You will need to be the lifeguard, which means you’re on duty the entire time your dog is in the pool. Don’t leave her alone out there. Think of your dog as a kindergartener with early swimming skills when she’s in the pool. Most dogs who like water are fearless but oblivious to dangers.
On the other hand, if you have a dog who is completely panicked by the idea of getting in the water, don’t throw her in. Don’t force it. That’s not going to solve her nervousness. You might be able to help her slowly learn to be in the pool, but as a child, start in the shallow end. Offer a lot of assistance. If you have a shelf where she can walk and touch the bottom in the pool, that will help initially. If you don’t have a place she can touch the ground in the pool, then consider a life vest.
Don’t panic. Your dog will not likely get salt poisoning from drinking the water from a saltwater pool, nor will the chlorine be a problem. A dog or cat occasionally drinking from a well-maintained saltwater pool would not be expected to have a problem. I would not recommend making the pool your pet’s main water source due to the various chemicals used in both chlorine and salt systems. Keep pets away from pools that have been recently “shocked.” Saltwater pools are more like soft water pools. They have something called a chlorine generator that keeps the water clean. Overall, the salt content in most pools is much less than seawater (there is about 1/10th as much salt in a pool compared to the ocean). Just make sure they have plenty of access to regular water and do not get dehydrated.
Obviously, poorly maintained pools might have bacterial and algal hazards for everyone. No going in the cloudy, dirty, unmaintained pool, or you risk a diarrhea vet visit.
What about a “chemical-free” pool that utilizes copper ionization? The copper in the pool is not likely to be a problem if ingested.
Most dogs have some natural swimming ability. “Dog paddling” got its name legit. However, not all dogs are naturals. Many dogs need some help at first to learn how to be in the water, how to move, and how to swim. The most crucial step your dog needs to learn about the pool is how to get in and out by herself. So your dog’s a natural? Awesome! It makes your life easier. That doesn’t mean don’t consider getting a vest. My older dog gets super tired fast when swimming. The extra flotation provided by the vest is a lifesaver, literally. If your dog tires easily or seems to panic in the pool, then a vest is excellent. Doggie rafts are another option for your dog to float. Of course, there is a big chance your dog might fall off this, which is why you must be on lifeguard duty.
- Introduce your dog to all exits from the pool and teach her to use the stairs.
- Never force her to get in or swim. If she isn’t comfortable in the pool, then try getting her a vest to improve her confidence or show her only the shallow end where she might be able to touch if there’s a shelf.
- After swimming, it’s ideal to rinse off pool water.
- After a swim, it’s ideal to do an ear cleaning with an appropriate ear cleanser to prevent ear infections, especially if she dunks her head under the water.
- Provide plenty of fresh water before and after swimming.
- Wait 1 hour after meals to go swimming. Likewise, wait 1 hour after swimming to offer food.
- Monitor her paws and nails, which will wear down faster than normal and can start bleeding.
- Cover the pool in the off-season.
Now go out and enjoy the water.
Dr. Zoe Forward.