Barn Buddies



Swim Your Dog!

Swimming Dog

Summertime heat doesn't have to drive us into the air conditioning - we can take the dog swimming instead. What better way to get a cool outdoor shower than from a wet happy dog?

Swimming is great exercise for anyone, and dogs are no exception. In injury-recovery therapy situations, hydrotherapy (swimming) provides non-weight-bearing exercise to strengthen the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system, to get the patient back into full function without the stress of body weight. It helps reduce further complications from compensation as well. Dogs recovering from an injury with primarily confinement and rest lose muscle and tone, fitness, and overall health can decline.

For those already healthy and strong, swimming helps them stay that way. It is great fun, and a great way to strengthen the dog-human relationship.

Benefits of swimming (besides fun):
Develop and maintain muscle tone
Build and maintain strength and fitness
Gain flexibility and increase range of motion
Maintain or optimize weight
Strengthen circulatory and nervous system
Improve proprioception
Enhance overall fitness and health
Encourage activity in older or less active dogs
Sidestep compensation complications
Help guard against weight bearing injuries
Exposure to the natural world if a natural water source
Builds healthy relationships 

IMPORTANT: Be sure your dog is sufficiently trained to come to you when you call, whistle, or otherwise signal him, no matter what. Imagine taking him swimming over lunch hour, and he takes off to the other side of the lake. Or a big storm blows in and Max would rather stay out in the water…

Not all dogs know what to do in water; some need to be properly introduced. A pup, or any dog new to swimming, must never be thrown into the water to sink or swim. Let the dog explore the shallow edge and get the feel of the water if he's never been exposed to a large body of water. Go in with him, and keep him harnessed and leashed, until you know if he can swim. For pools, try the steps first, or hold the dog and stay next to the pool edge, until you know his competence. Life vests, used routinely at many indoor dog swimming facilities, can be helpful for first-time outings and/or dogs too large to hold up.

Once he is familiar with swimming, floating sticks and other safe tossables (beware of balls that could lodge in the dog's throat) can be thrown into the water for him to retrieve. Start with short throws, and monitor your dog's energy level. A tired dog may still want to play when he needs to stop and rest. Gradually build to longer swims with farther-reaching throws.

Choose safe places to swim. Avoid popular fishing holes where fish hooks and line could snag him up. Always inspect your dog for such things when swimming. Know the water and avoid areas with current, submerged trees, or other hidden dangers. Know how to swim yourself, in case you would need to rescue your dog. Call for help if a situation is beyond your capabilities; rescuers can do without having to rescue you both.

After swimming, a bath is a good idea for removing any pond scum or questionable pool chemicals. And remember to check carefully for anything caught in the coat or skin. hoofprint