I love to jog with my dog by my side. Swimming with my dog ups physical and emotional enjoyment for both of us. I took this a step further when I learned to do water massage for and with dogs. The dance of stretching and working muscles in warm water is beneficial not only for the dog but for the practitioner. Having been a swimmer since age 10, I have enough water experience in my life to carry a healthy respect for anywhere I might choose to swim. Being a Red Cross trained lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor, I lightheartedly call myself the ‘Safety Girl.’
It is a myth that dogs are born swimmers. They may take to it naturally with the proper calm and safe introduction. We need to be our dog’s lifeguards and that begins before they can take the plunge. Negative early experiences can induce panic and ruin any future interest. Ask any human friend who is afraid to swim!
Whether open water or pools, conditions and water quality must be considered. Open water needs to be checked for underwater hazards such as sharp submerged objects. Wildlife such as snakes could be present. Waves and river currents need to be considered. Lifejackets are now made just for dogs and can be used for swimming as well as boating. Pool hazards can include a lack of a dog friendly exit. Water temperature is another consideration. Water that is too warm can lead to overheating during swim exertion and may also cause ‘drop tail’ due to lack of blood flow in that area. Twenty minutes is plenty for a warm water swim.
Water quality in a pool (fresh or salt water) is to be assessed daily and before anyone enters. Water balancing includes checking the Ph, chlorine (or bromine,) total alkalinity, calcium hardness and Total Dissolved Solids. I have had previous responsibility for public pool water quality. Tests are simple and the Red Cross also has a free on-line course with a certification. Water quality cannot be controlled in open water so we want to be wary of algae blooms and other possible toxic contaminants such as industrial waste or sewer effluents.
Using loving physical support for old or young dogs’ assisted swim experiences in safe waters can begin a lifelong enjoyment. You, the lifeguard, must be certain the dog (as well as children) have no pool access without you being present. Solo swimming is also a no-no should rescue be necessary. Water exits whether boating, onshore or in a pool always need to be considered and practiced. Safety professionals have regular practice sessions so that emergency actions become automatic.
Safety Girl says, Be safe and have fun in Mother Earth’s waters this summer!
Mary Jo Nieson spent 23 years as a Stationary Engineer and as well earned a B.A. in Anthropology. She has a passion for Mother Earth and dogs. She expresses this through dog massage and grooming with organic products in her business, Delicate Paws LLC. 734 469-4714