Water safety for dogs

Dog standing next to lifeguard on beach

As the weather warms up and we head into summer, you may be thinking of going to the beach or taking your dog on a walk near a lake. It’s important that you are aware of water safety for both you and your dog.

Can I take my dog to the beach?

It’s essential that you check before you go to the beach if you are allowed to take them there. A list of beaches you can take your dog to can be found here. If you arrive at the beach and you are unable to take your dog onto there, you should not leave your dog in the car, you must turn around and take them home. Leaving a dog in a hot car can cause serious health problems, or in some cases can even be fatal. Find out more on our ‘dogs die in hot cars’ here.

Taking your dog into the sea

If you decide to take your dog into the sea, always make sure you assess the sea first. If it is rough then you must avoid taking them in to avoid any dangers. If however you take them on a day where the sea is calm, then you can use our top tips to get them to used to the sea and learning to swim:  

  • You will also need to assess the size of your dog to decide upon the right area of the sea to begin their training.
  • Never force your dog to go in. You can distress your dog by forcing them in, so always let them go in at their own accord.
  • Make sure your dog can do a recall first, if they don’t like the sea then you will need to make sure you can call them back to ensure they don’t end up going missing. Alternatively, if you are not confident that they will come back when called, then consider keeping them on a long lead
  • Make sure you have a toy or some treats to encourage them to join you in the sea. This has to be a fun experience. Once they reach you at the shallow part then walk back to the sand so that they know how to get to and from the sea safely.
  • Always start off in shallow water first. If you dog enjoys the sea they will naturally go out further. However this has to be something they want to do and you should not force them.
  • Do not throw toys into deep areas. If your dog hasn’t learnt to swim then you could put your dog and yourself at risk by pushing them to go further than they can.

Not all dogs will like the sea, so always take your dog’s lead on what they want to do and remember the safety of you and your dog is paramount.

Taking your dog into a lake or river

Like with the sea, you need to assess if the lake is calm and has a shallow area. Before beginning your training here are some things you should look out for:

  • Is there anything dangerous around – trees, branches, boats or rubbish? If there is anything that could harm your dog then you must avoid using the lake or river.
  • Is there a shallow part which enables you and your dog to get used to the water. If there isn’t then you should avoid going in.
  • Never force your dog to go in. You can distress your dog by forcing them in, so always let them go in of their own accord.
  • Make sure your dog can do a recall first, if they don’t like the water then you will need to make sure you can call them back so that they don’t end up going missing.
  • Make sure you have a toy or some treats to encourage them to join you in the water. This has to be a fun experience. Once they reach you at the shallow part then walk back to the grass so they know how to get to and from the water safely.
  • Is the water calm? If it isn’t you should avoid going in. Both you and your dog’s safety is the main priority. You can always come back on another day when the water is calmer.

Potential health concerns when using a river/lake

Blue-green algae can be found in many types of waterbody throughout the UK (i.e. ponds, streams, lakes, estuaries etc.) and these can produce toxins which may be harmful to animals and humans. The types of chemicals produced by the algae may vary and can therefore cause a wide range of different clinical effects. These effects can range from vomiting and diarrhoea (both of which may be bloody) to lethargy, effects on the heart and blood pressure, twitching, problems breathing, liver and kidney impairment or can even cause death shortly after exposure.

Dogs are most commonly exposed when swimming, playing in or drinking from contaminated water. Water that contains blue-green algae may appear a different colour, or may be recognisable from coloured algal blooms, appearing on the surface of the water, or close to the shore. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know if there are any toxins present in the water without testing.

The amount of algae in a body of water may vary throughout the year, but is likely to be at its greatest in, or after, hot and sunny periods (i.e. mid to late summer) and will vary depending on the amount of nutrients available in the water. If you come across a body of water that is known to contain blue-green algae, do not let your dog swim in it or drink from it.

Paddling pools

Paddling pools are a great way to let your dog develop their love of water. They can be set up in your garden and your dog will be able to get used to them in their own time. Our top tips for paddling pools are here:

  • Make sure your dog is not left unattended near the pool.
  • Some types of paddling pool may be more appropriate for your dog than others. Paddling pools that are inflated may be more easy to damage or puncture, and loud pops could scare them too. how
  • Be aware of the amount of water you have in there. You don’t want it to be too deep for them if they are learning to swim.
  • Make sure you wash your dog down afterwards and check that the chemicals you use to clean your paddling pool are safe for your dog.
  • Never force your dog to go in. You can distress your dog by forcing them in, so always let them go of their own accord.
  • Make sure you have a toy or some treats to encourage them to join you in the water. This has to be a fun experience.

Emergency

If at any point you or your dog get into a difficult situation you must call 999 and seek professional advice on what to do. Do not put your life or the life of your dog’s life at risk and remember to stay safe at all times.

Who can I contact for further advice?

The Kennel Club is not a veterinary organisation and is unable to provide general or case specific veterinary advice.  If you have any questions regarding any of the issues discussed in this article then please contact your local veterinary practice for further information.