For most pet owners, keeping their pets safe is just as important as keeping their children safe.
Pets fall into a pool for a number of reasons – scared by a wild animal while close to the edge, or chasing the pool cleaner and slipping into the pool. Pets with bad vision or older dogs with low strength are of a particular concern.
Dogs know how to swim instinctively, but older dogs, or sick dogs could lack the strength to swim to the steps. If your pool doesn’t have stairs or steps (ladders don’t count), you can install a ramp during the summer, and train your dog to swim to the ramp.
Winter water temperatures in a pool can also be dangerous when it reaches freezing. This can increase panic and put your dog into shock, causing rapid drowning.
Here are a couple of pointers on how to improve pool safety for your pets:
- Senior dogs are more likely to suffer from arthritis, vision loss, seizures and a host of other health issues that may require your special attention around the pool or prohibit them from swimming altogether. Confirm with your veterinarian if your dog is healthy enough to swim in the pool.
- Certain breeds with heavy or very curly coats are more at risk of drowning. When wet, the weight of their coat means exhaustion will set in far quicker than it does for dogs with a smooth coat. Breeds with broad chests and shorter legs (Bulldogs, Corgis, Pugs) aren’t really designed for effective swimming. Heavily muscled breeds exert a lot of energy in the pool and their body mass means they can quickly sink and drown. Lean breeds (Whippets, Greyhounds) have the double disadvantage of dense muscle plus little body fat to help with buoyancy.
- Swimming lessons are the best way to build water confidence and prevent a dog panicking should it fall in. When teaching a puppy to swim, take your time and establish trust. Never throw your puppy in the pool and let him work it out on his own. This creates a panic and nothing will be learned, plus it damages the puppy / owner relationship. The pool must be a positive place.
- Do a swim check. Don’t just assume your dogs can swim – not all dogs are good swimmers. Take your pets out to the pool and let them go in the water, then watch carefully. Make sure they can swim comfortably, and at ease navigating around the water.
- Once you have determined that they can swim safely, you’ve gone a long way to providing a safe pool environment. Once the dog is confident in the water, throw items for the dog to fetch. This will also build up strength and delay the onset of exhaustion in a drowning situation.
- Show them the way out. A set of steps at one end of the pool might not be easy to spot for a dog in the water. Consider putting large potted plants on either side of the steps, to clearly mark the exit. While the dogs are in the water, call them out, while standing next to the steps. Do this several times until the message becomes clear that this is how they will get out of the pool. When they are back in the water, stand next to the back door of the house, and call the dogs to you. If they swim right to the steps and come to you, that’s great – they can find the exit.
- Install a pool ramp. Sometimes if the dogs are older, they may need a little additional assistance getting out of the pool. Pet ramps are constructed to assure the pet an easy way out of the pool, and are easily visible if the pet is in the water.
- Always keep your pool’s water levels high so the dog can reach the paving with its front paws. It also makes it easier for you to help the dog and lift it out from the side of the pool. If the water level is low, dragging the dog out the water becomes a lot more difficult.
- Get a pool cover. The type of cover is important. A floating cover is not recommended for pet owners – a dog could mistake it for a solid surface, run onto it, get entangled and be in real trouble. A mesh cover allows the pool to breathe and doesn’t collect rain water on top of it, but a dog could become caught in the mesh and panic. A solid cover is the best choice – they attach to the sides of the pool, and are rated to hold up to 1000 kilograms, so they can easily stand even the weight of a big dog. Deploy it when you aren’t using the pool.
- Provide drinking water. Make sure there is a big bowl of water in the shade near the pool. Call your dogs out of the water and have them get a drink, which cuts down on the likelihood that the dogs will drink pool water. Not only are the chemicals in pool water bad for dogs, they can slip and fall in while drinking. It also assures that they will stay well hydrated – it’s hot and humid on summer days, and while playing in the water, the dogs will build a big thirst. Once the dogs are conditioned to use that water bowl, they will be more likely to drink from it regularly.
- Shower time. Always give your pet a rinse post-swim to remove chlorine and other pool chemicals, as well as bacteria or dirt he might have gotten on him. Don’t let your dog sit in a wet collar.
Always approach pool safety for dogs like pool safety for children. If it’s not good for your child, it’s probably not good for your dog!
Learn dog CPR
Being able to properly administer artificial respiration and CPR on a dog is vital should your dog accidentally drown in your pool. Some animal organizations and shelters even offer classes on the proper techniques. Visit Pet Health Care for instructions.