Running, fetch, Frisbee. Chances are you've enjoyed these activities with your dog at some point, but maybe your furry friend has developed arthritis or hip dysplasia and can't run much anymore. Maybe his weight has gotten a little out of hand and he can't quite jump for those flying discs these days. Or maybe you live in a particularly hot climate and worry that the heat is keeping your dog from getting all the exercise he needs. Swimming is an excellent alternative in these situations.
Should Your Dog Go Swimming?
Before plunging into the pool, make sure your dog is able to swim. Despite the phrase "the doggie paddle," even the most basic swimming motion is not natural to canines, as The Discovery Channel explains. Some breeds shouldn't go into water where they can't stand with their head above the waterline. Bulldogs, dachshunds, Maltese, pugs and other dogs are simply unable to swim, either due to their leg strength or other physical limitations. While other dogs such as retrievers, setters and spaniels are known for their love of water, that doesn't mean your pooch of that breed will automatically want to dive right in. Acclimate your dog to the water at his own pace. Forcing or tossing him into the pool is likely to traumatize him, could potentially create a fear of the water, and cause a trust issue with you.
What Are the Benefits?
A perfectly healthy and fit dog will benefit from regular swimming. The energy he expends with one minute in the water is equal to the energy spent with four minutes of running, as he has to work harder to keep moving in the water than he does on land. Respiratory, cardio-vascular and muscle systems all benefit from this workout, and it avoids putting heavy pressure on his joints. To promote proper bone density, however, a healthy dog still needs land-based exercise in addition to the water workout.
The no-impact aspect makes swimming an ideal option for a dog before and after orthopedic surgery. Muscle strengthening around the injury is essential and the weightless movement of swimming won't exacerbate the problem. After the surgery and adequate recovery time, a dog can work on improving circulation, strengthening the muscle and joint mobility through swimming, without endangering the surgical repairs, according to VividLife.me.
Land-based exercises can stress an overweight dog's joints and bones. The non-concussive movement of swimming improves the metabolism and burns calories without straining the dog's body.
Where Can Your Dog Swim?
If you're lucky enough to have a pool in your yard, then your dog can start treading water right in the comfort of his own home. If you don't have a swimming pool built in to your yard, there are companies like In The Swimthat carry affordable above ground pool. options. An above ground pool is a great choice since you won't have to worry about your dog accidentally falling in before he knows how to swim. Even if you don't go the swimming pool route, there are still options for your pooch to paddle around. Your community may have a dog beach where the ocean or lake is open to pets. Some doggie day-cares and kennels offer dog-only pools.
Avoid stagnant bodies of water that may harbor bacteria, parasites or other dangerous organisms your dog may swallow, as PetMD advises. Always watch your dog when he is in the water. He may not know where to exit. He also may not be proactive enough to get out when he's tired, so a life vest could be a wise investment. Even a strong swimmer will be safer wearing a doggie life vest.