Dogster Tips: 6 Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe in the Water This Summer

Thousands of pets die annually by drowning; here's what to know at the beach or at the pool.


Summer is finally here, and my dog Molly and I love spending our weekends near the water. I’ve found that there is no better way to beat the heat, have some fun, and enjoy my four-legged best friend.

But what most dog owners don’t realize is that each year, thousands of pets die in drowning accidents, and anything that can harm you at the beach can also harm your dog. High temperatures, sunburn, riptides, sharp shells or broken glass, jellyfish, and aggressive dogs are all potential hazards to help your dog avoid.

Here are some tips to safeguard your dog for a fun-filled summer near the water:

1. Don’t forget the sunscreen

Hairless breeds; short-coated, light-colored dogs; and dogs with pink noses are more prone to getting sunburn. You can find sunscreen specifically formulated for pets at most pet stores or online. Make sure not to use sunscreen that contains zinc, as it can be toxic to dogs if ingested. To avoid licking, avoid sunscreens with fragrance.

2. Make sure your dog has great recall

Make sure your dog has a firm grasp of the recall command before you allow him to go off-leash near any body of water. This means your dog comes to you when you call him, every single time.

3. Offer plenty of fresh water

Sun, sand, and saltwater are a delight for your dog’s senses, but they can leave him with a nasty beach hangover. Discourage your dog from drinking seawater by offering fresh, cool water often and by removing him from the ocean if you see him drink it. Seawater can irritate a dog’s stomach and cause vomiting; it’s also very dehydrating. A freshwater rinse immediately after the beach will help keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy.

4. Make sure you know and understand ocean conditions

Unless your dog knows how to hang ten on a surfboard, chances are he isn’t on the lookout for the perfect wave. Make sure you are aware of rip currents and undertows.

5. Get him a life preserver if you’re sailing

Going for a leisurely cruise on the lake or along the bay? Bring your furry friend along, just make sure he has a life preserver vest and a secure area away from the edge of the boat to keep safe in rough waters.

6. Think like a dog around swimming pools

Even dogs who are seasoned swimmers can get into trouble around pools. Dogs don’t automatically know where the stairs are in a pool. So if they jump or fall in, their instinct is to swim to the nearest edge and tread water. If no one is there to redirect them or lift them out, they’ll struggle to tread water until they are exhausted and can drown.

If you allow your dog to play near a pool, make sure to teach them where the stairs are. Visible pool ramps are also a good idea and can be purchased online and in most pet stores.

When it comes to swimming and fear of water, dogs are just like humans. Many love it and seem to have a natural ability. Others do not. Before taking your dog on your next trip to the beach or pool, make sure he is well acquainted with the water and doesn’t have any major health issues or physical limitations that would make swimming more difficult. Heading off to the beach, lake or lounging poolside are great ways to spend time with your dog, but be aware: Each year, approximately 40,000 pets die in drowning accidents.

Read more about summertime safety:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About the author: Pawtopia Dog Training’s founder, Colleen Demling, is a CPDT-KA and a AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator who trained Service Dogs for Canine Companions for several years before starting Pawtopia. She designed the Temperament Test for the Therapy Dog Program at the Naval Medical Center San Diego and also writes for many local rescues and other dog related websites. She has professional associations with the International Association of Canine Professionals and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

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