There are a number of places where you can take your dog swimming. It really depends on whether you're just looking for a place where he can cool off and have fun, or if you want him to swim for therapeutic purposes.
If all you need is a place for your dog to cool off when the mercury rises to uncomfortable levels, you should consider a dog swimming pool for your backyard. You might choose:
- A kiddie pool or wading pool from a local department store
- A heavy-duty plastic model designed just for dogs
Depending on the size of your dog, he may not actually get to swim, but just lounging in some shallow water will keep him cool and happy. For added fun, turn on the sprinkler and let your dog work on catching the water droplets. This is great fun for you both!
If you want to let your dog swim for more therapeutic reasons, find a canine hydrotherapy center near you. There are many across the country and most have reasonable rates.
Hydrotherapy centers can help dogs with:
- Degenerative joint conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia
- Injuries that require rehabilitation therapy
- Obesity issues
Typically, a hydrotherapy center offers a five-minute swim that is equal to a five-mile run. The difference is that swimming is easier on your dog's joints than running. This is an important consideration if your dog suffers from any joint issues.
Those who practice canine hydrotherapy claim many benefits beyond just exercise. Hydrotherapy is believed to help all systems in a dog's body, both physically and emotionally. While you are not likely to get a free swimming session, your dog will still enjoy his time in the water provided he is given some time to adjust to the techniques used. You can find hydrotherapy centers near you through the Association of Canine Water Therapy. You can also contact the office of your local veterinary surgeon for a referral as they often refer dogs who have had orthopedic issues to rehabilitation clinics.
In addition to using a plastic backyard pool or taking your dog to a therapy pool, there are other options for getting your pooch to a spot for swimming.
Consider Installing a Pool
If you just want a place to have some fun with your water-loving dog, you might consider installing an in-ground pool for your dog to use under your supervision. The Healthy Paws blog has several, reasonably priced ideas that you could do yourself.
If having a personal dog pool is more than you can manage, try checking with your local public pool. Public pools usually do not allow dogs due to public health regulations. However, some do offer an end-of-season swim just for dogs and their owners. These swim events are becoming more popular and seem to be popping up all over the country. Often, the fees collected at these events are donated to animal shelters or other pet related charities. Check with your city or county department of parks and recreation for dog swimming events at public pools in your area.
Local Dog Park
Check if there's a dog park within driving distance of your location that includes a water feature for pets to enjoy. For example, if you happen to live in the Atlanta, Georgia area, you can take advantage of the pool at Atlanta Dog Works. They offer a 15-acre facility with training, boarding, a 40' x 20' pool and various other activities that will make any dog drool. DogFriendly can help you find dog parks in your locale. You can also check with your local department of parks and recreation.
Closest Public Beach
If there's nothing else available in your area, check your local public beaches. While some beaches enforce fines if you bring a dog, others encourage dog owners to bring their pooches and play in the water. You'll want to be considerate and clean up after your dog when you go to a public beach or any other place that allows dogs to come play. Being courteous ensures that the privilege is maintained for other dog lovers to enjoy. A great resource for finding dog-friendly beaches near you is PetFriendlyTravel which has an interactive map. BringFido is another dog travel website where you can search for dog beaches by city. The site includes helpful user ratings as well.
Other Resources to Find Swimming Spots
Yelp is a website that can provide great information on local spots with reviews and photos from people who have actually been there with their dogs. Just do a search on "dog swimming" or "dog pools" to see what you can find. Depending on where you live, there are Meetup groups for dog owners that include outings to swimming holes, among other activities. Speaking to other dog owners and professionals in your community can also yield advice on places to swim near you. People who tend to be actively involved with their dogs are likely to know the best activities in town. Contact your veterinarian's office, local shelters and rescue groups, and dog trainers for their input. The staff at pet supply stores also tend to be good sources of information about dog-friendly activities in your community and may have advice on places your dog can swim.
Once you find a place where your dog can swim, you will then have the responsibility of practicing water safety with your pet. Not all dogs are adept swimmers, so you should be careful to introduce your dog to the water slowly and be sure he knows how to get out when he's had enough.
Never leave your dog unattended in or near the water, and consider using a life jacket to help your dog stay buoyant. This is especially important for breeds that do not do well in the water. Dogs that are brachycephalic or that have large heads, heavy musculature and short legs tend to not be able to swim. These breeds include:
- American Bull Terrier
- American Bulldogs
- Basset Hounds
- English Bulldogs
- Scottish and Boston Terriers
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
If you must take these dogs in the water, be sure to support them in the water and provide them with some sort of flotation device, so they do not drown. Play it safe at all times, and everyone will have a great time. If you are taking your dog to the beach, make sure he does not drink seawater which can make him very ill due to the salt content and some forms of algae. You should also keep a watch on your pooch, so he doesn't get caught in riptides.
Swimming in a lake can be lots of fun but also have potential dangers for dogs. Stay away from any lake or pond that has blue-green algae, which can be severely toxic. There is also a concern about contracting giardia from drinking at stagnant pools of water.
A good swim can help your dog cool off, and it's great exercise and fun for him. Make sure you always use a life vest in deeper water, introduce your dog to the water slowly so you can assess how well he swims, and keep your pet in sight at all times. Keep these safety tips in mind, and you and your pet are bound to enjoy hours in the water together.