Water can be a huge attraction for dogs and dog families throughout the warm weather months, whether it’s in a pool, a lake or river, or the beach. Many dogs love 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 water fun begins, pet parents need to apply a little 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 dog water safety tips you can follow to safeguard your dog against water accidents:

Find out if your pooch enjoys swimming, or can swim well

It’s a common misconception that 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’s 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.

Ease into swimming

Dog 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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.