Summertime is the best time to embark (pun intended) on awesome swimming adventures in the great outdoors with your furry best friend. Not only is it an excellent way for you to both cool off from the intense Missouri heat, but it’s also a fun and engaging way to stay active, get exercise, and enjoy some real bonding time together. As much fun as playing in the water is, however, it can quickly turn dangerous if you aren’t playing it safe. Use these helpful hints as a guide to help ensure your pup’s optimal health and safety when swimming in ponds, lakes, pools, and other bodies of water. Of course, you can always talk to your Eagle Animal Hospital veterinarian if you have specific questions or concerns about your pet. Now, let’s explore water safety tips!

Use these tips to help you and your pet enjoy safe swimming all summer long.

All Dogs Are Natural Swimmers, Right?

Contrary to popular belief, all dogs are not born with the innate ability to swim. While it is true that, yes, most dogs can swim or doggie paddle, some simply don’t like to swim — and some breeds actually shouldn’t. The best thing you can do is to not assume your dog likes to swim. Rather, test the waters so to speak. See how your dog reacts to water in say, a kiddie pool, and then progressively introduce them to a larger body of water outdoors starting in shallow water. Do so slowly and cautiously and never force them into the water, especially if they seem anxious or timid. 

Risk Factors to Keep in Mind


Puppies definitely don’t know how to swim. Sure, they can instinctively move their limbs to doggie paddle, but actually swimming is a whole other story. Start introducing your puppy to the water gradually so they can become familiar with it before “diving in,” so to speak. 

Here are some handy hints for training your puppy to love the water:

  • Introducing them to the water should be gradual, as well as a fun, rewarding experience. 
  • Start by introducing them to water in a bathtub or kiddie pool.
  • Before going outdoors, your puppy should understand basic obedience skills.
  • For their first outdoor water experience, start in shallow water.
  • Always keep them leashed during their first several ventures into shallow water.
  • Gradually introduce them to deeper water while continuing to keep them leashed.
  • Never force them into the water or toss them into the water — this can be traumatizing and may cause a lifelong fear of water.

Brachycephalic Breeds

Some dog breeds have a harder time swimming simply because of their biology and body structure. Brachycephalic breeds (breeds with shortened heads) that are smaller in stature like Pugs and French Bulldogs may have a tougher time swimming and staying afloat. They have short snouts, short necks, short legs, and big, broad chests that make swimming difficult and they can quickly sink. For these breeds, stick to extremely shallow water and keep them leashed to prevent possible drowning. 

Rescue Dogs

When introducing a rescue dog to water, it’s important to keep in mind that they may not have had a positive experience (or any for that matter) with water in the past. Talk to your veterinarian to see what suggestions they have, and explore dog obedience or dog counseling classes to help with the process.

Help Your Dog Feel Comfortable In the Water

As we’ve mentioned, dogs need to learn to swim, just like their human counterparts. Help them learn to love the water. Walk into shallow water with them by your side so they see it’s safe. Throw a ball or a stick in the water (just not too far at first). Then, progressively throw the object a little farther each time to slowly introduce them to water they can actually swim in. The most important thing you can do as a dog parent is to be calm, patient, understanding, and attentive.  

If they continue to be uninterested in swimming, or they display anxious behaviors near water, it may be time to look for another activity that you can share in together.  

Explore Water Safety Gear

There are many options when it comes to water safety gear for dogs. It’s always safer to have them wear a doggie life vest when playing in the water as a precaution. What’s great about doggie life vests is that they have a little handle (or multiple handles) located at the top of the vest, which allows for a quick way to grab your dog in case of an emergency. The key is to make sure the safety vest fits them right so it’s not so loose that they slip right out of it, and not too tight that it constricts their breathing, movements, and circulation.

Never Leave Your Pup Unattended Near Water

One of the best safety practices you can follow is to never leave your dog unattended near water, especially moving water. All it takes is one thing to catch their attention causing them to leap into the water, which can spell disaster if you’re boating in open water or you’re near a river. 

Avoid Swimming In Risky Situations

If a situation seems too risky, it probably is. Use your best judgment to determine whether swimming conditions are good or bad. 

Here are some tips to follow:

  • Never swim during stormy weather, especially when it’s thundering.
  • Never swim in bodies of water designed for storm maintenance, or storm-swollen ponds or lakes.
  • Avoid swimming in windy conditions that can cause the water to become choppy and dangerous for your pet.
  • Avoid taking your dog swimming at extremely busy ponds, lakes, and rivers where they could become easily lost or disoriented if they lose sight of you.
  • Avoid swimming in areas with high populations of reptiles and biting insects.
  • Keep an eye out for floating debris that could injure your pet.

Enjoy Safe Swimming Activities With Your Pet All Summer

We’ll continue updating our tips, tricks, and how-to’s, so be sure to check back regularly to learn more ways to keep your pup safe when swimming.

Talk To Your Kansas City Veterinarian

If you have questions or concerns about your pet engaging in water and swimming activities this summer, your veterinarian can provide additional information, resources, and guidance. From referring your pet for obedience and behavioral training to pointing you in the right direction for finding a doggie life vest for your dog, we are here to help. 

Contact Eagle Animal Hospital and Pet Resort to arrange a wellness consultation for your pet, or simply connect to your Riverside veterinarian using Telemedicine via your phone, tablet, or computer. From all of us Eagle, have a safe, healthy, and happy summer with your furry best friend!

If you love reading handy pet safety tips, you love watching our pet safety videos. Head over to YouTube and subscribe to the Eagle Animal Hospital and Pet Resort channel. Here, you can watch insightful and entertaining videos that share information about our animal care services, pet care tips, and so much more. At the very least, you can watch videos of cute dogs and cats to your heart’s content!