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Find out more about your dogs
Yes, you can take your dog for a swim! Of course, like all little kids, puppies need to be supervised and watched at all times in the water.
Dogs instinctively know how to paddle – after all, they don't call it dog paddle for nothing. Whether or not your puppy is destined to be the next Phelps or not, depends on their personality and sense of adventure. Almost all Portuguese water dogs absolutely love swimming. While some other dogs are terrified of the water!
To see if your pup will swim, take them to a confined space, such as a small shallow pool, where you can go into the water together. Your presence will help build their confidence in the water.
Once you know if your puppy actually likes water, there are a number of ways to get them more confident and comfortable splashing around such as:
When pup becomes confident in the water, you can go to a dog-friendly beach and introduce them to the sea. Try to keep them on a leash until you are sure they are comfortable with swimming and will return to you. And always remember to clean up after your dog so those people out for a romantic bare-foot stroll along the sand don't stumble upon any unexpected surprises.
Once your puppy becomes more comfortable in the water, you can encourage them to swim further by throwing a retriever toy a short distance and playing swim-fetch in the water.
After swimming, rinse your dog thoroughly to remove all the pool chemicals, sand, mud and saltwater. Also make sure their ears are clean and dry, because water in the ear canal is a common cause of ear infections in dogs.
If your dog can't get enough of the water, you might find that their topical flea control medication may be washed off if it was applied in the past 48 hours. It is best to avoid swimming or bathing within the 2 days after applying flea control, after which the dog will be fully protected no matter how many times he/she goes in the pool.
People are not the only ones involved in accidental drowning and water accidents. So always keep your pup away from chance meetings with boats when swimming in small lakes and creeks.
In swimming pools, make sure your dog knows where the steps to exit the pool are. And erect a safety-fence so pup can't go swimming without your supervision.
Finally, make sure you know where the closest veterinary emergency centres are in case pup has an accident.
Swimming can be excellent physiotherapy for some dogs, especially those with arthritis. It even has a name - hydrotherapy. Your veterinarian can let you know if hydrotherapy is right for your dog and where it can be done.
The Merck Veterinary Manual
Veterinary Partner: The Canine Behaviour Series
By: Kathy Diamond Davis, Trainer