Contrary to popular belief, the dog paddle may not come naturally to all dogs. While some dogs are natural-born swimmers, others may not be. And even the best swimmers can use some training when starting out. The American Kennel Club offers the following tips to help dog owners keep their four-legged friends safe in and around the pool.

Supervision

First and foremost, never leave your dog unsupervised while in a lake or pool. Your dog may need your help and be unable to bark loudly enough to get your attention.

Build confidence

It’s important to build confidence in your dog around water. Even the breeds that are natural swimmers tend to be afraid the first time they enter a lake or pool, so be sure to take it slowly and praise your dog every step of the way.

Moderation

Don’t let your dog overexert itself. Swimming is great exercise, but, as with any workout, it should be increased in small increments. Your dog is using new muscles to swim and may get worn out quickly. Also keep in mind that smaller breeds tend to get tired faster because of their short limbs.

The dog paddle

If your dog begins to dog paddle with just the front legs, lift your dog’s hind legs to help it float. Your dog should quickly catch on and will then keep its back end up.

Learn the ladder

Helping your dog learn to use the ladder to exit the pool is an important skill to ensure your dog’s safety, but it can cause your dog to panic. Dogs are not used to climbing a ladder and will need to be taught how to use it. Direct your dog toward the ladder and help it climb out of the pool.

Rinse off

The chemicals from the pool can irritate your dog’s skin. Spray off your dog with a hose after it gets out of the pool. You might want to take the same precaution after your dog has gone swimming in a lake.

Clean the ears

Most ear infections in dogs with floppy ears are caused by too much water and dampness. Dab your dog’s ears with a dry towel. If your dog has thick fur on its ears, consider using a blow dryer set to cool to get rid of excess moisture.