With warmer weather making spending time on the lake ideal, it’s important to consider the safety of your furry family members as well. The Milwaukee area has dog friendly public beaches to let you dog swim or you can often catch sight of dogs on boats during the weekend.
The closest beach to the downtown Milwaukee area is Harrington Beach State Park, which is a 30-minute drive located just north of Port Washington. The Kohler-Andrae State Park Beach, which is north of Milwaukee and just below Sheboygan also welcome dogs. Both of the public beaches require that dogs be leashed when they are not in the water. Dogs are also welcome to swim at the Granville Dog Park, the park is located right on the banks of the Menomonee River and is an off-leash park. Of course there are also further dog friendly beaches up north that make for idea camping trips.
Nicole Ellis, a product manager and resident pet expert at DogVacay provided helpful tips as to how you should protect your dog and insure that they are safe and happy during their time in the water.
“Taking your pup in the water for the first time can be a lot of fun, as long as you keep it positive and don’t ever force him into the water!. Always start in a shallow body of water first, and slowly expose your dog to the deeper part of the water as he becomes more comfortable. For deeper water, begin by lightly supporting your dog in the water and gradually letting go of your resistance. If your pup is hesitant, it’s a great idea for you both to start in shallow water and you can coax him towards you in progressively deeper areas.”
To the untrained eye it might be difficult to tell when your dog is in trouble or growing tired, but it’s important to supervise them and for first time swimmers it’s important to introduce your dog to water slowly. Ellis says that puppies can swim at a very early age, you can start training your dog when they are 10 to 12 weeks old.
“When a dog is swimming, he should be using his paws as if he’s running in a calm and relaxed fashion. If your dog is breathing heavily and pulling strongly with his paws, he may be nervous or uncomfortable,” says Ellis. “It’s a good idea to start in shallow water or a kiddie pool and gradually move into deeper water. A slow moving dog or one not moving his paws may be confused about what to do, so be sure to always support a learning pup in the water. Putting your hand on the bottom of his back paws can help your pup to kick out and initiate the swimming motion.”
Just like when heading out on the lake yourself, always be sure to bring a dog lifejacket. While your dog may be a great swimmer, wearing a life jacket insures that if they get tuckered out—and if in the event of an accident and your dog is struggling—the life jacket is there for safety.
“I never do water activities with my dog unless she’s wearing a pup life jacket! Getting the right fit is also very important; if it’s too big he can slip right of out of it, and if it’s too small it may not be strong enough to support your dog. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly around his rib cage as well as his chest and under his head. The jacket should not affect your dog’s ability to swim—if your pup isn’t able to move their legs freely, then the fit’s not right. I prefer a jacket that has a handle on top as well, so that I can grab my pup quickly if necessary.”
Dog life jackets can be purchased from a variety of different pet companies and retailers including Ruffwear and Petsmart.
“Always use a life jacket, even when you’re on the boat! If you do go swimming, always remember to turn the boat engine off before letting your pup in the water. Take lots of breaks while swimming, and remember that pups can easily tire and get caught up in waves, just like us. Always make sure your pup has plenty of cool clean water to drink and access to shade. While on the boat, make sure your pup can walk around without burning the pads on his feet. Most importantly, never ever let your dog swim off unsupervised.”
Pup-parents can ensure their pet is safe by also learning lifesaving skills from apps or classes.
“I’m a big fan of the Red Cross’ Pet First Aid app is great and also contains other useful information, such as what your pet’s normal temperature should be. The Red Cross also teaches a short 1-2 day course on pet CPR, which I would recommend if you plan to spend a lot of time on the water together, and I would also recommend having a pet first aid kit on hand.”
Ellis points out that there is a very important consideration that needs to be made before CPR is performed. “You should ensure that your dog is in fact suffering cardiac arrest. If the dog’s tongue, gums, and lips are turning blue, then CPR is needed. Be aware that CPR can be extremely dangerous for a dog that doesn’t need it, so if you have the ability to get your pet to a nearby veterinary facility, I would recommend it as they have trained professionals who can help save your pet.”
DogVacay started in 2012 and is the leading online service connecting pet owners with over 20,000 loving sitters across the U.S. and Canada. They offer five-star-rated sitters that come with the DogVacay 24/7 customer support and daily photo updates of pets.