May is National Water Safety Month and it is the time to get the pool ready and review safety precautions for the family. Pets are often a beloved part of the family, and while parents are usually vigilant about making pool safety a top priority for children, it’s important to remember our pets when it comes to preventing pool accidents and health issues.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) makes some sensible recommendations on keeping dogs safe around residential pools. First, take a look at your yard and pool area with your pup’s safety in mind. Clearly, having a fence around the pool area is a great way to keep your dog out of the pool when unsupervised, especially if you use a lightweight cover. If a dog falls into a covered pool he can become disoriented and remain trapped under the cover, resulting in drowning. APDT recommends keeping a flotation device or life preserver on a long line nearby. A panicked dog will try to climb onto his rescuer, so it is safer to try to pull him to safety with the flotation device, instead of jumping in yourself.
Cats naturally avoid getting wet, so you probably don’t have to worry about your cat leaping into the pool after your retriever. However, a floating pool alarm will sound if the surface is disturbed and would alert you to the fact that your pet has fallen into the pool. Secure fencing with a locking gate is a good first step to keeping your pet out of the pool area. As with children, supervision is key with pets and pools. In busy households where people are coming and going, a small investment in automatic door closers could prevent your pet from spending unsupervised time outdoors.
It makes sense to have a well-trained dog when the family is spending time around the pool. Teach your dog to “stay” and to “wait” at the edge of the pool before leaping in. A strong recall is equally important in the pool area when you want your dog to come to you. Show your dog where the steps are, or use a non-slip ramp if your pool has no steps.
If your dog is a breed that’s not really built for swimming (think stocky legs, bully breeds) or is overweight or senior, you may want to consider outfitting him with a lifejacket for his summer dips. Like humans, dogs don’t always instinctively have great swimming form and may require help learning to use their back legs to make paddling less exhausting. Supervise your pet when he’s swimming – if you see your pup getting tired, call him out and end the swimming session for the day.
Don’t allow your pet to drink chlorinated pool water – keep a water dish nearby. Remember to rinse your dog after swimming to remove chlorine and other chemicals. Collars left on a wet dog can cause hot-spots, and keep your eye out for possible ear infections or skin infections caused by moisture. And, always store your pool chemicals in a safe place where curious pets can’t get to it.
This summer do all you can to prevent unwanted pool accidents for pets and people.