True to their reputation, dogs provide unconditional love and loyalty to the humans who are fortunate enough to have them in their life. So it comes as no surprise that many Central Florida dog parents want their fur baby to accompany them in all the fun activities available outdoors – which includes swimming! However, there is some debate as to whether it’s a good idea to let your dog – or dogs – swim in the pool. While this matter doesn’t directly involve pool leaks, our experts at Certified Leak Detection want to be sure that you and every member of your family get the most enjoyment possible from your slice of Central Florida paradise!
Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Let Your Dog Swim in Your Pool
There is no one-size-fits all answer to this question. Instead, consider the following factors.
Your dog’s breed, body build and temperament – Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs instinctively know how to swim. “Some dogs are natural born swimmers, and give their owners a run for their money trying to keep them out of the pool,” writes Merrick Miller for In the Swim. “While other dogs prefer to stay out of the splash zone and watch from a distance. Just like people, some dogs are scared of the water or simply don’t enjoy swimming.”
As Ryan Dornan observes in his article for In the Swim, “The dogs that are born to swim generally have long, strong limbs or many have swimming in their genes and are bred to swim to retrieve ducks and waterfowl for hunting purposes.” Therefore, it’s a good sign if your dog’s breed has “retriever” or “water” in its name! If your pooch is a mixed-breed of undeterminable lineage, go by body build and temperament. An athletic mutt will quickly let you know if it’s up for fun and games in the pool!
Conversely, dogs like bulldogs, pugs and dachshunds aren’t strong swimmers. “Their short legs simply can’t perform a strong doggie paddle and they struggle to create enough thrust to keep them on the water’s surface,” writes Dornan. “Breeds with short faces like bulldogs or pugs have trouble keeping their snout out of the water. Smaller dogs may enjoy swimming but it is important to be aware that smaller dogs can get colder faster in chillier pool water or can panic by becoming overwhelmed from being in the pool.”
As All Florida Aquatics Group advises, always be sure to consult your veterinarian should you have any questions about your dog’s swimming ability.
Your swimming pool’s construction – Just as not all dogs are pool-friendly, not all pools are dog-friendly. Pools can be difficult to get in and out of for your dog, as most pools don’t have a gradual slope into deeper waters from the shallow end. They often have steep steps for entering and exiting, which can be very difficult for a dog to navigate. Specialty portable steps for this purpose are available at pet and pool supply stores, as well as online retailers. Owners of an above-ground pool may want to invest in a pet ramp to make entries and exits easier.
Also keep in mind that dogs almost never damage concrete and fiberglass pools, but their claws can puncture a vinyl liner. To minimize the risk of damage, keep your dog’s nails clipped.
Will Pool Chemicals Make Your Dog Sick?
One obvious concern dog owners have when debating whether or not it is safe for their dog to swim in a pool is chlorine and other pool chemicals. As with humans, chlorine can slightly irritate a dog’s eyes or nose, but is overall harmless with limited exposure. However, dogs ingest some pool water as they swim, and the longer they’re in the pool, the more water they’re likely to intake. While a little won’t make your dog sick, too much can cause vomiting, diarrhea and esophageal damage – or even death, in rare circumstances. Writes Miller, “A tired, thirsty dog won’t know the difference between pool water and drinking water, so always provide your dog with a bowl of fresh, clean water on swim days!”
Actually, the risk isn’t so much in pool chemicals themselves, but their levels in the water. Before allowing your dog – or people – to swim in your pool, test and balance the water chemistry. According to Miller, “Imbalanced water chemistry, specifically elevated chlorine levels, can irritate your dog’s skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Follow all chemical dosing instructions carefully, and ensure toxic chemicals like shock and algaecides are fully diluted into the water before letting your dog swim.
“Additionally, store all pool chemicals in a safe area, out of your dog’s reach. Most dogs have a big appetite and child-like sense of curiosity, so avoid any opportunity for your dog to ingest dangerous pool chemicals. This includes cleaning up any spilled chemicals on the deck or pool equipment.”
After enjoying a dip, chlorine can stay on a dog’s coat. The American Kennel Club recommends washing your dog off with fresh water before and after they start swimming in your pool, and also cleaning inside their ears to prevent infections. Be sure to dry your dog thoroughly to remove any chlorine residue.
How a Dog Affects a Pool’s Chemistry and Maintenance Requirements
The conventional wisdom is that one dog in the pool equals three humans. That’s because dogs carry more contaminants on their coat than people do on their skin. We assume that you shower or bathe on a daily basis. You may keep your dog clean, but probably not that clean! And, as mentioned in our blog post – “10 Common Pool Maintenance Mistakes to Avoid” – dogs don’t use toilet paper, which means they bring more fecal matter into the pool. While we’re on the topic, to prevent your dog from having an “accident” in the pool, plan “bathroom” breaks.
After pool playtime, test the water and add any balancing chemicals if necessary. If you don’t plan to use your pool again in the next 12 hours, apply a strong dose of shock. Shocking your pool will eliminate any contaminants or bacteria brought in by your pooch. Use a water clarifier if your pool is looking cloudy.
As for maintenance, a dog’s fur – especially that of long-haired breeds – can clog up a pump basket fairly quickly. Although dog hair is harder on a filter system, your strainer basket will do most of the heavy work, and you may need to do some extra skimming the following day once the fur settles.
The Take-Home Message
If you weigh all the factors we’ve covered here and decide that your four-legged family member should join the rest of you in the pool for fun times throughout most of the year, enjoy! You’ll help your dog be healthy and happy, while making fond memories. To ensure everyone’s happiness with your pool, make sure it’s free of leaks.
Of course, we can help with that! If you suspect a leak, Certified Leak Detection has more than 30 years of experience in leak detection and repair for swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and fountains. Serving areas throughout Central Florida – including Orlando, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford, Kissimmee, Clermont and Winter Springs – our team is ready to answer your call.
Contact us for quick, reliable service.