Safety for your furry friend: Water Edition!

water safety

Happy summer, Calgary Humane Society Supporters! It’s time for some fun at the sun!

We have been loving the great summer weather here at the shelter! Summer also marks summer camp season at CHS, meaning that hundreds of animal-loving kids have been attending the shelter to learn more about what we do and how we help animals in Calgary. If you are coming to the shelter on a weekday, keep an eye out for these young learners and give them a wave!

Waves are also the topic of today’s blog (how’s that for a flawless transition!). That’s right, fun in the sun often means lakes, rivers and swimming pools! Today on the blog we bring you some water safety tips for pets.

Water Safety for Pets

  1. Supervise, supervise, supervise! If your pet is going to be near the water with you then remember that it is your responsibility to know where your pet is at all times. Just like a child, a pet can wander off quickly, so if you know that you are headed to an event with lots of distractions it may be safer to leave your pet at home.
  1. Watch out for signs of stress. Dogs have a number of body language signals that indicate stress. Keep a keen eye out for: lip licking (when not eating), yawning (when not tired), sniffing (especially if there seems to be nothing to sniff), whale eye (you see the whites of your dog’s eyes), stiff body or facial muscles, dry panting (though this may also be heat) or a dog attempting to lean away or exit a situation. If your dog starts showing these signs in response to activities near the water, they are probably not having much fun.
  1. Invest in a life jacket! Many dogs can swim, but many more cannot. Dogs with very large heads (in relation to their bodies), barrel-chested dogs and more portly dogs will likely find swimming difficult or impossible. Dogs that are not frequent swimmers may tire more quickly than expected when swimming, even in calm waters. A life jacket will help to ensure that your pet is safe if they do try to take a dip in the lake.
  1. Watch out for moving water. River swimming is a favourite pastime for many dogs, but it can be dangerous! Before allowing your pet access to the river, watch out for debris (common after floods), fast moving water and undercurrents that could overpower your pet’s swimming ability. Just a few weeks ago there was a dog that got caught up in the river current and had to be rescued by a good Samaritan several kilometers down the river! Thankfully that story ended well, but if there is any question about the condition of the water it is probably a good idea to skip the river swim.
  1. Boat safety is for pets too! Even if your pet is a good swimmer, they should be wearing a life jacket if on a boat. Unlike a pet that chooses to jump in the water and swim (and therefore has time to prepare themselves) a dog thrown off a boat during an accident may not be ready to swim or could even be knocked out in the accident. Keeping a life jacket on your pet while boating will ensure that if you do have an accident that both you and your pet are able to safely float until rescue arrives. Many pet life jackets also have a very useful handle on the top that can be used to safely lift your pet out of the water when rescue arrives!
  1. Bring lots of water. Thirsty dogs are likely to drink out of ponds, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. This could expose your dog to parasites or bacteria that lead to gastrointestinal distress and unhappy poop. Some parasites may also lead to bigger health problems. Keeping a stock of clean, fresh water for your pet will reduce your pet’s urge to sip from the stream.
  1. BBQ? Watch out for snack stealing! BBQs at the beach are delicious, but hotdogs are an all too tempting snack for a hungry pooch who has spent the day swimming. Bring plenty of your pet’s regular food, keep human food out of reach and let others know exactly what types of food, and how much, your pet is allowed to have.
  1. Keep on leash and under control. Unless you are in an off-leash area you will need to keep your pet on a leash. If the beach or area you are in is an off-leash area, remember that you are still responsible to have your pet under control. That means your pet needs to come straight to you when called, regardless of other temptations. Need help mastering your recall? Calgary Humane Society’s behaviour department has a training class called Toto Recall and private consultations to help build these skills!
  1. Watch out for boaters and jet skis. If your pet is swimming, watch out for nearby boaters or jet skis who may not be able to see your pet. A brightly coloured lifejacket on your pet will make them more visible, but a boater may still fail to see them if they are too close. Restrict your pet to swimming in areas where boats don’t typically travel or in areas that are roped off for swimming.
  1. Bring some shade. Just like people our pets can suffer from sunburns and heat exhaustion. Reflections off the water can magnify the effects of the sun, so bring along a large umbrella or another source of shade to give your pet a break from the warm summer rays.

 Do you have a water safety tip that we missed? Is there a set of safety tips you would like to see? Let us know on our Facebook page! We hope you all have a happy and healthy summer!