Pool Games for Pups Summer Happy Everything

posted: 05/15/12
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Pool Games for Pups
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If the way your dog splashes in his water bowl is any indication, a pup-centric pool party will be the highlight of his summer. After all, he's probably already spent months trying to make s doggie splash park out of his water dish.

Playing in an actual pool is a great way for your dog to burn energy, socialize with friends and reap physical benefits. According to the Canine Hydrotherapy Association, dogs that swim benefit from a cardiovascular workout, increased circulation and toned muscles -- all without straining their weight-bearing joints. And at a pool party, they can get a workout in game form by fetching water toys, playing doggie "basketball" and more.

Just don't expect every dog to leap into the pool with gusto. Some, like water spaniels, poodles and retrievers, take to water like feathered fowls. Others, including dachshunds, pugs and greyhounds, are more likely to sink than float -- it's just part of their genetic makeup.

There are certain toy breeds that shouldn't get in a swimming pool, even if they beg. For example, puppies younger than 3 months and hairless dogs should stay poolside because they aren't able to regulate their internal temperatures; swimming could put them at risk for hypothermia.

Aside from those with health concerns, nearly any dog can be taught to enjoy a few laps or splashes in the pool. After all, there's a reason the dog-paddle is known as an instinctive way to keep afloat -- even if it doesn't come naturally to all dogs.

Giving your dog a few pre-party swimming lessons is a wonderful way to bond, but you should do so in a pool free of distractions. Hop in the water and encourage your dog to join you, using treats or toys as temptation. Once your dog enters the pool, support her belly with your arms until she's comfortable paddling on her own. Toss a toy a short distance in front of her to encourage her to move forward. Paddling to her prize will build confidence and stamina. Soon, she'll associate water with play -- you may be surprised how little convincing this takes.

Which water toys will your dog -- and her guests -- relish? We've got the scoop on pup-friendly pool toys and games on the next page.

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Dog Pool Toys and Accessories
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What's the best toy for a puppy pool party? The wet stuff itself. Most dogs love to play in water, which turns paddling and splashing in the pool into a game all its own.

If you'd like to up the ante, organize water games using pool toys. For example, launch a dog-friendly water polo match by floating a plastic ball on the water's surface and using duct tape to mark off a mock goal on each side of the pool. Owners can get in the water with their dogs and help them hit the ball to the goal as they swim.

Many land games can be modified for water play. Dogs who like to jump for flying discs can dive into the water after their targets. Those who fetch can swim for floating squeak toys, or play keep-away with a ball. In general, you can use any dog toy that is durable, will float and is not small enough to be swallowed or choked on. Provide an assortment of floating dog rafts on which small dogs can perch to watch the action. Inflatable rafts for dogs feature puncture-proof, vinyl-coated fabrics, and non-inflatable ones have a mesh surface surrounded on all sides by foam piping.

Set up a few games outside the pool, too. Instead of bobbing for apples, fill a plastic wading pool with tepid tap water and float bite-sized hot dogs or carrot sticks in the water. Or create an impromptu water park by activating different types of sprinklers so that dogs (and children, and possibly adults) can run through the ever-changing streams of water.

If your dog isn't a natural-born swimmer, make sure she's wearing a well-fitting life jacket that keeps her afloat in a horizontal position. In the days leading up to the party, put your dog in the life jacket for increasing periods of time so she won't balk on the big day. A life jacket also is a good idea for dogs who just won't get out of the pool; with it, they can swim longer without tiring.  

There are plenty of pool accessories, but the best one of all is your dog's willingness to please. Spend time in the pool practicing a new trick or simply playing around and you'll both be rewarded. But what if your dog won't stop drinking the pool water? Find out if it could be dangerous to her health on the next page.

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Pool Safety for Dogs
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While some chlorine -- like the amount found in tap water -- is OK, the levels in pool water are much higher. If your dog satiates his thirst by slurping swimming pool water, he'll ingest too much chlorine, which could irritate his gums, tongue and throat. According to Dan Lauridia, doctor of veterinary medicine and chief veterinarian at DoggedHealth.com, pool chemicals can irritate your dog's eyes and skin. To prevent this from happening, redirect thirsty dogs from pool water to fresh water and rinse their coats with fresh water after swimming. If your dog scratches or bites at his skin or rubs his eyes with his paws after swimming, it's time to see a veterinarian.

Supply fresh water in bowls near the pool to discourage dogs from drinking pool water. The rest of the menu at a canine pool party should be simple: an assortment of treats for good behavior, such as yogurt-based "ice cream" or bone-shaped tidbits from a doggie bakery. Keep the treats out of reach of the dogs, so their owners can determine what and how much their dog should eat.

If the swimming pool does not have easy-entry steps or a gradual slope, place a ramp in the pool so dogs can enter and exit the water on their own. Enthusiastic dogs may jump into the pool, but then struggle to get out. After all, they don't have the opposable thumbs necessary for climbing a ladder. Decrease the risk of drowning with a textured ramp they can use to scramble to dry land. After your dog is in the water, practice using the ramp with him several times. 

It's also a good idea to keep a canine first-aid kit nearby. According to the Humane Society of the United States, this kit should include supplies to clean and bandage superficial cuts and wounds, such as blunt-tip scissors, antiseptic spray, antibiotic ointment, cotton swabs, sterile saline solution, gauze pads and adhesive tape. Include your veterinarian's contact information, as well as a blanket, ice pack and duplicates of essential gear, such as a leash or collar.

Prevention is the best first-aid. Always monitor your dog when he swims or plays near water, just as you would a child. This is especially important at a pool party with the added distractions of food, drink and conversation, and will ensure that your dog can enjoy the fun and games.

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