So you're one of those pet owners wondering, "Where can I take my dog swimming near me?" The answer 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.
Let Your Dog Swim to Cool Off
If all you need is a place for your dog to cool off when the mercury rises to uncomfortable levels, you're not alone. Unfortunately, many owners wind up lamenting, "There's no dog swimming pool near me." If you find that's the case in your area, you should consider buying a swimming pool for your pet because nothing is closer than your own 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!
Swimming Therapy for Dogs
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. 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.
Health Benefits of Hydrotherapy
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.
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.
- PetFriendlyTravel is a great resource for finding dog-friendly beaches near you. The site 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.
Popular Dog-Friendly Beaches
Some well-known dog-friendly beaches around the country include:
- Province Town Beaches is located in the famous vacation destination of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Dogs can frolic on the beautiful beaches here 365 days a year. During the summer they can even be on the beach off-leash. Two other popular dog-friendly beaches in Cape Cod are the Plymouth Beach and Sandy Neck Beach. Dogs can access Plymouth all year long but can only use some areas during the summer due to higher human traffic. Sandy Neck is open to dogs all year as well but can only use the off-road beach during the summer months while the public beach is reserved for people.
- The famous vacation spot of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina allows dogs although only during limited hours. Dogs can use the beach before 10 am or after 6 pm during the busy months of May 1st through Labor Day. For the rest of the year, dogs can use the beach any time.
- If the lake beaches are more your style, there are many beaches in Michigan that are dog-friendly. There is a dog beach at the Nordhouse Dunes, part of the Lake Michigan Recreation Area, as well as dog-friendly beaches at Norman F. Kruse Park, Grand Haven Kirk Park, Grand Mere State Park, and Warren Dunes State Park.
- Some popular dog-friendly beaches in Georgia can be found on Jekyll Island and Sapelo Island which allow dogs all year round on most beaches on-leash. Dogs are also allowed on the beach on St. Simons Island in the off-season (Labor Day through Memorial Day).
- California is home to some of the best dog-friendly beaches in the country. Some better-known beaches are the aptly named "The Original Dog Beach" in San Diego, the Coronado Dog Beach in Coronado, Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach and the Forst Funston Doggie Beach in San Francisco. These beaches aren't just friendly to dogs, they welcome them with open arms.
Dog-Friendly Swimming Lakes
If you happen to live in an area with swimmable lakes, you'll find many of these allow dogs. You can look for dog-friendly swimming lakes through online dog travel resource sites such as BringFido and others mentioned above. Another ways to find dog-friendly lakes are:
- Visit your local outdoor recreation store, such as REI, Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops. Staff are usually well-educated on all sorts of outdoor sports in the area and can give you information on lakes for you and your pup.
- Check your local city, county, and state websites for their parks and recreation sections. Check the National Parks Service website as well if there are national properties in your area.
- If you have a local Sierra Club in your area, members may be able to give you some advice on dog-friendly lakes and hiking spots for some good all-around outdoor adventures.
Other Resources to Find Swimming Spots
There are a number of other ways to find local places to take your dog swimming.
- Yelp 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 may be some local 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.
- Staff members at pet supply stores tend to be good sources of information about dog-friendly activities in your community. They 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.
Breed-Specific Water Safety Concerns
Be particularly cautious with 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 although this is not 100% true for every member of each breed. These breeds include:
- 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.
Water Quality Concerns
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.