22 Water Sports & Safety Essentials for Dogs And How to Spot “Dry Drowning”

It’s summer, it’s hot and just as you love cooling off in the ocean, pool, river or waterpark, many of our canine companions love it as well. Whether you are participating in water sports like dock diving, or just taking a stroll on the beach or lakeside, safety is paramount. Let’s take a look at how to keep our dogs safe in and around water.

Introduce Your Dog To the Water

Roo in water.
Photo credit Heather Riegraf-Uplinger.

Many of us teach our human children to learn how to swim, both as a fun activity as well as for safety purposes. Especially if you live anywhere near water, whether it is a pond, pool, or ocean, it makes sense to have your dog be well acquainted with the body of water.

Start Slow & Shallow

Introducing dog to water.
Photo credit Michelle Trillhaase.

Note that we frame this as introducing your dog to water, not teaching it to swim, at least not right away.

Most experts suggest starting someplace where the dog can wade in by themselves, the water is a comfortable temperature, and there are few distractions such as waves, kids playing, or other water commotion.

Ponds & Lakes Are Ideal

Dog in water.
Photo credit Jenna Laws._

Picture a lake or pond where the dog can wade in to just a few inches of water, alongside you.

Make It Fun

Dogs frolicking near water.
Photo credit Jenna Laws.

Make it fun and don’t have any expectations. This isn’t about making them go in deep enough so that they are over their head, or need to paddle. It is simply introducing them to the feel of the water.

Many dogs will follow you right in. You can have them on a long leash, walk along the shore and then just walk in so that you are both in the water together. Do not pull them in. Let them walk in on their own.

Having them on a lead will prevent them from all of a sudden taking off into the deepwater, although that would rarely happen at this time.

Have An Adult Introduce The Dog to the Water

woman playing with dog in water.
Image credit Martin Valigursky via Shutterstock.

There are few things as adorable as children and dogs frolicking in the water, but it makes safety sense to have an adult, who is water savvy, teach the dog how to also be water safe. Any child or dog should be supervised around water.

All Kinds of Dogs Can Swim!

woman and dog on beach.
Image credit TunedIn by Westend61 via Shutterstock.

Certain breeds, such as retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Irish Water Spaniels might have a natural affinity for the water, but dogs large and small can swim! Start slowly, and always put safety first.

Play In and Near The Water

woman running on beach with dog.
Image credit Denis Moskvinov via Shutterstock.

You can play with them in the water with a favorite toy. If they like to fetch, you can certainly integrate that activity. They may forget about the water altogether and just focus on the toy. Keep to the shallows at this time. The goal is to get them familiar with the body of water in general.

Let’s Start Swimming!

dog swimming.
Photo credit Danielle Wolf.

After several outings, once you see that your dog is comfortable, you can get them fitted for a canine swimming life-jacket. These are vest-type jackets which provide buoyancy, but also allow their limbs to have the freedom they need in order to swim.

Head to the water source that they are comfortable with and wade in deeper, perhaps with their favorite toy, and encourage them to follow. Many dogs will follow you right in. All you’re trying to do it this point is get them to the point of buoyancy where they have to swim for a few feet, but they can also go back to the shallows where they can stand up on their own. Before you know it, your dog will be swimming!

In-Ground Pools & Pools with Decks

Dog on float in pool.
Photo credit Marina Oleg Nedoshytko.

Introducing a dog to a pool is a little different because they typically do not have an area where the dog can enter as gradually as a pond or ocean. If there is an area with shallow steps, you can start there. We do recommend swim jackets to be used around pools.

Ensuring your dog can safely exit a pool is crucial for preventing accidents and promoting confidence around water. Here are several effective ways and tools to help your dog get themselves out of a pool:

Canine Pool Safety

Dog climbing out of pool wearing vest.
Photo credit GoDogPhoto.
  • Pool Ramps: Pool ramps are designed to provide an easy and safe way for dogs to exit the water. These ramps typically float on the water surface and are anchored to the pool edge.
  • Pool Steps for Dogs: Adding special dog-friendly steps to your pool can make it easier for your dog to exit. These steps are often larger and non-slip to accommodate a dog’s footing.
  • Dog Pool Ladder: Similar to pool steps, ladders designed for dogs offer another means for them to exit the water. These ladders usually have wide, flat steps and a non-slip surface.
  • Pool Alarms: While not a direct method for helping a dog exit, pool alarms can alert you if your dog accidentally falls into the pool. This allows you to respond quickly and assist them if they are struggling to find the exit.
  • Non-Slip Surfaces: Ensure that the area around the pool exit is non-slip. This prevents your dog from slipping and potentially falling in, or injuring a leg or other body part.

Kiddie Pools

Davey the dog in kiddie pool.
Photo credit Elizebeth Spain.

Many folks find that a kiddie pool set up in the yard is welcomed by their canine companions.


Dog in river.
Photo credit GoDogPhoto.

Rivers vary hugely. Some are extremely shallow, while some do not have any shallow areas whatsoever. Some hardly have any current, while others have quite a bit. Use your judgment and always start slowly. Swim jackets are a great idea.


Dogs in ocean.
Image credit Tim Suckow via Shutterstock.

The ocean, like rivers, can vary depending on your location. Very low tide can be a great time to start, and some dogs are not bothered by the very small waves. Consider getting your dog outfitted for a swim jacket before you start.

Water Parks

Dog with Sprinkler.
Photo credit GoDogPhoto.

It is rare that you can find a human waterpark that allows dogs, but if you do, some dogs find it to be an incredibly fun water-based activity.

You can also set up sprinklers in your own yard.

Swimming Lessons

Teaching dog to swim.
Image credit Gerain0812 via Shutterstock.

For more advanced swimming techniques, and to help your dog become water-safe in deeper water, we highly encourage professional swimming lessons.

Water Bacteria & Chemicals

Bacteria in water.
Image credit Simone Hogan via Shutterstock.

No matter what kind of body of water you are working with, you want to make sure that bacteria or chemical levels are safe for humans and canines. Town websites will often have information on bacteria levels.

Beware Of Dry Drowning

dog playing in water
Photo credit Ali Peterson from Ali Peterson via Canva Pro

Dry drowning, also known as secondary drowning, is a potentially fatal condition that can occur when a dog inhales water, which can lead to respiratory issues. Dry drowning – and any related complications – can happen hours to days after swimming! The water can irritate the dog’s airway, causing it to swell and constrict, making it difficult for the dog to breathe normally. Dry drowning can also happen if water enters the dog’s lungs or causes their larynx (vocal cords) to spasm. If you have a dog who has been playing in the water you should watch for these signs and get medical help immediately:

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Coughing, hacking or choking
  • Clear to frothy red spit-up
  • Wheezing
  • Drooling
  • Crackling sound from the chest
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Bluish skin and gums
  • Extreme lethargy (due to lack of oxygen to the brain)

Some Dogs Just Don’t Like Water

Dog on beach.
Image credit AChanFoto via Shutterstock.

If your dog does not like the water, don’t push it.

Dock Diving

Dog dock diving.
Image credit Kristina Wilkinson via Shutterstock.

Since we mentioned dock diving, let’s take a closer look. This is what is called a performance sport, and it is exactly what it sounds like. Dogs run down a dock and go soaring through the air and then splashing into the water.

There are competitions for height and length – in other words, how much air the dog gets – and the dogs can even have a target toy to grab midair. Those that love it, really love it! In fact, you cannot keep them from running down the dock and jumping in!

For more information, visit this article which explains how to get started.

Or Dive With Your Dog For Fun

woman and dog diving in pool.
Image credit Denis Moskvinov via Shutterstock.

Dock Diving is an organized sport, but some dogs just like to dive! You could even play fetch games with them in a pool.

General Safety Precautions Around Water

rushing river. I
mage credit Liudmila Yagovatina via Shutterstock.

Ensuring your dog’s safety around water involves a combination of precautionary measures and the use of specific tools designed for water safety. Here are some key steps and tools to keep your furry friend safe:

  1. Supervision: Always supervise your dog when they are near or in the water. Dogs can tire quickly, and strong currents can pose a significant danger.
  2. Swimming Ability: Not all dogs are natural swimmers. Gradually introduce your dog to water and ensure they are comfortable and capable of swimming before allowing them to venture into deeper areas.
  3. Avoiding Dangerous Waters: Keep your dog away from fast-moving rivers (as seen above), strong currents, and places with sharp rocks or debris. These environments can be hazardous even for strong swimmers.
  4. Hydration: Provide fresh water for your dog to drink. Prevent them from drinking pool water, which can contain harmful chemicals, or stagnant water, which can harbor bacteria and parasites.
  5. Temperature Awareness: Be mindful of the water temperature. Cold water can lead to hypothermia, while hot weather can increase the risk of heatstroke.

Tools for Water Safety

dog in swim jacket and toy in pool.
Photo credit GoDogPhoto.
  1. Life Jackets: A life jacket is essential, especially for dogs that are not strong swimmers or are in boats. Look for a life jacket with a handle on the back, which allows you to lift your dog out of the water if needed.
  2. Floating Devices: Use floating toys and devices that encourage your dog to stay in a safe area and make swimming enjoyable. Avoid toys that can easily be punctured or can sink.
  3. Dog Pools: For controlled water fun, consider a dog pool. These are especially good for dogs that are not ready for open water.
  4. Protective Boots: On hot days, the ground around pools or lakes can become very hot. Protective boots can prevent your dog’s paws from getting burned.
  5. Waterproof Collars and Leashes: Use waterproof gear to avoid the unpleasant smell of wet materials and ensure they do not get damaged by frequent water exposure.
  6. Ear Protection: Dogs that frequently swim are prone to ear infections. Use ear cleaning solutions to keep their ears dry and clean.

The Takeaway

dog frolicking in water.
Image credit Samantha Geis.

It all begins with baby steps, introducing dogs to the water in a safe manner with humans in the water and the dogs together, and the dogs wearing life jackets. You and your dog can enjoy a cool summer by the water!

Performance Sports To Do With Your Dog

dog agility.
Image credit thka via Shutterstock.

2024 statistics say that 65.1 million U.S. households have a dog. We love to walk with them, play with them, sleep with them, and even travel with them. A healthy dog gets physical as well as mental exercise and there are many performance sports that you can do with your canine companion that are enriching for both dog and human. What are canine performance sports? Nose work, diving, obedience, agility, flyball, rally, tracking, and more. Most of us have heard of obedience training, but perhaps the others are new to you. Here’s a look at the more popular American Kennel Club (AKC) performance sports that you can do with your dog, which will add a whole new level of fun and bonding to your relationship. READ: Performance Sports To Do With Your Dog

How Many Of These Foods Did You Know Could Kill Your Dog?

Dog with poisonous foods.
Image credit Monika Wisniewska via Shutterstock.

Our canine companions bring immense joy into our lives, and it’s our duty to ensure their well-being. However, certain everyday foods found in our homes can pose serious risks to their health. Here’s a look at foods that should never be fed to dogs or left within their reach.

To be prepared, have contact details of your local veterinarian, the nearest emergency clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) at hand. READ: How Many Of These Foods Did You Know Could Kill Your Dog?

Understanding The Surge In Veterinary Costs: Is It Becoming Too Expensive To Have A Pet?

Vet, woman and dog.
Image credit SeventyFour via Shutterstock.

If you own a pet, we bet you have noticed that veterinary care costs are escalating, leaving many of us with sticker shock and struggling to secure timely appointments. There are reasons for this burgeoning phenomenon; we unveil the many factors steering this surge. Read: Understanding The Surge In Veterinary Costs: Is It Becoming Too Expensive To Have A Pet?

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  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

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