Pool Safety Tips For Your Canine Companions
It was just a typical play day for Maggie with her best canine friend, Coco, who had come for a visit of swimming and diving into the large pool. Between diving sessions, Maggie took great pleasure in simply chasing Coco around the pool’s edge. During one of her chases, Maggie slipped on the wet cement and fell into the pool. Although she knew exactly where the stairs were, her first instinct was to unsuccessfully grab on to the edge of the pool and try to climb out. Seconds later, she remembered what she had been taught and started swimming to the stairs on the far end of the pool to safety.
Maggie did just what she was supposed to do finding her way safely out of the pool. Many dogs, just like humans, enjoy the pleasures that a cool swim in the pool provides. Others may be too afraid to even go near it. It doesn't seem to matter breed to breed who likes the pool and who doesn't. It seems to be a case of the dog's individual preference.
The best example of this is Coco and Opal. Both are golden retrievers of field variety. Coco lives for her Monday outings to go swimming. Opal has occasionally joined them, but where Coco will go diving in, Opal avoids the pool at all costs.
It doesn't matter whether or not your dog enjoys going swimming. In either case, it is important that regardless of the dog's feeling, he must be taught where to find the stairs in case he should accidentally fall in.
Maggie's situation is the perfect example as she demonstrated exactly what a dog will do when he has fallen in the pool. Dogs swim very well, but they will easily drown in the pool. The problem occurs when they cling to the edge and try to scramble up the side. Each attempt is unsuccessful. Eventually, they become too exhausted to continue, slip into the water and drown. Unfortunately, this problem is more common than you would think.
The chance of drowning can be greatly decreased or completely eliminated simply by the dog understanding that he must always go to the stairs to get out of the pool. Maggie shows us the perfect example. Although she had been well trained to use the stairs, her first thought was to cling to the edge and scramble out after accidentally falling in the pool. When she realized she couldn’t climb her way out, she swam to the stairs. Her life which could have easily been in jeopardy had she not been taught to find the stairs was not the least bit threatened simply because Maggie knew where she had to go to escape. A traumatic experience for her and her owner was averted.
NEVER LEAVE A DOG UNATTENDED NEAR A SWIMMING POOL
Nearing her twelfth birthday, Coco was still strong enough to keep up with the dogs half her age. Each time her canine friends dove into the pool, Coco followed. Diving into the pool was what Coco lived for. One evening, she dove in as she had countless times before. When she hit the water, she screamed in pain. She tried to swim towards the stairs, but found herself sinking.
With no time to spare, I dove in after her, clothes and all. Coco was rushed to the veterinarian who referred to a specialist one hundred and twenty five miles away.
She had emergency surgery at 2:00am to pin the hip she had dislocated. It took three months of excruciating confinement and a second surgery before her hip was healed.
Upon veterinary approval, Coco has returned to her favorite activity. Her play sessions, however, have been shortened much to her dismay. It doesn't matter how well your dog can swim. Situations like Coco's are not common, but do happen. For the dog's safety he should never be left unsupervised near a pool.
THE SWIMMING RULES
Your best bet is to follow the same swimming rules with your dog that you use with children.
Excess exercise after eating can cause a life threatening situation known as bloat. It involves a swelling up of gas or fluid in the stomach. The stomach or intestines may twist requiring immediate surgery. Signs of bloat are excess drooling, restlessness, attempts to vomit and defecate as well as abdominal pain. If you see these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately. To prevent this situation, dogs should have exercise restricted for two to three hours after eating.
TEACHING THE DOG WHERE THE STAIRS ARE
Hopefully, you will be lucky and your dog will enjoy swimming. It makes the job much easier. It is simply a matter of leading him over the stairs and telling him "stairs". When he goes into the pool, praise him. If he likes to play fetch, throw a ball into the pool for him. Make him bring it back to you. You should still be standing by the stairs to help him learn to always swim to the same spot. When he comes up the stairs, praise him. Throw the ball again, tell him "stairs" and let him go for it. If he runs to the side of the pool instead of using the stairs, go get him and lead him back over to the appropriate place to enter the pool. Once the dog realizes how easy it is to get in and out of the pool by using the stairs, he will automatically head in that direction every time.
If you happen to bring your dog to other people's houses where a pool is present, it is important to show him where the stairs are in case he accidentally falls or purposely dives in. Each pool is different and the dog needs to know how to get in and out of each individual pool. Once he is comfortable with the "stairs" command, it usually takes one or two fast reminders for him to know where to go to get out of any pool.
I have often heard people say that they don't need to bother with teaching the dog how to get out of the pool because he hates it and doesn't go near it. He may not actually go in, but you can bet that he runs along side it. That's all it takes is a wet, slippery surface and the dog will soon find himself in a life threatening situation. Even for the dog who doesn't like the water, this training is essential, a bit more difficult to do and requires at least two people. Person #1 should be in the pool. Person #2 is standing nearby. The training begins with Person #2 who guides the dog to Person # 1 waiting inside the pool at the stair’s edge. When the dog is in reach, person #1 picks up the dog and carries him into the pool. Don't let go of the dog. Gently hold him with one arm around his chest and one underneath his belly. Take him only a foot or two away from the stairs. Once this is accomplished, person #2 positions himself at the stairs.
The dog may be a little on the panicky side at this stage. His legs are probably paddling furiously. Person #1 should let the dog go while person #2 calls the dog towards the stairs. Each time the dog tries to get out of the pool by climbing up the edge, the person in the water should swim over, gently grab the dog by the collar and send him in the right direction toward the stairs. When the dog is swimming toward person #2 who is now standing at the stairs, he should be praised exuberantly to let him know that he is doing the right thing.
This procedure should be repeated for several days, moving the location from which Person #1 puts the dog in the water. To minimize the stress on the dog, only perform the exercise two or three times each day.
Eventually, the dog will automatically return to the stairs to get out of the pool. Once this has been accomplished, you know the dog has the idea. Every now and then, when you are enjoying the pleasures of the pool, repeat the exercise as a reminder for the dog.Some dogs are frightened by the pool. Others will become desensitized when this training is done.
Still others will find that the once dreaded pool is now enjoyable. This training not only helps them learn how to safely get out of the pool, but in these cases, they actually find the swimming experience to be fun.
It is hard for some people to put their dogs through what appears to be a torturous exercise and become upset when they see how much their dog hates what is being done. Although this reaction is understandable, they need to keep in mind that the real reason for teaching the dog this exercise is to keep their beloved pet out of harm’s way. Certainly, the trauma for the dog of learning this exercise is far less than he would suffer if he found himself drowning with no hope of saving himself. Regardless of the trauma the dog may experience, it is well worth teaching him how to swim. It could very well save his life.
Drinking Pool Water
You would be surprised how many dogs consider the pool to be a large water dish. The water is usually cooler than their own supply. As a result, they drink away, not seeming to mind the chemicals in the water. Although a little pool water probably won't hurt him, extended consumption could lead to kidney and liver damage as the dog gets older. Always make sure to leave a supply of fresh, clean water for your dog to drink.
As far as the pool is concerned, some dogs overcome their fear so much during training that they actually begin to enjoy swimming. For those who prefer not to partake in this particular pleasure, you can take comfort knowing you have taught them how to help themselves should they inadvertently fall in.