — and that they can’t get too close when you’re not around. The best way to do this is by investing in the best possible safety solutions.
Help your pet adjust to the swimming pool by fitting them with a lifevest. Make sure your pool is designed with a “resting spot” or a ramp, so your pet can safely exit if they accidentally fall in the water. And most importantly, make sure you have a durable and pet-friendly pool fence or cover to prevent your pup from getting into the water when the pool is closed.
“Getting a fabric cover or mesh fence for your pool is a great way to keep pets and kids safe around the water," Anna McCabe, an expert at All Safe Pool, explained. "In addition to keeping them from falling in, it's also a good barrier to keep young children and playful pups separate, so big dogs won't swim on top of smaller kids and put them in danger.”
Learn pet CPR
In a perfect world, your lifevest and pool fence would protect your dog 100 percent of the time. But of course, we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes we are faced with the worst possible situations. This is why it’s always wise to prepare for the worst — and when it comes to pet pool safety, that means learning how to perform CPR.
Pet CPR differs slightly from the human protocol (because our anatomies are different, of course), but if it’s done properly, it can be life-saving. Look for a pet CPR class in your area and familiarize yourself with the process. This can provide you with some peace of mind, as you’ll know how to help your pet in the event of an accident.
Proper pool training
Once you have all the safety tools you need and you’re familiar with CPR techniques, it’s time to train your pet. There are two main options here: either teach your pet to swim, or train them to avoid the pool. The option you choose is up to you, but they both will require dedication, patience, and a few handfuls of treats.
If you want to teach your pet to swim, the first thing you should teach them is how to exit the pool. Start by carrying them into the pool (with the lifevest if they seem uncomfortable) and carefully guide them to the nearest exit. Repeat the process many times — getting further from the exit each time — until your pet is very familiar with getting out of the pool. This will make your pet more comfortable in the pool, as they will always know how to get out.
If you want to keep your pet out of the pool entirely, it’s still important to train them and establish their boundaries. After all, how will they know to avoid the pool if they don’t know it’s off limits? One training technique is to walk your pet around the pool area on a leash. If they start to venture toward the pool, firmly tug the leash and say, “No.” This will teach them that there is an imaginary line around the pool — a line your pet will know they should not cross.
Be careful with chlorine
We all know that there are certain foods our pets can or can’t eat, so where does pool water fall on the spectrum? Honestly, we wouldn’t advise letting your pet drink from the pool. Chlorinated water is heavily diluted, so it’s no problem if your pet swallows a gulp or two while swimming, but it’s best to have a bowl of fresh water waiting for them on the deck.
Also, chlorine can irritate people or animals who have sensitive skin. If you start to notice red, rash-like symptoms on your pet (or yourself) after a swim, make sure to rinse them off with fresh water to wash off the chlorine.
“After the fun, it's a good idea to bathe your pet with a gentle shampoo made for dogs and fresh water, so that the chlorine is removed from the fur,” suggests Dr. Amanda Nascimento, Head of Integrative Veterinary Medicine & Research and Development Scientist at NHV Natural Pet. Dr. Nascimento also advises, “Be sure to dry your dog well, with special care for his or her ears, as pool water can cause ear infections.”
Supervision is key
Finally, it is critically important that you always have someone watching the pool anytime someone is swimming. Having a designated “lifeguard” will spot any injuries or accidents right away, which ensures a safe swimming experience for people and pets alike!
Aaron Smith is a writer and copy strategist for several companies and nonprofits. He often covers topics important to pet owners, and is a dedicated dog dad to his three pups: Buddy, Roxy, and Kaya.