Can I Take My Puppy Swimming?
What you should know before her first day at the pool 🏊♀️
The good news is that you can totally take your puppy swimming — as long as you follow some basic safety tips.
We spoke to Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian and veterinary journalist, to find out everything you need to know about puppies and swimming — and how to make sure your day in the water is both fun and safe.
How old should puppies be before they go swimming?
You can start swimming with your puppy when she’s still very young. In fact, it may help her learn that water is fun at a young age (though it’s really up to the individual dog whether she grows up liking the water).
“Puppies with long noses as young as 8 weeks can be introduced to water and swimming in a small, shallow body of water,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo. “Puppies with smushed faces (brachycephalic) may need to be older. Check with your veterinarian before you take brachycephalic puppies or dogs swimming, and remember — some dogs do not like to swim.”
This is because dogs with smushed faces, like pugs, English bulldogs and French bulldogs, often have more trouble breathing due to the shape of their face and nose, which can make swimming more difficult for them.
How to teach a puppy to swim
The first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t make your puppy go in the water if she doesn’t want to.
“Puppies should never be forced to swim,” Dr. Wooten said. “Allow your puppy to enter the water at their own leisure.”
Using a kiddie pool for your puppy’s first swim lesson is a great way to get her used to the water in a safe, shallow area. (This pool is made specifically for dogs! You can get it from Amazon, and it comes in multiple sizes for different pups.)
If your puppy’s ready to hop in the water, follow these steps to teach her to swim:
Make your puppy like the water
Encourage your puppy to get close to the water with treats or toys so she has positive associations with water.
“Make it pleasant — use lots of calm, praising words. You can even offer some treats to help them get their feet wet,” Dr. Wooten said.
Help your puppy paddle
If your puppy doesn’t seem to know how to swim on her own (and not all dogs do know how to swim), you can help teach her by supporting her belly and letting her paddle her legs while you hold her in the water.
Show your puppy how to get out of the water
Show your puppy the way out of the water so she doesn’t get lost. If you’re in the ocean or a lake, make sure you help her walk out onto the shore, and if you’re in a pool, show her the steps.
“Show your dog where the steps are, and then take them a foot or two away from the steps and allow them to swim back and exit,” Dr. Wooten said. “Placing a visual marker by the steps may help your dog orient themselves. If your puppy does well, then gradually increase the distance.”
This step is crucial so your pup can get out on her own. According to Dr. Wooten, “Most dog drowning is due to dogs falling in and not knowing how to exit the pool.”
Can puppies swim in chlorine pools?
Chlorine water is safe for puppies. The levels of chlorine in pools isn’t enough to cause poisoning. However, if your dog gets into chlorine tablets or other pool cleaners and chemicals, that’s cause for concern, and you should take her to the vet right away.
Just don’t let your pup drink a lot of the pool water. Swallowing some water while swimming is fine, but drinking too much could lead to dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea. Keeping a bowl of fresh water nearby will help keep your puppy hydrated and prevent her from drinking the pool water.
If you have your own pool and you’re concerned about your dog being in chlorine water, you can try using Bromine, which is safe for pets, to keep your pool clean instead.
It’s also a good idea to rinse off your puppy when she’s finished swimming in the pool so you’ll get rid of any lingering chlorine on her body, which could irritate her skin.
Dogs and water safety
Don’t let your puppy swim alone or hang out near the pool (or any body of water) by herself. Any time your puppy is swimming or near water, you should be chaperoning her.
“Never leave your dog unsupervised around water deep enough for drowning (above their head while standing),” Dr. Wooten said. “If you have a pool, install a fence or alarm.”
“It is a good idea to practice with the life vest in a controlled environment so your dog doesn't panic in an emergency situation,” Dr. Wooten said.
Be sure to stay in shallow water, and keep your swimming lessons short so your pup doesn’t get tired out, Dr. Wooten said.
So yes, you can take your puppy swimming. As long as you keep these safety tips in mind, you’ll have a fun beach day with your new pup.