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5 things you need to know about swimming

German shepherd on holiday
Lily @ Lake Garda

Swimming for Lily is a truly joyful experience.

There is nothing Lily loves more than being in open water, well, maybe a piece of a liver cake. And the husband.

Few things we have learnt whilst taking Lily on numerous swimming adventures.

1. ALWAYS supervise your dog.

Like I said already Lily loves the water.We should have named her Fish. She is also a strong swimmer and does not panic or sink when getting tired; swimming ultimately is her favourite pass time.

The first time Lily went into the open water and had first full-on deep water swimming experience was when she was about 6 months old.

We had just purchased new roller blades and were learning how to blade for the first time in Cannon Hill park whilst Lily was getting a daily dose of exercise running along. As we were carefully manoeuvring around the bends whilst rolling down the hill (and could not yet stop), Lily spotted a flock of geese in the nearby pond.

Without a second of hesitation, she raced towards the pond and leapt in. All we heard was a big splash and, as we were slowly rolling down the hill (we hadn't yet learnt how to stop the roller blades without falling over) with our necks strained backwards and panic all over our faces, all we could see was the flock of geese taking off in a very distraught manner.

And there she was.

Emerging from the banks of the pond, tongue hanging out, utterly chuffed with herself galloping towards us expecting some sort of praise.

Thank God Lily took to swimming instantly and has loved it ever since. I have no idea how she knew how to swim. But she did. I suppose it`s in the dogs DNA. However, not every dog is able to swim.

The outcome of this, now very funny incident, could have been much much worse.

Don't learn how to roller blade with your dog of the leash whilst passing a pond full of geese, you are asking for a tremendous amount of geese trouble.

In the best case scenario, the dog would have eaten a lot of geese pop (what is with dogs eating poop? Cat poop, geese poop, sheep pop?); worst case scenario – well, work it out for yourself.

Fortunately, the husband is a great swimmer so as long as I have him by my side I don't worry too much about Lily`s water antics as I know that in a case of emergency, the husband would be able to save her. It is, however, entirely different if I am walking Lily on my own, I rarely let her off the leash anywhere near deep water and only let her swim at the shallow end. You see, I am a weak swimmer and I will not take any risks when it comes to the safety of my dog.

2. Be aware of the dog becoming too tired.

Ensure you get the dog out of the water to take frequent short breaks. Lily will get beyond excited playing, swimming, sniffing, preying on ducks and if I don't get her out of the water she will over-tire. Obviously, under no circumstances, Lily will want to come out of the water, but once she is out, she will collapse next to me and have a power nap. 20 minutes later she is ready to go again.

When Lily is going into the water we always attach the 10 m lead to her collar (please ensure that you can see the bottom of the water so you can check that her lead won't get caught on anything). If Lily would bolt after a duck or a swan and not react to recall, swim in the wrong direction or too far away from the shore, motored boats speeding past etc - 10-metre lead makes it easy to get hold of her and pull her out of the water into safety.

German shepherd on holiday
Lily & her BFF tennis ball

Occasionally there will be waves in larger lakes – when Lily is swimming after the ball she might not be able to see the way back to the shore over the oncoming waves.

Whenever we call her back I also use a clapping sound which seems to resonate with her far better than recall and always points her in the right direction right back to me.

3. Know your water.

Before ever letting your dog into unfamiliar water please ensure that you have checked for safety first.

Can you see the bottom? Do you know the depth of it? How steep are the sides of the pond? Can the dog get out? Are there any dangers underwater a dog could get stuck, tangled, cut, stab herself with? Is the water stagnant? Potentially overgrown with algae and weeds? Can it harbour bacteria, illnesses or drowned animal carcass?

Look out for ducks and swans as dogs are naturally very curious, swans will attack trying to protect themselves and the dog will get hurt.

Watch out for snakes in case of poisonous ones being present, this especially applies when travelling abroad.

Is the water moving too fast, especially in rivers, can the dog get out if caught in the current? Is your dog a good swimmer? Are you a strong enough swimmer to go after your dog?

Don't forget a medium to large dog, whilst in panic, can unintentionally drown the owner trying to get to safety.

I am a weak swimmer and know for a fact that I would not be able to save Lily if she was caught in the strong stream or was far from the bank. I would, without a shadow of a doubt, try and that could end in tragedy for both of us. Exactly why I am extra vigilant prior to letting Lily swim in any unfamiliar waters.

She will always attempt to get into any water available on the route; Lily has jumped into an overgrown pond full of stagnating water, algae and weeds and stank so bad I had to wash her twice. Once we had to pull her out of the water by her head and collar as the banks of the pond were too steep. And the thousand times of chasing Lily away from the swans so she does not get a painful peck.

Once back home – check your dog ears to paws. Check for cuts, bruises, scratches, bites, especially, if your dog has a longer coat which makes it very difficult to spot.

I also recommend to rinse or fully wash the dog once you arrive home. There is always the risk of bugs, bacteria, diseases being caught in dogs coat from the fabulous swimming adventures.

Remember – no matter how much fun you and your dog are having – safety always comes first.

German shepherd on holiday
Lily @ Malcesine

4. Bring your own water.

Ideally, don't allow your dog to drink the water from rivers or lakes (and, of course, they will), there could always be bacteria, worms and diseases in hiding.

Don't let your dog drink the sea water (of course, they will attempt to) as salt water can really dehydrate the dog which can lead to serious health complications.

If going to the seaside – always bring an extra amount of fresh water as you will have to rinse your dog of salt and sand. Salt and sand can irritate dogs eyes, ears and mouth, skin and paws so you must be prepared.

5. Make memories.

All health and safety stuff on the side – take photos, take videos, swim with your dog, play in the sand, have tons and tons of fun and laughter!

Playing in the water with your dog will create the most wonderful memories and countless LOL moments.

Don't take yourself too seriously.

Life is for living!

German shepherd swimming
it`s hard job being a dog

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