Pool Safety for Dogs – Oh My Dog!

Sun’s out, fun’s out!

As the days heat up, nothing beats jumping into a cool pool to chill out.

Many dogs enjoy a dip, too, but, did you know an estimated 5,000 pets drown in family pools each year? You take precautions to keep your human family safe in the water, but pool safety for dogs is equally important.

Let’s take a look at how to keep your pup safe in the pool this summer!

A Corgi with a white and brown coat paddles in a swimming pool. His mouth is open as he pants and his ears are back. In the background, an out-of-focus human holding a baby watches the dog swim. The text overlay reads: pool safety for dogs.

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Is it safe to have a pool with dogs?

As with all things in life, there isn’t a concrete yes or no. You can make the effort to have a dog-safe pool, or you can hope for the best. Either way, it can be safe to have a pool with dogs.

The number one tip I recommend is this:

Think about how to keep a toddler safe from drowning in a pool, and apply those same steps to your dogs.

That starts with enclosing your pool. Invest in a lockable fence. If installing a fence isn’t in your budget, while you save up for one, try an enclosure like this, which prevents your dog from accessing the pool when no one is around to supervise.

Another layer of safety includes a pool alarm system, something like this epic pool alarm system or this simpler one. There are also alarms specific for above ground pools. With one of these security systems in place, you’ll know immediately if your dog falls in.

Can dogs swim in chlorine pools?

If the pool chemistry is properly maintained, it’s as safe for a dog to swim in chlorine as it is for us humans. Even if your dog drinks a bit of the water, that’s okay, too. If the levels are high, dogs might experience the same sensitivities–nose and eyes–that we do. Otherwise, as long as you’re following the package guidelines and testing your water, dogs can swim in chlorine pools.

All that said, if you have a saltwater pool or are considering switching, the saltwater may be healthier for your pup (and you) except you need to be careful your pup doesn’t drink too much of the saltwater. It has less than the ocean, and swallowing a little is okay, but it can cause saltwater poisoning if too much is ingested. Otherwise, saltwater pools are a great option for you and your pet.

How do I make my pool safe for my dog?

So, you want to enjoy your pool with your pup–that’s great! How can you ensure that you both have a fun, safe time? We’ve already talked about enclosing your pool and adding in a pool alarm. There are lots of things you can do to ensure your dog enjoys his swim time safely.

Let’s look at 5 more pool safety for dogs tips:

  • Don’t assume your dog can swim! It’s a common misconception that all dogs can swim. Take the time to teach your dog how to paddle around your pool with lots of praise and treats. If your dog doesn’t want to swim or seems to be really opposed to getting in, don’t make him! Instead, consider a training plan–or letting him duck out of swim time altogether! (Our beloved Lucas could. not. swim. and had absolutely no interest, so we never pushed it. And that’s okay!)
  • Train your dog to get in and out of the pool safely and independently. Consider installing a ramp like this PetStep dog ramp (And… based on the big photo, it works for wolves, too? What is that dog, for real? Those eyes?!?) or add a nonslip mat like this to your existing ramp or steps. Once the tool is in place, practice, practice, practice until your dog is comfortable navigating in and out independently.
  • Install a safety cover. The kind that you can run across and not sink. It’s also an investment (though there are DIY options, I’m honestly not sure how they compare to a professionally-installed safety cover), but it’s worth it. If your dog falls onto a soft cover and sinks in, unless you’re nearby to pull him out immediately, it’s a tremendous drowning risk.
  • Get a life vest. Even with all these other steps in place, a properly-fitting life jacket helps your dog be a safe swimmer. And, even more importantly, the routine of putting your dog in his life jacket before swimming can condition an association that works to keep him safe. Life jacket on = time to go swimming! Life jacket off = swimming is over. Cooper wears a simple Kurgo jacket like this one (his is so old, they don’t make it anymore), and Emmett had this one from Outward Hound. There are some that are way more fancy with a lot more technical specs, and you know your dog’s needs best, but don’t get one without a handle! You’ll need to assist your dog occasionally, and the handle makes it so, so easy.
  • Learn pet CPR. Take a pet first aid and CPR course so that you are prepared in case an emergency does have. Despite all the precautions in the world, sometimes accidents still happen. Be prepared.

Have Fun Swimming with Your Dog

There are so many benefits to swimming for us humans and for our dogs. It’s a great exercise that’s gentle on joints–perfect for senior dogs–and provides cardio while building strength. Fresh air and moderate amounts of sunshine are great for us and our dogs, too. (The sunscreen topic is a discussion for another day, but wear it, mkay?) If you have a puppy, swimming is an incredible way to burn off some of that never-ending puppy energy! Plus, if you can find ways to play together, like tossing a ball into the water for fetch, swimming together can be a fun bonding experience.

Swimming keeps your dog cool, builds strength, burns energy, creates fun, and makes the summer so enjoyable.

Take the pool safety steps to ensure that fun is safe for all! (Bonus: All these tips will keep your kids or curious neighbor kids safe, too!)

Since we covered a lot of ground, here’s a Pool Safety Tips for Dogs infographic for you.

Save or pin the image below, or download a PDF version.

A vertical infographic in various shades of blue. The headline reads "how to keep your dog safe at the pool: 8 ideas for your pet." The text reads:
1) enclose your pool. Invest in a lockable fence. You'll prevent your dog (and any unsupervised children) from accessing your pool. 
2) buy a pool alarm or alert. Motion detectors connect to your phone or home security system to alert you if your dog enters the pool area. There are many affordable options that are easy to install. 
3) teach your dog to swim. It's a myth that all dogs know how to swim. Teach your pup how to paddle with lots of treats and praise!
4) train your dog to enter and exit the pool. Your dog must learn which stairs or ramp are safe for getting in and out of the pool--and know how to use them. 
5) install a safety cover. For year-round safety, install a safety cover that prevents any person or animal from falling in when the pool's closed.
6) Get a properly-fitted life vest. Even if your dog is a solid swimmer, it's always a good idea to have a fitted life jacket on your pup with a handle for you to lift him in or out.
7) learn pet first aid and cpr. Every pet owner should do this anyway! But if you have a pool, enroll in a pet first aid and CPR class via redcross.org ASAP. 
8) have fun! Swimming is great exercise and great fun! Once your safety precautions are in place, have  fun in the sun with your pup this summer!

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

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