With the summer heat overcoming towards us now, many dog owners may be planning some fun in the open waters as temperatures rise. If your plans involve sailing with your canine family member on board, the following are important safety tips that will ensure a smooth sailing experience for you and your pet.
Some people mistakenly believe that all dogs are born with the natural ability to swim. Although it is true that most dogs do an instinctive kicking movement if they end up in the water, that is often the whole extent of their swimming skills. That movement is not always effective for all dogs in order to stay afloat, and many have no idea how to get to the boat or shore.
As a general rule, medium to large sized breeds with water-resistant coats and membranes between their toes are strong swimmers. These dogs have been bred for work in the water and include most shepherds. Dogs that carry the word “water” in the name of their breeds are taken for granted, like the Portuguese Water Dog.
The Newfoundlands, despite their enormous size, are also great swimmers. Other breeds that are comfortable in the water include the English Setter, the Irish Setter, standard Poodle and Schipperke, among many others, like the Golden Retriever.
Dogs that are not designed for swimming include the “heavier” breeds – those with large breasts and small backs. Dogs with short snouts, including brachycephalic breeds and dogs with very short legs are also not good for water. For example, Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Boxers are generally not able to stay afloat easily for long periods of time.
Brachycephalic breeds such as the Pug tend to tire easily due to the abnormal structure of their respiratory organs. Many small dogs can be very good swimmers, but because they get cold very quickly and tend to get scared in the water, they don’t do very well so often.
It is also important to remember that even the best canine swimmer can get very tired (especially in deep water). Older dogs and puppies get tired more easily than adult dogs, and you must be especially careful not to let them overdo it.
Life Jacket Should be Mandatory!
When you go sailing with your dog, no matter how good a swimmer the dog is, it’s recommended that they wear a life jacket, except when the boat is anchored (to swim) and you are supervising. If your dog is swimming in unfamiliar waters, beware of strong currents, steep slopes and any other potential danger that could pull or drag you before you can reach them.
It is also highly recommended that you accustom your dog to wearing a life jacket before going aboard the boat (especially if your pet has never sailed before). Incorporate possible stress factors one by one and let them get used to each one before introducing another.
Dogs can fall into the water and go unnoticed, and if you go at cruising speed by the time you realize that your dog went overboard it might be too late. A life jacket will help you stay on top of the water and will also help you to detect them more easily.