If you’ve never taken your dog swimming before, you’re in the right place to give it a try! Arkansas is full of public, dog-friendly lakes and rivers where your pooch can take a dip. The team at Hounds Lounge is quite furrmiliar with these water bodies! In fact, Hounds Lounge Bryant is located right on the way to Hot Springs, AR, home to Lake Ouachita, Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine, all of which are grreat spots for swimming for dogs

It’s a bit of an Arkansas tradition to take your dog swimming. Our state is well-known for its duck hunting, which often involves dogs swimming to retrieve. However, for many Arkansans, taking their dog swimming is purely recreational! Dog swimming is common while boating on a lake, floating on a river or beaching on a bank.

Are you and Fido ready to make a splash? Before you jump into the water, jump into our dos and don’ts for dog swimming, which cover planning your trip, ensuring your dog’s safety and respecting others.

The Dos for Taking Your Dog Swimming

Do: Plan Ahead

Before you show up to take your dog swimming, search “where can my dog swim?” Find dog-friendly water activities and locations in Arkansas, and then check for any restrictions or regulations at your chosen lake or river. It’s very impawtant to ensure your dog’s vaccinations and preventive treatments (like flea and tick prevention) are up to date.

Do: Ensure Your Dog’s Safety

Dog Life Jackets

Whether your dog is a strong swimmer or not, a dog life jacket is an absolute necessity any time you take your dog swimming in water that’s deeper than their elbows (including swimming pools).

Retriever dog swimming in water

Dogs wear life jackets for many of the same reasons people do. A life jacket can save your dog in case he accidentally falls overboard or swims too far away from you. Even water dogs known for their swimming skills, like retrievers, need a dog life jacket to help them conserve energy while swimming. 

While every dog should wear a life jacket while swimming, some dogs need it more than others. Breeds with flat faces and/or short legs, like French Bulldogs, should never, ever go near a body of water without a life jacket, because their bodies aren’t built for swimming. Read more in our blog Caring for the Top 10 Most Popular Dog Breeds: A Guide.

French bull dog swimming in the shallows

All dogs need a life jacket that fits them securely – if it’s too loose, it could slip off. Choose a dog life jacket with a handle so you can easily grab Fido if he needs some assistance. You should also opt for a dog life jacket in a bright, neon color with reflective strips so that your pooch is extremely visible both day and night.

Not all dogs go swimming, some relax by the water

Your doggo may not love his life jacket at furrst, so you can practice wearing it at home to help him get used to it! He may eventually be thrilled to see it, because he’ll know his life jacket means he gets to play in the water.

Training and Socialization 

You shouldn’t bring an untrained dog to any body of water. Your woof should have basic obedience training, including reliable recall, so they will come back to you if they dog paddle too far away.

Dog playing on floating mat on water

Your pooch should also have basic socialization skills, because there’s a good chance you’ll encounter other hoomans and pooches when visiting pawpular lakes and rivers.

Weather and Temperature Considerations

It’s always a good idea to check the weather and water conditions before taking your dog swimming. While a rainy day might be fun for your woof, it might be ruff for you. You should also keep an eye on the heat index: Your pooch can overheat even if they’re in the water. If the weather and water is too warm for you, it’s definitely too warm for your pooch.

Dog gazing over water

Even on temperate days, ensure your dog has plenty of access to shade and fresh, cold water. While it might seem convenient to let your dog drink lake or river water, consuming it can do them more harm than good. This water could contain bacteria or other dangers that can make your dog sick, especially if it’s from a stagnant area. Pack ice water in a cooler or tumbler, as well as a collapsible water bowl for easy drinking! And make sure there’s plenty of drinking water for the both of you – hoomans need to stay hydrated too.

Read more about how to keep dogs cool in the summer.

Do: Practice Water Etiquette

Leash and Waste Management

Whether you are boating on a lake, floating on a river or beaching on either, it’s impawtant to be considerate of other people (and dogs) who are also enjoying a day on the water. If you see signs about leash requirements or notice other pooches on leashes, leash Fido up. Leashes are especially necessary for safety in populated areas like parking lots or docks.

As far as waste management goes, always doo-doo the right thing! Bring poo bags so you can remove your dog’s waste from a beach or bank. Dispose of all used poo bags in the trash. If your dog goes to the bathroom in the water, you need to scoop it – pet waste pollutes water bodies. Have a net or shovel handy just in case you need to do some dirty work. 

Respect Other Water Users

You don’t want Fido to flip over someone’s kayak… Make sure that your dog swimming doesn’t negatively impact someone else’s day. Respect other boaters, floaters and swimmers by keeping your distance, especially if some of the floaters and swimmers are children. Not all kiddos are comfortable around dogs and you don’t want to send them into a panic that could end badly. This is another area where reliable recall is very impawtant!

The Don’ts for Taking Your Dog Swimming

Don’t: Ignore Basic Water Safety

Don’t let taking your dog swimming distract you from following basic water safety. Consider the same rules that apply to hoomans.

Dog swimming with life jacket on

If you’re out in the open water, look out for other boaters and jet skiers. You must always be aware of your surroundings and visible to other people: This is why both you and Fido should wear neon life jackets when you’re swimming in a lake. Not everyone expects to see a dog swimming, so you are responsible for Fido’s well-being. Keep your eyes on him at all times!

Also, pay attention to signs of over exhaustion and overheating, just as you would in a hooman. If your dog starts to show signs of fatigue or distress while swimming, wrap him in a wetted towel and head home. Your dog’s health and safety is worth ending the trip early!

Pet first aid is just as impawtant as hooman first aid. Keep an emergency dog first aid kit on your boat or in your car, wherever you can access it easily. 

Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for water snakes and snapping turtles. You likely won’t see many out in open water, but they are a pawsibility along the bank. Don’t let Fido stick his head into any suspicious-looking areas.

Don’t: Force Your Dog into Uncomfortable Situations

If your pooch has never been to the water before, you might discover they love it… or hate it. Even some pooches who are bred to be water dogs end up being afraid of the water! It’s impawtant that you know your dog’s limits and respect their comfort level.

If you have a boat and Fido enjoys riding around but opts not to go swimming, simply let him be a passenger. If you take him to a beach and he only wants to go ankle deep, let him enjoy it. If you take him near any water and he is clearly upset the entire time, then maybe dog swimming is not for him.

Every dog is different – respect their boundaries! If your pooch is at furrst hesitant to get in the water, you don’t have to give up furrever. Just take it slow. You could start by introducing a kiddie pool at home (we also have them at Hounds Lounge). When you feel your fur baby is ready to visit a larger body of water, ease into the water with them. At the very least, you want your dog to feel comfurrtable being near water, even if they are anti-dog swimming.

Don’t: Furrget About Hounds Lounge!

Whether your pooch is a water-lover or not, Hounds Lounge is here to help! After a day on the water, you can drop into our self-serve dog wash and get Fido all cleaned up before you arrive home. For woofs who are not fans of the lake or river, you can drop them off for their own day of fun at Hounds Lounge doggy daycare! They can also stay overnight with our dog boarding services. When you pick them up, they’ll be just as tired and happy as you.

Remember, Hounds Lounge Bryant is conveniently located on the way to Hot Springs, and we have plenty of space for your pooch! 

When you decide it’s time to try taking your dog swimming in Arkansas, remember these dos and don’ts. As long as you are prepared, you prioritize safety and you consider others, you’re sure to have a good experience on the water. Taking your dog swimming shouldn’t be scary – it should be fun! If you have any questions or are looking for places to take your dog swimming, reach out to your Hounds Lounge staff.

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