Know your dog’s swimming ability, be cautious

I recently have been taking my lunch break down by the river, spending time watching the busy activity associated with ever-flowing water.

The wildlife is abundant in a particular spot located near a boat launch area. Little chipmunks scurry around the heavily wooded area as songbirds sing from tall branches.

Larger waterfowl spread their magnificent wings as they glide silently above the rumbling river.

The location is a busy hub for folks looking to beat the heat. I often chuckle at people preparing their flotation devices for a river excursion.

I almost choked on my sandwich the other day when a truck rolled up with two very large rubber ducks strapped in its bed. I watched with amusement as the party clambered into the bright yellow ducks and set off from the bank.

This particular spot also is a mecca for dog owners who let their pooches splash around in the cool water. The gentle sloping sand bar at the boat ramp allows for easy wading.

The waters have now subsided from the annual spring run-off, but a few weeks ago, the river was rolling along fairly swiftly and encompassed low-lying areas beyond the river’s usual path.

As I was watching a swirling eddy created by the powerful run-off not far from shore, a couple suddenly appeared with four dogs. Two of the dogs were border collies and the other two were some sort of mixed breeds.

The dogs’ ears were all perked, their tails wagging fervently, and I sensed they were anxious to get their feet wet.

Given the speed of the current, I was a bit surprised when the couple bent down and released the dogs from their leashes. The dogs immediately bounded into the water and began romping and splashing.

Three of the dogs stayed close to the shore trying to steady themselves as the water rushed around their feet, but one dog began swimming farther into the water.

The dog began floating down river, caught in the fast current. The couple began calling to “Molly” to come back, but it was apparent the dog was having difficulties.

Molly kept trying to swim toward the shore as the couple frantically made their way down the bank of the river. The woman ended up wading into the water to rescue Molly.

Thankfully, this scenario had a happy ending. I watched as the woman put Molly’s leash back on as they joined the others near the boat ramp.

The woman ended up adding an additional leash to Molly’s tether as the dog seemingly loved to swim. The frisky pup kept biting at the little waves created from the eddy, mindless of the danger.

It was apparent Molly was a good swimmer, but under the circumstances, the dog never should have been let off the leash.

Many dogs love nothing more than a large body of water, especially on a hot summer day, but they do not have the capacity to realize the hazards of fast-moving water.

Apparently, some people also do not.

Many dog breeds are avid swimmers. Collies, retrievers and spaniels are often water-loving creatures and will seek out pools of water to play in.

Others, such as the bulldog, cannot swim due to short, stubby legs and will quite often end up sinking.

And there are many dogs that do not want anything to do with water. They don’t like to get their feet wet, much less submerge themselves. 

Whether your dog is a natural water lover or a persnickety breed that prefers to avoid it, always be cautious with your pet when near large bodies of water and running water, like the river.

A smaller breed that did not know how to swim would never have survived Molly’s situation. Know your pet’s swimming abilities and avoid situations that may compromise their welfare.

And when unsure, keep your best friend close on the other end of the leash. 

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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