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Dogs and Swimming

Swimming is great exercise for a dog, and many dogs love the water. Dogs swim in swimming pools, lakes, ponds, and the ocean. Dogs run on beaches and ride in boats. But as with most physical activities, swimming comes with a few dangers, and it's up to you to keep your dog safe.

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Despite their hair, dogs can get sunburned. So how can you take your dog with you for a day of sand and sun and still keep him safe? First, get a sunscreen made for dogs, and use it according to directions. Use an umbrella made to block the sun's rays. The potential for dangerous sun exposure is highest between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M., so avoid prolonged exposure during those hours. You'll both be healthier for it!

Be cautious about water that may be contaminated with chemicals. Many parks, golf courses, subdivisions, and other sites treat their ponds to control algae. Even if the pond itself isn't treated, it may contain fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides from drainage run-off from the surrounding area. Dogs can become ill or even die from ingesting the chemicals. The chemicals may also cause skin irritations.

Swimming pools are a bit better, but still present their own dangers. If you own a pool, fence it off securely from the rest of the yard and don't let your dog have access to the pool area unless you are present. Most dogs can't climb out the side of a pool or up a ladder, so teach yours where the steps are so that he can get out of the water. Even good swimmers drown in pools when they become exhausted and can't find a way out.

If your dog has been swimming in chlorinated water, give him a quick bath to remove the chlorine, which can dry his coat and make him sick if he licks himself.

Some beaches allow dogs, and playing in the waves can be great fun. Be sure that dogs are allowed, follow the rules, and clean up after your dog. Remember, the canines aren't the only ones going barefoot on the beach! When you're finished for the day, check your dog carefully for burrs and stickers from beach vegetation. A bath is a good idea, too. Lakes that allow motor boats often have a fair amount of petroleum in the water, and your dog doesn't need to ingest that from his coat. If he's been swimming in the ocean, you need to remove the salt from his coat and skin to prevent irritation.

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If you're traveling to Florida with your dog, be aware that alligators can and do attack and kill dogs. Dogs are attacked far more often than people, probably because dogs look more like the wild animals that make up the gators' natural diet. Don't allow your dog to swim in ponds, lakes, or canals. Keep your dog away from the banks as well, especially where there is heavy vegetation.

No matter where your dog does her swimming, be sure to clean and dry her ears afterwards. Water retained in the ears makes a terrific environment for bacteria and yeast to grow.

Lots of dogs enjoy boating. If you plan to take your dog for a cruise, get her a life preserver. Even if she knows how to swim, if she jumps or falls out of the boat it may take a while for you to get back to pick her up. A life preserver will keep her afloat if she gets tired (or is injured jumping or falling from the boat). The bright colors of the life preserver will also make her easier to see in the water.

Of course, you want to prevent your dog from going into the water when you don't want her to, so keep a leash on her and either hold the leash or fasten it securely in the boat. Make sure she doesn't have enough leash to jump over the side.

Before you take him out on a boat, make sure you'll be able to haul your dog back in if necessary. Lifting a reasonably large dog straight up out of the water isn't easy. Be sure, too, that you can provide some shade for your dog to keep him cool and prevent sunburn. Take along plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog © 2003 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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