Life jackets are not just for humans anymore.
As beach weather approaches again, dog owners should be as aware of water safety practices for their animals as they are for themselves.
Dogs may seem inexhaustible while playing in the sun, but they are at risk of drowning, just as are humans, said Jessi Brothers, a customer service specialist at Sam’s Cats and Dogs, Naturally, in Monroe.
“Dogs can get tired in the water just like we do,” she said. “And while dogs can swim, not all of them swim well.”
That’s why her large labrador mix, Yoda, wears a dog life vest at all times while around the water, even when he’s in a kayak with his owners.
“Being a lab, he enjoys swimming, but he still has to wear one even when he swims in a lake, because he may not actually stop swimming when he gets tired,” she said.
And if a dog falls out of a boat, it can be hard to retrieve him without a life vest and even perhaps a long line, she went on.
Furthermore, strong currents in a river or a riptide on a beach can prove stronger than a dog’s swimming skills. A life vest can make the difference in whether the dog survives long enough to be rescued.
Dog life jackets range in price from about $17 for the Kyjen Outward Hound Life Jacket for Dogs, online at www.petguys.com, to the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat at $79.95 at backcountrygear.com.
Sam’s carries a couple of different kinds of dog life jackets, ranging in price from $45.99-$63.99. Features include a D-ring on the jacket on which to attach a leash and pockets so the dog can carry his own supply of dog waste bags.
Other important tips for keeping your dog safe while playing near water include not leaving your dog unsupervised. If your dog is not a good swimmer, you need to be ready to retrieve him as soon as it tires. Dogs, unlike humans, don’t know how to pace themselves, and will more rapidly exhaust themselves swimming than will a person.
If you have a pool at home and a dog that likes to swim in it, put a dog ladder in. There are specially-made pet ladders for sale; an example is the Gamma Skamper Pool Ramp for Pets, $60-$80 at Petco. That way, even if your dog gets into the pool while you aren’t around, he or she can get back out safely.
Be aware that the sun is stronger when around water. Dogs can sunburn, especially fair-furred dogs. Apply sunscreen to your dog’s ears and coat.
Rinse your dog after swimming. Chlorine and sweat are both bad for the pelt, and bacteria in fresh water can affect your dog as it can you. Also, take your dog’s collar off for a bit to let his fur dry lest he develop hot spots.
If your dog doesn’t like the water, don’t force him in. And if you don’t know how well your dog swims, take him or her to a local lake or local dog-friendly swim facility to test your pet’s abilities.
And try to keep your dog from drinking pool or sea water. Freshwater also is a risk, as it, too, can carry bacteria and parasites. Bring a supply of clean water for your dog as well as for yourself.