Canine Life Jackets ... a Real God-Send!
When I first heard of canine life jackets, I was surprised, because, like so many others, I had always thought that all dogs knew how to swim instinctively.
Since then I have learned a lot about all the reasons why there are life jackets for dogs and the importance of using them, just as we humans, our babies, and older children need life jackets.
First of all, something I guess most of us just never realized, is that certain breeds of dog, because of their natural build, just sink in water and cannot even begin to swim. Among these breeds are some terriers, such as West Highland and Bostons, Pugs, Greyhounds, Corgis, Scotties, Dachshunds, and Basset Hounds.
Think about it: These breeds do not have a lot of body fat, but most are heavily muscled, which equates to less buoyancy. Add to the above list Great Danes, Boxers, Dobermans, and Mastiffs.
Afraid of water!
Many breeds also have a built-in fear of water ... betcha didn't know that!
Neither did I.
This fear can be inherited, or it can stem from abuse by a former owner, or your dog may just be high strung.
Still other dogs may have had a traumatic experience with water, such as near drowning. Or maybe they had been in an accident which prevented them from escaping from some body of water. And, of course, there is the possibility that a former owner used dunking in water as a form of discipline or punishment.
Who knows? You will probably never know, since dogs cannot talk.
So what to do?
The younger your dog is when you start training him to get used to water and get over his fears, the better. Start when your pet is in a happy, playful mood, and begin with shallow water, such as a baby pool in the yard, maybe when some little kids are happily splashing and laughing.
Another method is to slowly introduce the wetness of water by gently caressing him on the belly with a wet hand while speaking to him softly. Start with warm water and then gradually cool it. Give him a treat as you playfully laugh and splash your hand in a shallow bowl so that he associates pleasure with the sound of splashing.
Doing all of this will gradually get your dog relaxed and unafraid of his bath. And, as pointed out above, small children laughing and splashing in a shallow pool on a hot day also will help to get your pooch to relax around water.
Now it is time to introduce his life jacket to him.
Your dog has to be trained to get used to wearing a canine life jacket. Again, you may ask why. I did as well before I learned about all the reasons they need to wear one.
Think about it. Any living being can get fatigued. And in the water, cramps are not unusual. Dogs, as humans, have diminished capacity as they grow older and may have hip or joint problems.
Accidents happen all the time. Dogs fall into water every day for various reasons. And even if your dog is a natural swimmer, if an accident does happen, he may be knocked unconscious or injured in some other way that would make swimming impossible.
And don't forget about falling into water that, in and of itself, is dangerous, such as, white water, undertows, strong currents, huge waves, etc.
Now, about canine life jackets in general:
Fit is most important, not only to assure the dog cannot slip out of it, but also to be sure it is comfortable for him to walk, stand, sit, or lie down in before or after a water outing.
While he is in his life jacket, be sure your dog does not get overheated if he is going to be out of the water for awhile. Overheating can easily happen with Neoprene life jackets. The upside of Neoprene is that it may help your pet stay warmer in cold water. You will have to be the judge. If cold water is not a problem in your area, you may wish to consider a lighter material for your canine life jacket.
The upside of non-Neoprene models is that they usually have a mesh
underside that allows for faster drying.
No matter which life jacket you choose, remember to keep an eye on your dog if he is out of the water, because canine life jackets usually have various straps and buckles in which he can become entangled, and even if the jacket is not made of Neoprene, the dog could still get overheated on a very hot day.