As summer temps rise, you know where we’re headed: the water. The river, lake, pool, or beach becomes very attractive for many dogs and dog parents in the warm weather months. Most dogs like to swim and it can be great exercise for them, especially for those with hip and joint pain; water exercise puts less stress on pet and human joints alike. However, before the fun begins, us pet parents need to exercise some common sense. It’s estimated that thousands pets drown each year in the U.S.— and many drownings may be preventable with simple measures. This is our list of common-sense pet water safety tips you can follow to safeguard your dog against water accidents:

Pet Water Safety Tip #1: Find out if your dog enjoys swimming, or can swim well

Not every dog enjoys water and is a strong swimmer. Some dogs cannot swim well naturally, and you don’t want to find out in an emergency that your dog is one of them. Find an area with less noise and distraction and give your pooch ample time to get used to the idea of swimming. Then get in the water yourself—your dog looks to you for leadership and that may be all she needs to follow.

Pet Water Safety Tip #2: Ease into swimming

Pet water safety begins with starting out in a controlled environment, like the shallows. Make sure there are easy entrances to and exits from the water. Keep away from waves and currents, which introduce danger. Don’t force your dog into the water, either. A nervous dog can easily become traumatized if you push or toss him into the water.

Dalmatian swimming in a pool for pet exercise

Pet Water Safety Tip #3: Remove your dog’s flea and tick collar

Because active flea and tick ingredients can be washed away, remove your pooch’s flea and tick collar before he goes into the water. Keep his regular collar and tag on though, since pet identification is doubly important when you’re outside.

Pet Water Safety Tip #4: Invest in a life jacket

Dogs don’t rest while swimming, so a personal flotation device can be very helpful for your pooch. Not only will a life jacket prevent your dog from sinking, but a colorful version also may help you spot him in the water.


Pet Water Safety Tip #5: Learn CPR

Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but canine CPR could save your dog’s life if she gets into trouble in the water. The Red Cross can help you find a local class on pet CPR.

Pet Water Safety Tip #6: Have fresh drinking water on hand

It’s not so obvious, but swimming can be very dehydrating for your dog. However, never let your dog drink from where he’s swimming; pools contain chemicals like chlorine that can make your pooch sick, as can salt in the ocean and bacteria in rivers and lakes. Instead, bring along fresh drinking water and a bowl.

Pet Water Safety Tip #7: Rinse off your dog

After your pet comes out of the water, remove their wet collar to prevent hot spots from forming. Then rinse off your dog to remove salt, algae, bacteria and pollution, which may irritate your dog’s skin and coat. A spray shampoo is great for re-nourishing the skin and coat after a swim. Clean out their ears to prevent infection, then towel dry.

Bonus tip: If you’re driving home, place a dog pad between your car seat and your dog. There will be moisture on your dog that you missed, and a pad will absorb it and protect your car’s interior.