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So how do you know whether your canine companion is a water-loving dog and what can you do make sure he'll be safe should he choose to take the plunge?
Some dog breeds are natural water lovers. Just look at a labrador's webbed feet and you know he was born to swim. Breeds like the Newfoundland were originally created to help fishermen pull their nets to shore. Their heavy coats protect them from the cold water, while their webbed feet make them strong distance swimmers. Irish water spaniels and Portuguese water dogs both have tight curly coats that actually repel water, which makes them great as retrievers for hunters or assistants for fishermen.
But some breeds, especially the bulldog, are not suited to the water at all. Pugs, Dachshunds and basset hounds are also not natural swimmers. Essentially, any dog with a chest that is much larger than its hips will have trouble keeping its head above water, and dogs with short legs might lack the power to keep themselves afloat. Be extra cautious or avoid water that's too deep for your dog to walk in if it fits these characteristics.
Introducing Your Dog to Water
All dogs, even strong swimmers, should be supervised when they're in the water. Dogs can get confused in pools and forget where the steps are to get out. They can also grow tired of paddling and start to panic. The first time you introduce your dog to water, it's safest if you go in with them. Most dogs will naturally "dog paddle" to stay afloat, but you need to be nearby to make sure your pet doesn't get tired too quickly.
If you own a pool and plan to allow your dog to swim regularly, consider investing in a special dog ramp (like the Skamper Ramp) to make it easy for him to get out of the water. Pool owners should also consider adding an alarm (like the Poolguard) that will sense when anything (more than 18 pounds) enters the water. If your dog weighs less than 18 pounds, you can use a collar alarm (like the Safety Turtle) that will sense if the dog gets wet. And, just to be safe, ask your vet about Dog CPR classes in your area. As a responsible pool and pet owner, you'll want to be prepared in case of an accident.