Pool Spa Life
Pool Spa Life

Pets and pools

We all enjoy a refreshing dip when the temperature rises, but should you let your pup take the plunge?

Everyone loves a swim on a hot day, right? For many pool owners, that assumption includes man’s best friend. But should pools be restricted to human guests only, or is a paddle okay for your pooch as well? In truth, there’s a range of health and safety issues to think about — from both sides.

We all know the health benefits of swimming when it comes to humans — it’s well established that swimming is a great low-impact, whole-body exercise that can greatly improve
cardiovascular health. So, there’s no real reason to believe it’s any different for dogs, provided they are comfortable in and around water.

Every dog is different… but some breeds just can’t swim

Whether or not your dog is suited to water will depend largely on the breed, but you can’t discount their individual personality. If your pooch hates baths, he probably won’t willingly leap into the pool for a few laps of dog paddle either. Don’t force your dog to swim and never throw him in without warning. If you do want to introduce him to the pool, do it calmly and gradually, ensuring that he is handled in a safe manner and feels supported.

Personal preference aside, some dog breeds have features that just don’t lend themselves to swimming. Short-legged pups can find it difficult to manoeuvre through water and have trouble entering and exiting the pool using steps designed for human legs. ‘Squishy’ faced breeds like French bulldogs and pugs may struggle to keep their snouts above the water line, which means it’s easy for them to feel unsafe and quickly get into trouble.

You’ll have to be the judge when it comes to your dog’s capability in the water, but don’t leave them unattended just to be on the safe side. Even competent swimmers can tire quickly or lose confidence if something spooks them, so ensure you are always close by and can step in if needed.

Wear, tear... and hair

Making sure your dog is well groomed will go a long way to reducing wear and tear on some pool elements, including the interior surface and the filtration system. Sharp nails can be a problem for the pool interior — especially in the case of vinyl-lined pools — but they’re also a safety hazard for other swimmers. You’ll want to make sure your pup’s nails are sufficiently
clipped to prevent unwanted scratches and damage.

Of course, you’ll also need to factor in dog hair — the amount will depend on the breed and the season. While it shouldn’t strain the filter system too much, you’ll definitely have to keep  an eye on things and probably do some extra skimming to capture the additional load.

Extra bather load

Dogs bring more than hair into the pool — they bring dirt and skin oil, just like humans, and probably a bit of faecal matter as well. All of these can add organics and phosphates, which algae love to feed on, so you may need to use a phosphate remover.

You’ll definitely need to regularly check chlorine levels, ensure a healthy water balance to minimise health risks and may additionally require clarifiers or a shock dose if pool use has been particularly heavy.

Are chemicals safe for dogs?

As with humans, chlorine and other pool chemicals may cause slight skin or eye irritations in dogs, but it shouldn’t be a significant problem. As much as practical, don’t let your dog lap up the pool water and make sure to have a bowl of cool clear tap water nearby to provide a preferable drinking alternative. Drinking pool water can cause gastrointestinal issues, particularly in saltwater pools. If your pup simply can’t stop, then remove them from the pool, pop them in the shade and ensure they have access to clear water.

It’s good practice to hose off your dog both before and after a swim, lessening the dirt, hair and other contaminants entering the pool and minimising the risk of any skin irritation post-swim. If your pooch has sensitive ears, watch out for ear infections, and make sure to clean and dry ears thoroughly after swimming.

Safety first

Dogs are no different to people when it comes to pool safety, so make sure you’ve considered everything you need to ensure an incident-free swim. There are plenty of available safety
aids designed for pups, from doggy life jackets to flotation toys and a range of steps, ladders and ramps to make pool entry and exit easier. Life jackets are a great way to build  confidence for dogs that are new to the pool. They are also especially helpful for pups that tire easily or for more muscular (and therefore less buoyant) breeds.

Take particular care around nonsolid pool covers, ensuring your pup can’t access the pool area when covers are fitted. Unattended dogs — even confident swimmers — can easily fall
into the pool, slip under the cover and become trapped.

If your dog enjoys the water, there is absolutely no reason why he or she can’t join you for a dip on a hot summer’s day. Just be sure to consider all of the safety factors outlined and be sure to monitor and maintain your swimming pool water to ensure that no-one’s health is at risk… including Fido’s.

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