by Guest Blogger Jackie Roberts, September 15, 2012
Reports of children drowning in backyard pools seem to dominate the news during the summer. What you may not hear about as often are the hundreds of stories of dogs that drown in swimming pools. You already take several steps to keep your dog safe and healthy. You feed him good food, give him clean water, administer preventive pet meds to keep him free of pests, and of course, love him.
But have you considered your dog's safety around a swimming pool? Losing a pet is heartbreaking enough without knowing that the death could have been prevented with some simple precautions. Here's how to keep your dog safe from swimming pool accidents, both at home and at a community pool.
Yes, this can be expensive. But how much is keeping your beloved pet worth? This is an especially important safety precaution if you also have small children. Putting a proper fence with a locking gate around your pool will go a long way to keeping kids and pets out of the pool area. The fence must be high enough that your dog can't jump over it, and if you choose a wood fence over chain link, the planks must be close-enough together that nothing can squeeze between them.
If you move into a home that already has a pool, make installing a fence one of the first projects for your new home. And if you're thinking of having a pool put in, factor the fence into the total cost so it can be installed immediately upon completion of the pool.
It may surprise you to know that not all dogs can swim. Some breeds like bulldogs may actually sink because of their weight, and because their short legs aren't powerful enough to keep them afloat. But even dogs that can swim can still drown, mostly due to exhaustion. This is especially true for senior dogs that will tire easily. It can be difficult to impossible for a dog of any size to climb out of a pool, and the more they try to climb, and kick to stay afloat, the more tired they get until finally, they just can't swim anymore. The best solution is to teach your dog where the pool stairs are. This is made easier by installing a flag near the stairs.
Because of the shape of dogs' heads and the location of their eyes noses, dogs will keep their heads tilted back to keep water from entering their noses. This means they're essentially looking up, and won't be able to see the side of the pool, much less the stairs. A flag waving near the stairs will be in your dog's field of vision. Also, remember dogs are colorblind, so a bright orange or red flag may not have the effect you intend it to. Instead, choose a black and white checkered flag to best accommodate your dog's colorless vision.
Once you've installed the flag, ease your dog into the water, assuming she's able to swim. If your dog can't swim and will simply sink, put a doggie life jacket on her. Never throw your dog into the pool. This can cause her to panic, and she won't be in a frame of mind for training—just survival. Once she's in, stand near the flag and call to her. As she approaches, she'll eventually feel the stairs under her feet, and will learn she can get out this way. Do this a few times, and give her a treat when she exits the pool. Then try it a few times without standing by the flag, but stay close by in case she can't find her way. It's also a good idea to practice this from time to time to make sure she remembers and will be able to get out on her own if she accidentally ends up in the pool when you're not around.
If your pool has no built in steps, or a swimout area for your dog to exit easily (most dogs can't climb pool ladders), you may want to use a safety ramp for your pets or other animals to be able to exit the pool easily. Skamper Ramp and doggydocks are two such types of products made specifically to address this problem. Poolcenter carries both of these pet pool exit ramps.
This is another pool safety precaution that is advisable not just for dogs, but for children as well. An immersion alarm for pets is comprised of two parts—a wearable device that attaches to the pet's collar, and a base station that will sound an alarm with the wearable device is submerged. If you get an immersion alarm, remember to attach it to your dog's collar before you let him into the pool area. Test your device frequently to ensure the batteries are good, and that the alarm is functioning properly.
The number one way to avoid accidents in or near the pool is to keep a close eye on your pets. When the family is gathered around the pool, your dog will no doubt want to be included. After all, she's part of the family, and wants nothing more than to be near her people. If you plan to spend the afternoon near the pool, you can include your dog in the fun—just keep an eye on her. Better yet, keep a doggie life vest on her so that if she does fall—or jump—into the pool, she'll stay afloat until she can get out, or you help her out. You may know your dog can't swim, but your dog doesn't. She may see the kids splashing in the pool, and jump in to get in on the fun, and only then realize she can't swim. Remember, though, leaving a vest on all day in the hot sun can overheat your dog, so if she doesn't get any time in the cool water, give her periodic indoor breaks with the vest off.
Because your pet can overheat, keep fresh drinking water nearby. She may still try to drink pool water, but don't let her do this too much as high levels of chlorine may make her sick if she takes in too much. Above all, never, ever leave your pet unattended in the pool area, even if you've trained her to find the stairs, and even if she has a life jacket on. Accidents are called that for a reason, and you never know when one will occur, even when you've taken every precaution you can think of to prevent it. That's what accidents are—the things you didn't think of, and therefore couldn't prepare for. And remember, pet water safety precautions apply to boats, lakes, and the beach, too.
A swimming pool can provide a lot of fun for family and friends, but it can also be a very dangerous place if safety isn't taken into consideration. Putting precautions in place will only help you—and your dog—enjoy the pool even more.
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