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10 Tips for Taking Your Dog Swimming in a Lake or River

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There’s nothing more fun on a hot summer day than to enjoy a dip at the lake with the dogs! First determine if a lake is dog-friendly (just do a quick search for “dog friendly lakes near me”–many are with the exception of designated swimming areas with beaches and lifeguards). Then you’re ready to go–but check our safety tips first!

10 Tips for Taking Your Dog Swimming in a Lake or River

We love taking our dogs swimming during the hot summer months! Irie and Tiki always enjoyed trips to Texas lakes and rivers–and now Barli has quickly learned that nothing’s better on a hot day than a dip in the lake. Barli and Tiki love swimming in Lake Travis, and Barli recently enjoyed his first visit to the San Gabriel River at Georgetown’s dog-friendly Blue Hole Park:

dogs at river

For all the fun that swimming with your dog brings, though, it also means you need to take some dog swimming precautions when taking your pooches swimming in your local river or lake.

Wherever your dog is swimming, keep these points in mind:

Beware of stagnant water.

As water flows slow late in the summer, rivers and lakes can become stagnant…and dangerous.

Among other dangers, warm weather always brings a rise in the risk of encountering brain-eating amoeba most often found in hot, stagnant water.

Avoid small bodies of water that are not moving.

Hot weather also means a bloom of blue-green algae (actually a bacteria) on many lakes and ponds. This algae is toxic for dogs and can be fatal. 

Pick Up the Poop

dog playing at the lake

Always, always carry dog poop bags to the lake, just as you would to a dog hotel or any other dog-friendly location.

Not only is it the law for you to scoop the poop but dog waste can contribute to the growth of contaminants in the water.

Keep locations dog friendly by always being a good pet parent. We carry our YUCKY PUPPY bag (above) with us to put the used dog waste bag in until we reach the trash receptacle–which, at some parks, are few and far between.

Watch for water snakes.

Living on a creek in Texas, we’re accustomed to keeping an eye out for water moccasins but water snakes can be found just about anywhere.

Keep a close eye on your dog so he’s not nosing around holes in riverbanks or lakeshores.

Consider a life jacket.

dog wearing life jacket

Dog life jackets are a must for boating dogs but they’re also recommended if your dog is an unsure swimmer. (Plus your dog will just be so cute in it!)

On that same note, keep your dog away from any dangerous currents in fast-flowing streams.

Bring fresh water for your dog.

You’re probably wondering: can my dog drink river water or lake water?

Your dog will want to drink lake or river water but he’s safer drinking water that you bring from home.

You’ll not only reduce his risk of running into potentially bad bacteria and parasites like giardia but also reduce the chance of minor tummy troubles.

Watch for glass and metal.

Just as our feet do when they’re wet for an extended period, dog paws get soft when they’re swimming–making them even more susceptible to getting cut by broken glass and metal.

dog and boy playing at lake

Carry a first aid kit.

Accidents happen, whether it’s a cut paw or a thorn in a paw. We have a list of items, compiled by a veterinarian, for your dog first aid kit here on DogTipper.

Dry your dog’s ears.

Water in your dog’s ears–especially floppy ears–can lead to ear infections. If your dog has been prone to ear infections, talk with your vet about an ear cleaning solution you can carry on your swimming trips.

Dry your dog’s fur.

Wet fur on the drive home can make your dog more prone to hot spots and other skin issues.

If you have access to fresh water, it’s great to rinse your dog off then dry him before the trip home.

Similarly, wet collars can also cause hot spots. Either bring a fresh collar to change your dog into after the swim or make sure your dog is wearing a waterproof collar for a dry ride home.

Check your dog head to tail.

Once you’re home, brush out your dog and do a good head to tail check looking for ticks, cuts, thorns, and any potential problems.

Taking your dog to a river or lake can be a great way to make summer memories…and you’ll wind up with one cool canine on these hot summer days!

dog swimming precautions-Irie

Water Safety Infographic

Whether your next water adventure takes you and your dog to the river or lake, pool or beach, please take just a few moments to check out these important safety tips from Trupanion:


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Paris Permenter
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