Getting a new swimming pool is an exciting experience for everyone in the family. The kids can’t wait to dive in and start playing. You and your partner are already planning your first pool party for the neighbors. And with all this excitement in the air, it’s no surprise that the family pets might want to get in on the action.
While a new pool is unquestionably fun, it’s also a big responsibility — and that goes double if there are animals in your home. It is very important that everyone is safe and comfortable in the pool area, and you may need to take some extra steps to make sure the family pet is familiar with these new surroundings.
Luckily, training a pet in pool safety is actually pretty fun! You and your family can spend time in the pool, helping your pup (or kitty — it’s rare, but it happens) get used to the water. With a little patience and a few training tricks, your pet can be safely swimming with the rest of your family in no time.
Here are a few important tips that will help you keep your pets safe near a swimming pool. Before you let your dog take a dip, make sure you’ve followed these guidelines!
Pool safety is an absolute necessity in every household, but it’s even more important if you have small kids or pets in your home. After all, the CDC estimates that about 10 children drown in swimming pools every day — and while there are no statistics on pet pool fatalities, the number is estimated to be even higher.
There are many things you can do to ensure that your pets are safe around the pool area. Pool covers can keep the water off-limits when the pool is not in use. Alarms in the pool area can alert you to would-be rogue swimmers. Pool fences can block off the pool completely to prevent anyone from getting too close to the water.
We would suggest using at least one (if not all) of these safety precautions around your swimming pool. The more safety solutions you have around your pool, the more protected you and your loved ones will be! However, it’s also important that you’re familiar with life-saving techniques like CPR (both human and canine) in case you’re faced with a worst-case scenario.
Know Your Chemicals
Some pet owners might bristle at the amount of chemistry they need to clean their swimming pool water. My dog will drink anything, you might think. Is this water even safe for him? This is a common concern for new pool owners with pets, but don’t worry. Pool water is actually safer than you might expect.
People use chlorine in their swimming pools to sanitize the water and prevent bacteria growth. The amount of chlorine in your average pool is pretty minimal, and the chemical is heavily diluted in the water. Your pets won’t suffer more than a minor tummy ache after drinking chlorinated water (and that’s only if they drink A LOT of it).
However, it is important to mention that chlorine can cause skin or eye irritation in some people and animals. If your pet has very sensitive skin, you’ll want to keep a sharp eye out for signs of irritation — scratching, a rash, etc. — after they take a dip in the water.
If you’re still not comfortable with your pets’ gulping down chlorinated water, there are other options you can try instead. Use bromine or an ionizer to cleanse your pool water; these options can be more expensive, but they are an effective alternative to chlorine. Or, if you want to stick with chlorine in the pool, make sure your pet has a bowl of freshwater to drink from on the deck. Swimming can make you thirsty!
Clean Your Pet’s Ears
Ear infections can be a common problem for pets who spend a lot of time in the pool. This is because dogs and cats have an irregular-shaped ear canal, and it can be difficult to expel water once it gets inside. As a result, the water in your pet’s ear can breed bacteria, leaving your furry friend with an uncomfortable infection.
It’s important to watch your pets for signs of an ear infection after they’ve been swimming in the pool. If your dog is constantly pawing at his ears, shaking his head, or rubbing his head on the floor, it’s probably time to give those ears a closer look!
If you catch your pet’s ear infection early, you should be able to treat it at home with a gentle cleanser and a cotton swab. But if you think your pet’s infection has gotten too severe (for example, if there’s an excess or dark discharge coming from the ear), you’ll want to have his ears professionally cleaned by a vet.
Teach Your Pet to Swim
So far, we’ve talked about how to keep your pet safe and healthy around the pool… but what do you do when she’s actually in the pool? The answer will depend largely on your pet’s swimming skills. If she’s already an expert, you’ll want to focus on familiarizing her with the specifics of this pool (such as where the “resting spots” or exits are). But if your pet has no swimming experience, it’s time to start at the beginning with some basic swimming lessons.
The first thing you should teach your dog (regardless of her skills) is how to exit the swimming pool. Carry her into the pool and help her swim back to the pool steps and climb out. Continue this process, getting progressively further away from the steps, until your dog knows exactly where to go to get out — and make sure you have lots of treats handy! Teaching your dog how to exit the pool will ensure she knows what to do if she accidentally falls in.
As you teach your pet to swim, make sure you’re continually checking their body language for signs of discomfort. While it is important that any pets in your household know how to swim (in case of emergencies), not every animal is comfortable in the water; for example, poodles and retrievers are water-loving dogs, while pugs, boxers, basset hounds, and most cats don’t really enjoy swimming. If your pet seems uncomfortable in the water, considering giving them a life vest to help them feel a little safer.
Watch for Signs of Trouble
Even if you have all the best safety tools, and even if you’ve spent hours teaching your pet to swim, you should always be prepared for worst-case situations. Make sure you’re aware of all the dangers your pet (and your family) could experience and that you know how to handle them.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s very important for every pool owner to learn CPR, so they can help resuscitate someone in the event of an accident. Pool owners with pets should be familiar with CPR techniques for both humans and animals, as the steps vary slightly for canine victims.
Another danger every pet owner should be looking out for is water intoxication. While this condition is very rare, it can occur whenever your dog’s blood sodium level drops too low — typically after drinking too much water while swimming at the pool or the beach. If your dog gets out of the pool and seems lethargic, nauseated, and uncoordinated with pale gums and dilated pupils, you’ll probably want to get your pooch to the vet.
Treating mild water intoxication is fairly easy to treat; it usually involves limiting a dog’s water intake and providing them with electrolytes and diuretics through an IV. However, if water intoxication becomes too severe, it can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, and respiratory trouble. Make sure your furry friend gets the help he needs right away by staying vigilant whenever he’s in the pool.
Supervise Your Pets
At the end of the day, this is the most important rule for every pool owner out there (whether or not they have a pet). Anytime someone is in your pool — be they a child, an adult, or a doggo — someone else should be watching them from the deck.
If people swim in your pool without supervision, they are putting themselves at risk for injuries and accidents, including the possibility of a tragic fatality. After all, accidents can happen at any time, even to the strongest swimmers.
For the sake of all your loved ones, from the littlest kids to man’s best friend, make sure you adhere to all the pool safety standards available to you. Invest in safety solutions like pool fences and covers, make sure everyone who uses your pool feels safe and comfortable, and always have a designated lifeguard watching close by.