Outdoor water safety for dogs

Updated 15 November 2023
Read time: 5 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Golden coloured show cocker dog, with a rubber ring around it, against a pale orange background


When summer’s in full swing and it’s feeling hot hot hot, the urge to take a dip and cool down is strong. The same goes for our pooches! Especially when they’re carrying ‘round a big fur coat. Outdoor swimming can be a great activity for them in many ways, but safety first - there’s plenty of precautions you should understand, to make sure they’re having a safe experience in the water.


Before the dog swim

Being prepared is key! It’ll put your mind as a pawrent at ease and will allow you to feel in full control of their swim. Let’s take a look at ways you can plan ahead:


Can they swim?

We assume it’s a given that all dogs can swim, but that’s not the case. If your pooch is flat-faced, long-bodied, short-legged (or simply it’s just not their thing) they might struggle. A good way to test the water (literally), is by taking them in on lead to see how they react. If they’re in distress or seem afraid, then it’s a no-go and better to find alternative ways to keep them cool.


How’s their recall?

If your precious pooch has a tendency to deafen themselves to your instructions, outdoor swimming could be dangerous. It’s really important that when you call-out a command or whistle, they know it’s time to come back. Without good recall, it puts both you and your dog in a vulnerable situation if they hit difficulty. Plenty of training with food and toys could improve this, away from the water to begin with!


Make sure they’re microchipped

In the UK, it’s against the law to not have your pooch microchipped. It’s the most effective way to track them down if they go missing and get them back into your loving arms ASAP. This is especially true when out swimming.Outdoor waters have currents, which may take them to an area away from where they started - so make sure everything’s in order with their microchip before heading out.


Fresh water at the ready

Outdoor water is not what you want your pooch to be drinking. It’s full of nasties, and can actually be really dangerous to them. It can cause problems such as giardia, parasites, leptospirosis, and toxicity from blue green algae - amongst many more! Make sure you’ve stocked up on fresh water, give them a big bowl before they hit the water, and have it ready and waiting for their return.


Up-to-date parasite treatment

This one’s a given for any outdoor activities, but especially outdoor swimming. Parasites like fleas, ticks and worms have a field-day around the water, and there’s only one place they want to live… on your pooch. Make sure their regular treatments are up-to-date and prevent bringing any unwanted pests home.


Huge black and white dog against a pale blue background


During the dog swim

The prep’s done, now it’s time for them to get their paws wet. Be alert and vigilant, even if it looks as though they’re having a merry old time in there. Here’s some words of advice:


Pop on a life jacket

Even the strongest swimmers can get tired, and popping a doggo life jacket on them for the swim, keeps them afloat. You can both relax a little knowing it’s keeping them at surface level and the bright colour makes it even easier to keep your eagle-eyes on them.


Eyes on the prize

Never take your eyes off them! Underwater conditions, drop offs, and currents can all be hazards when outdoor swimming. Keep a watchful look-out for changing conditions and know your dog’s ability too.


A tired pooch

A tired pooch is at risk of drowning. If you can see them wearing out or they’ve been swimming for a while, get them to come back to land, in a shady spot, with plenty of fresh water. Lots of breaks are essential - so they can enjoy the swim with lots of energy!


Blue green algae 

Blue green algae is a bacteria called cyanobacteria and can often be found in outdoor waters. Always keep yourself and your pet away from this as the toxins are extremely dangerous. They can cause skin irritation, respiratory effects, gastroenteritis symptoms, liver damage, nervous system toxicity, and even death. Find a clear stretch of water, just to be sure.


White fluffy dog giving their paw, against a pale orange background 


After the dog swim

Swimming after-care is just as important as the other stages. Follow our tips below and they’ll be all set for their next adventure… 


Give them a good rinse-off

When the fun’s over, a good rinse off with fresh, clean water will keep them in tip-top condition. Do as much as you can as soon as they’re out of the water, then treat them to a bath once you’re home. Make sure they’re properly dried off too, especially around the inside of the ears.


Watch-out for sickness or allergies

Hopefully, if the above steps have been actioned, they should be fine. But sometimes these things come out of the blue! If you notice any skin irritations, itching or any other symptoms which are out of character - then speak to your vet immediately. Let them know your dog’s been outdoor swimming and give them as much info as possible.


Pooch CPR - be in the know! 

As a pet owner, knowing how to perform CPR on a dog could save their life. This is useful in all situations, and especially when swimming. The psda have some great content around performing CPR on dogs and puppies which we highly recommend you taking a look at.


Have fun and be safe!!

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