Whether you find it cute or gag-inducing, the term “fur baby” perfectly describes how many of us feel about our pets. But while people often love their animals like children, they don’t always watch over them as closely. For swimming pool owners, that can lead to tragedy.
Statistics on pet drowning are hard to come by, but based on anecdotal reports from veterinarians and other professionals, it’s a problem that should concern every dog and cat owner with a pool. Contrary to popular opinion, animals don’t instinctively know how to swim or handle themselves around water. Dogs in particular are often victims of drowning for the same reasons kids are – a combination of enthusiasm and poor judgement.
As with child pool safety, there’s no substitute for adult supervision when it comes to keeping your pets safe around the pool. However, the right features can provide extra peace of mind, making it easier for both you and your animals to enjoy the water. Here are some things to consider adding to your pool design:
Safety Fence. In most places, the law requires you to block off your pool with a fence or other barrier. A typical backyard fence is often fine for this purpose. However, if you also want to give a dog or other pet unsupervised access to the backyard, you may want to consider removable pool fencing that encloses the immediate pool area. Don’t rely on a pool cover, which can actually pose a threat to animals if they get trapped underneath.
Walk-in Access. Pets should have some way to climb out of the pool if they fall or jump in. Steps or a zero-depth (beach) entry are a couple of options. A simpler solution is to buy a ramp that’s specifically designed for this purpose. Not only will your pet appreciate this, but so will any wild animals that happen to get trapped in your pool.
Water Disturbance Alarm. On the techie side, there are water disturbance alarms on the market that will alert you whenever they detect motion in your pool. These work great as another layer of safety on top of other measures. However, they’re not foolproof, especially when it comes to small disturbances. In other words, don’t count on them warning you if your Chihuahua decides to take an unsupervised dip.
Safety Equipment. You can buy life vests for dogs in all different sizes. You can also find devices that attach to a dog’s collar and set off an alarm when they get wet. But perhaps most importantly, you should think about how you’re going to rescue your pet if he or she is struggling. Having a life preserver on hand for them to climb onto is probably better than getting yourself scratched up.
Sprayer. While not exactly a safety issue, the chlorine in your water isn’t good for your pet’s coat. If you have an animal that spends a lot of time in the pool, it’s probably a good idea to have a sprayer handy so you can quickly rinse them off.
This website focuses on pool design and features, but we’d be remiss not to point out the importance of behavior when it comes to pet safety. Here are a few tips from the experts on keeping your pets safe around the pool:
Teach your dog to swim. Just because they call it “dog paddling” doesn’t mean all dogs know how to do it. Some dogs may be natural born swimmers, while others panic or sink like stones when placed in the water. Fortunately, you can often teach your dog to become a better swimmer. Take your dog into the water repeatedly until he or she gets the hang of swimming. This is also a good opportunity to show Fido where the exit is.
Keep toys picked up. Dogs in particular are often single-minded in the pursuit of a favorite toy. This can get them in trouble if the toy happens to be in the water – or even worse, trapped under a pool cover. In other words, be mindful of any temptations that might lure your pet into a dangerous situation.
Reinforce proper behavior around the pool. Just like children, dogs have a tendency to go nuts around swimming pools. Take your dog to the pool area and make sure he or she follows basic commands. That includes not jumping into the water until you give the okay. If your dog really likes to swim, you can use that as a reward to reinforce good behavior.