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Times of the Islands Magazine

KEEP DOGS SAFE WHEN SWIMMING: Boating also offers lots of stimulation, fresh air and bonding time

Mar 09, 2021 06:57PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN
KEEP DOGS SAFE WHEN SWIMMING: Boating also offers lots of stimulation, fresh air and bonding time [8 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Most dogs love a good belly rub, a car ride and a chance to enjoy the water. A favorite spot in Southwest Florida is Bonita Beach Dog Park, located at 14436 Bonita Beach Causeway in Bonita Springs. Details are available at However, just like humans, measures need to be undertaken to ensure their safety in bodies of water.

First of all, do not assume your dog knows how to swim. Not every canine is a natural-born swimmer, such as a Labrador retriever, an Irish water spaniel or a Portuguese water dog. Some dogs can never swim, such as a bulldog. In reality, many dogs initially could use a few lessons.

To teach your dog to swim, the American Kennel Club, or AKC, recommends starting in shallow, slow-moving water and having your dog wear a life vest. However, it suggests first getting your dog comfortable wearing the life vest while not near water, so the whole experience is not so overwhelming.

Then slowly wade in while encouraging your dog to go in the water with you. A few treats can be persuasive. Once in, even having gone just a few steps, be sure to reward your pet. Through a series of sessions, make your way further into the water until your dog has to start swimming to reach you.

The AKC notes that balls or dog-proof flying disc toys can be used with dogs who like to retrieve. First toss the ball or disc out a bit, and then a bit more each session, until your pet has to swim to reach the item. While some dogs may never love the water, it is a good idea to have them understand how to get back to the shoreline safely—should they need to.

Many dogs also love to go boating. “Boating provides lots of stimulation, fresh air and quality bonding time,” says Brian Wierima, community relations coordinator of the Fort Myers-based Gulf Coast Humane Society. Of course, it is essential to keep your pet safe when boating.            Having appropriate accessories for the outing is recommended. “Especially for smaller dogs [and] dogs who are not strong swimmers, have a life preserver on them at all times,” Wierima. When packing for a boating excursion, take along fresh water and a dish for your dog. It can be dangerous for dogs to drink from the waterways in which you are boating.

Another thing to consider is using pet sunscreen, because dogs can get sunburn and feel the pain of a sunburn. Also, provide some shade. “Lastly, always have a leash available when you make pit stops for your pet to go potty, as well as bags for cleanup,” adds Wierima.

He reminds people that when walking near a water source in the Sunshine State, especially fresh water, do not take your dog too close to the water's edge. Those are favorite spots for alligators, and staying away from such areas is always recommended to keep your pet safe.

For more information, contact the Gulf Coast Humane Society at 2010 Arcadia St. in Fort Myers. Call 239-332 0364 or check out its website at