Many people believe that swimming is a skill that all dogs naturally have. But swimming is not necessarily a natural ability for dogs. In reality, while most dogs instinctively make a paddling movement once they are in the water many dogs tend to sink whenever submerged. Certainly not every dog paddle is sufficiently effective to keep the animal afloat, and many dogs have no idea how to move to shore or to the side of the pool.
In fact, when it comes to swimming capabilities there are dog breeds that just aren’t built for the water such as the English and French Bulldog, Pug and the Dachshund. They will definitely need a flotation aid whenever you take them to the beach or lake.
Another reason for using a floatation aid is when you are trying to get your dog used to the water. The goal is to discover whether your dog enjoys the water and whether he has to build and skill for swimming. Even if your pet is a recognized swimmer like a retriever, you should never simply throw a dog who has never been in water into a pool or lake.
Other dogs that really already know how to swim may have a bad day without you knowing it and they just don’t feel fit to swim. Additionally, water or weather conditions can cause problems even for a dog that is typically a strong swimmer. Simply strapping on a floatation device will reduce the chance of anything bad happening.
Another problem with water loving dogs may be that they push themselves too far. Physically and mentally, some dogs, just don’t know when “to call it a day.” Take into consideration an excited dog who jumps into the water “one last time,” when he should have stopped already half an hour ago, and imagine what can happen.
Other than dogs pushing themselves too hard, you have to worry about natural hazards associated with water. Natural lakes contain a lot of underwater debris. Underwater flora like branches and tall grass can snag or slow your dog down. If they can’t break away quick enough, your dog can tire out and possibly drown. Streams and rivers tire dogs out quickly, especially if playing and swimming against them. And though a stream may look calm on the surface, fast moving undercurrents can sweep away just about any dog. And finally beaches are the worst. Dogs tire out quickly in ocean/beach water, and it’s easy for dogs to get pushed out to sea by strong undertows.
Even swimming pools can be hazardous for dogs, although they are in the comfort of our backyard. It’s estimated that thousands of family pets die in drowning incidents each year in swimming pools in the US alone, though real numbers are not known, because most incidents go unreported.
Basically there are sufficient reasons to never let your dog swim in a large body of water without a floatation aid or life vest. And, while there are no official regulations regarding life jackets for pets, a life vest will help keep your pet safe while around any body of water or aboard your boat.