Wag Work Wine: Wembley’s Boating & Water Safety Tips for Dogs


By Kristen Lowrey Larson

Life out on the water can be ruff…er, rough for dogs. There’s not always shade available and dogs are still susceptible to dehydration, overheating and water dangers.

With summer approaching faster than a speeding Wembley on a boat, this Memorial Day Weekend is a good time to make sure your pup is prepped for summer fun on the water (in between sips of Zin and bites of burger of course…).

Wembley has spent every year out on our boat since we got him in 2009. Before we ever took him on the boat, however, we bought him a life jacket. I know many times as adults we don’t like to wear life jackets, keeping them handy instead of actually strapping them on, but I always make sure my little ones – my fur child and human baby – are wearing their life jackets on, in or near the water.

Most people probably assume that all dogs know how to swim. Just because the basic survival swim stroke is called “doggie paddling” doesn’t mean that dogs are naturally great swimmers and should be casually tossed in the water.

Wembley, for one, doesn’t really like the water and although he’s a pretty good (and speedy) swimmer (he actually looks like Falcor from The Neverending Story cruising along the surface of the water – pretty cute) most of the time he stays in the boat or on the shore.

Wembley's Liquid Diet

I recommend testing your dog’s swimming skills from the shore at the lake or a calm beach before taking him into deeper water. Watch how your dog responds to the water. Does he run and jump in immediately? Does he tip-toe at the water’s edge? Does he turn around and give you that “f-you-for-putting-me-in-this-life-jacket-and-even-suggesting-that-I-get-my-paws-wet-let-alone-my-fur” look?

If you dog loves, the water and will probably spend most of the day jumping off of your diving board or boat, then you may want to get him a Skamper Ramp like this one. Or, if your dog is too heavy to pick up and put in the boat with one arm, a ramp may be a good option to attach to the swim deck of your boat. If you have a dog of any size or swimming ability it is a good idea to get a ramp for the side of your swimming pool (or boat dock if you’re fancy like that).

Wembley is small enough that we can grab the top of his Ruffwear life jacket (he has an older model version of the Float Coat) and pick him up like a six-pack of beer. His favorite party trick in his lifejacket is to move his paws in a swimming motion if you hold him just above the water, kinda like this dog:

The ASPCA website lists five key water safety tips for dogs:

  • Don’t leave pets unsupervised around water—not all dogs are good swimmers.
  • Heat from the sun is more intense around water. Watch your dog for signs of sunburn or heat stroke, and keep him off hot sand as it can blister paws.
  • Buy your dog a life jacket—and use it. Just like with people, it’s easy for your pup to develop a cramp in her leg, become exhausted too far from shore, or, in rivers or oceans, get overwhelmed by tides.
  • Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt, as well as bacteria or dirt she might pick up from a pond or lake. Be sure to remove wet collars to prevent hot spots.
  • Try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that can easily cause a bellyache.Water from lakes, ponds and rivers should also be avoided as it often contains nasty parasites that cause vomiting, diarrhea and other health issues.

What are some other water safety precautions you take with your dog? Leave your tips in the comments section below!

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