Special Pet Issue

Dog Pool Safety

Maura Mumball Lane

Every year, over 40,000 dogs in the US die from drowning in a pool.  The common belief is that dogs naturally know how to swim. This is not true. Dogs know the panic “dog paddle.” This is not swimming.  The “dog paddle” is the frantic moving of their front legs which puts their bodies in a vertical position. This position and can exhaust them quickly and result in drowning.  All three of my pups, Garland, Minnelli and Happy are good swimmers because we took the time to teach them. The swimming lessons included practice on how to enter and exit the pool. Teaching  your dog to swim is a fun activity and with patience and play, they might just love the pool as much as you do!


To get your dog to feel comfortable in the pool, you need to be comfortable in the pool. Let them see you jump in and have fun. After they see that the pool is a fun place, grab their favorite toy and take it in with you.  Start by sitting on your pool steps and tossing the toy in the water just a few feet from you. Retrieve the toy yourself and use your “good boy/girl” voice. Tossing the ball or toy in the pool will make them want to join in. While still on the steps, ease your pup into your lap or on the step with you. Make the game about both of you getting the toy.  Slowly move further off the step or in water and bring your voice up with praise and excitement. Be sure to use a toy that is easy for them to bite and retrieve while in the water. Favorite stuffed toys are fine just make sure they can float. Repeat the game until your dog is reaching at least halfway across the pool and understands that the steps are the best exit. Keep your dog from trying to go up on the side of the pool by continuing to toss the toy from the steps to the middle and helping them stay on the route to the steps. The next day try encouraging your pup to jump from side of the pool and to exit by using the steps. Use the same method of you doing the retrieving and returning. Don’t be surprised if your pup grabs the toy and hides far from the pool. Just get up and bring it back in the water.  Your dog will always try to please you, but watch for water up the nose, and exhaustion.  Keep play to a time that is good for your pup.

If your pool doesn’t have steps, purchase a Skamper ramp. Skamper ramp is a white plastic device that attaches to the side of your pool and provides and easy grip to allow any animal from dogs to iguanas to get out of the pool on their own.


Pet life vests can give your dog a boost of confidence and are a great idea for those pups that are water shy. Like collars and harnesses, pet life vests can be tricky to select based on small, medium and large. Measure your dog and purchase on line to ensure a good fit.  The life vest should have handles so you can easily lift your dog out of the pool and should be designed to keep their heads out of the water. The fit should allow them to move their legs and keep their body positioned so they can easily swim.


Some large breeds like Labradors and Retrievers are more likely to love the water, but toy dogs like Yorkies, Maltese and Pomeranians can enjoy a dip on hot summer day if you make it fun and safe for them to play.