Hot and humid Southern summers are the bane of any pet owner’s existence. Nobody wants to walk their dog on burning pavement, or hike through muggy woods. Even in your own backyard, the sun will make it very easy to give up on throwing a ball after ten minutes. And if you have a fluffy Husky or Great Pyrenees? Forget about it!
So, how do fur-parents keep their fur-babies cool in the summer?
Take them to the pool!
Pools are one of the best ways to keep your pet (and yourself!) cool during the hottest months of the year. But how do you introduce your dog to them? I spoke to Chuck and Rebecca Grove—representatives of Dixie Dock Dogs—and they explained that, interestingly, a good place to start before even trying the pool is a lake! Pools can scare dogs because they can see the bottom, but don’t understand that it’s filled with water. To them, it looks like a very high cliff! Once they are used to be in and around water, they are more likely to want to swim in the pool. And, of course, if you want to do something like Dock Diving, which takes place in a pool, your dog has to be trained in a pool! So, how do you go about getting them to swim in a place they think they’ll fall into?
Tip: Be aware of water toxicities!
That means make sure your dog doesn’t swallow too much water—regardless of where they’re swimming. Lakes and streams can have harmful bacteria in them; too much chlorine isn’t very good for anyone (much less dogs); and salt water can both dehydrate your dog and give them diarrhea. So just be mindful of how much water they’re ingesting—no matter where you take them.
Never, EVER, throw or push your dog into the water. That is the best way to ensure they will never trust you again!!!
The number one rule of introducing a dog to the water is: do not break their trust. This means you have to coax them—not force them—to get them to a point where they can enter the water on their own. The second rule is to make sure they have a clear path to an exit, and that they know exactly where it is. That way, they can make their way out whenever they want to if they start feeling panicky. Life jackets and floats can also help tremendously, since they keep the dog’s head above the water without them expending too much effort.
But with some dogs, coaxing may not work. If that is the case with your dog, try to see if they are more toy-driven! Bring their favorite toys with you to the pool (preferably the squeaky ones!), and get them excited! Once they realize that they can have the toy, but they have to cross the water to get it, many dogs will dive right in! And, in the event that toys don’t work, you could also try partnering your dog with a more confident dog. Sometimes, when nervous dogs see another dog jump into the pool, they may realize that there is nothing to be scared of and follow them in.
However, the most important rule is to make sure your dog is having fun! You don’t want them to be stressed and nervous the entire time, and if they seem a little overwhelmed it’s okay for them to take a break! This break can last minutes, hours, or even until next summer if your dog is having a lot of trouble. But the length of time is nothing to worry about, since sometimes when dogs mature they are more willing to try swimming than they were as puppies. So, don’t give up! Just step back for a bit, and try again later.
And whether your dog is a professional dock diver or if you’d just like to spend some one-on-one time getting them used to the water, our pool at Rucker Pet is open all summer long. So, come on out, stay cool, and have fun!