“Last one in the pool is a Rottweiler,” or so the saying may go if you’re at one of the new canine aquatic facilities popping up across the county. Catering to an exclusive clientele of the hairy four-legged sort, these centers are designed to bring another set of human-quality services to pampered pooches.
Have a rambunctious Russell Terrier that needs to work off some extra energy? Could your arthritic golden retriever use some low-impact exercise? Does your beagle need to shed a few pounds?
The answer could be swimming a few laps in a heated indoor pool.
The Benefits of Swimming
There’s no denying that swimming can be great exercise for most dogs. Because it’s low impact, there’s less stress on joints than running or leaping. This is especially important for dogs with orthopedic conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia or cruciate tears. By paddling in the pool, dogs can fend off muscle atrophy and build muscle strength as well as maintain joint range of motion and mobility.
Swimming is another great way to burn calories. And, just like for people, it’s good for dogs to have new social interactions. Compared with swimming in natural bodies of water, dogs at aquatic centers are generally supervised and there’s no chance of an undertow or drinking contaminated water.
Lap Pools of Luxury
Most aquatic centers feature one or more pools that are warmed to between 80 and 90 degrees F. The pools tend to be about four feet deep, and some centers even offer resistance pools where dogs are challenged to swim against the current. They’re typically cleaned by a UV sanitizer rather than with harsh chemicals, and often include vacuums to continually suck up hair.
Dogs are generally required to wear life jackets unless they’ve proven to be strong swimmers. Because swimming doesn’t always come naturally to dogs, some pools offer coaches that will provide in-pool instruction. Towels and toys are often provided.
Aquatic centers may also offer dog birthday parties, dock diving classes, jetted pools to massage those muscles and even self-service dog washes.
Swimming Isn’t for Everyone
Many brachycephalic (flat-nosed) breeds such as pugs and bulldogs simply aren’t built for swimming. Because of they have barrel-shaped chests, short legs and tend to be breathing challenged, a kiddie pool in the back yard may be more appropriate.
The same goes for any dog with laryngeal paralysis or one who has had surgery for this condition. You should also avoid aquatic centers if your dog is unvaccinated, is in heat or is fearful or aggressive around other dogs.
A Word About Aquatic Rehabilitation
While many of these centers may claim to provide rehabilitative therapy for dogs recovering from orthopedic or neurological surgeries or conditions, it’s important to check with your veterinarian first.
He or she can determine if your dog is healthy enough to swim and help you review the therapists’ credentials. Ideally, these dogs should be under the supervision of a veterinarian or someone with advanced training in veterinary rehabilitation to avoid possible injury.
But for most dogs, a splash in the pool is a welcome — and healthy — distraction