Most dogs love to swim and will swim instinctively. You’ve seen the videos of someone holding their dog over a bucket of water and their feet and legs automatically start the dog paddle. Because we all know dogs swim we think they are safe around pools. The major safety problem is that even though your dog can swim he may not know how to get out of the pool. Without knowing how to get out your dog will eventually get tired and then drown.
Training your dog to use the pool stairs
When your family is swimming with the dog he will be under close watch. But what about the times when he’s in the backyard alone. If he is a large dog and it is hot the pool might be too tempting for him. To help assure his safety stair training is a must. This can be a fun time for you and your pet. There should be at least two people involved, one in the pool and one out of the pool. Start with the dog outside the pool. Give the dog his favorite treat. Then let the dog get in the pool with the second person and keep him near the stairs. Now the person on the cool deck should show the dog the treat and entice him to climb the stairs out of the water to get the treat. Give him lots of praise. Every few times start the dog a little farther away from the stairs so he has to swim to it. Continue to do this exercise over and over until he’s confident about using the pool stairs.
The next step is a little trickier
The next step is a little trickier. You want your dog to always go to the stairs to get out no matter where he is in the pool or where you are outside the pool. So now the person on the cool deck will stand a few feet down the side of the pool away from the stairs. He will then call the dog. The idea is to get the dog to go up the stairs to get to the person and not just swim over to the side where the person is standing.
The person in the water will help guide the dog to the steps each time the person on the side calls the dog. When the dog swims to the stairs to get out he will get his treat. One way to get your dog to go in the right direction is to float a ball or toy towards the stairs. As he swims to the toy have the person on the side call the dog. When your dog exits via the stairs give him his treat. Once the dog has accomplished this step you can be fairly assured that he will know how to get out of the pool no matter where he is or where the person is calling him.
Stair training may take awhile. Always make training time a fun play time. Never allow the session to go on too long and tire the dog out. It should always end on a fun note so the dog will remember that for next time.
Note: Some pools have built in seats on the side. This is another good way for your dog to get out of the pool if he is a large dog. After he is fully stair trained you can show him he can get out using the built in seat during play time. But use this exit only for play as you don’t want to confuse your dog. You want the stairs to become the habit so it will be second nature to him in case of an emergency.
1. When playing with your dog in the pool it can be a good idea to have your dog wear a life jacket. You can find the right size jacket at your local pet store or online at a dog supply site. Whether your dog is a toy breed or a large breed a jacket will help make his swimming experience a lot more relaxing and less tiresome.
2. Don’t leave pool or dog toys floating in the water when you are done swimming. Just as a child might be tempted to jump in and get a toy so will your dog. Even if you have stair trained your dog he could jump in during the cold winter months and get hypothermia and drown.
3. Keep your pool clean. Murky green water could be mistaken as something to walk on.
4. If your dog is small and your built in pool steps are too deep or high for him you can purchase a dog ramp made for pools. Or buy drop in steps for the pool. These steps usually have railings on them so they benefit you, too.
5. If your dog is too small to use the pool stairs and you prefer not to install the ramp or drop in steps then you should make sure your pool is fenced. Because he is so small if he fell in he wouldn’t be able to get out even if he knows where the stairs are. Another consideration would be to never let him in the pool at all. Then he won’t know how much fun it is and probably won’t want to get in when you’re not around.
6. Always watch your elderly dog around water. When a dog gets older he has the same problems as a human. He can loose his balance, have poor eyesight, get dementia, etc. All these things can cause a safety hazard to your pet. Even if you are in the pool swimming keep an eye on your older dog.
A water safety trained dog makes a happy dog and a happier owner.