Much to my delight and with a small crowd of onlookers, last Sunday Milo had his first real encounter with open water and swam!
Of course I was the proudest dog owner in Hyde Park but I still couldn’t figure out if he did it to cool himself down or for the sheer fun of it. Whatever the reason I was overly impressed and one thing that amazed me was that it looked like he had always known how to do it.
Although his back legs were a little on the floaty side and most of the work was being done by the front legs, he managed to doggy paddle over to the stick I’d thrown into the water and back again several times.
If you're looking for a great exercise for your pooch, I definitely recommend teaching your dog how to swim, what a fantastic idea. For conditions such as osteo-arthritis and hip dysplasia swimming provides a weightless exercise to improve joint movement, increase circulation and build muscles.
There are three simple steps to helping your dog get comfortable in water and its all down to praise at the right times.
- First, Find a nice pond or pool (not too deep) and let your dog explore the area thoroughly.
- Then when your dog makes contact with the water and looks comfortable, praise him persistently.
- Next when your dog has all for paws and belly in the water throw a toy into the water (not too far from him) and when he goes to retrieve it praise him even more.
Keep repeating these steps until your pooch is happy to swim without too much praise.
Not only is swimming enjoyable for you both but in the same way it helps humans, it will help work on your dog’s heart and the lungs, as well as all of your dog's muscles giving him a good workout. It can also give an overweight dog sufficient exercise on land without over-stressing the bones and joints.
Just as I discovered last weekend, taking your dog for a swim can be heaps of fun and a great bonding exercise between you and pooch. Here are a few more tips to keep your dog safe - have fun!
Swimming pools – Never leave your dog unattended around a pool. Once in, a dog may not be able get out without help and may panic and drown. Make sure your dog has a clear entrance and exit to the pool. Dogs cannot touch the bottom like humans can, so their legs will get tired quickly and must get out to rest. If you have a pool invest in a special pool ramp or steps designed for dogs to get in and out easily.
No drinking - Do not worry of your dog drinks some chlorinated pool water or pond water, inevitably this will happen but take care that he does not overdo it. If you are going to the beach try not to let your dog drink any sea water, the high mineral and salt content can be very bad for his/her stomach. Always carry some fresh water with you in a portable water bottle especially if you are going on long walks.
Safety first – You are the best lifeguard you can ever be to your dog, If any problems arise you need to know what to do. Start by learn some basic pet CPR. Check this link out. Make sure that you supervise you dog at all times especially in choppy waters or when a tide is about to rise. You can even buy a dog a life jacket if he/she is still learning the basics.
Water toys - If your dog needs a bit of persuading to get into the water and the traditional stick won’t work, try throwing him a bright coloured floating water toy. There are many to choose from, but remember never to throw anything too far especially if you don’t have a confident swimmer .