Dog drownings – the silent tragedy


Not all dogs are natural swimmers — a fact lost on many of us, including pet owners and one which can result in tragedy.

Inspired by the desire to improve her beloved Beagle Bagel’s swimming confidence and to raise awareness of dog water safety issues, Karen Yang was moved to create a canine life jacket.

Breeds such as the Golden Retriever and Labrador were bred to swim, others such as Bulldogs and Daschshunds struggle in the water.

Bagel fell into the latter.

“We spend so much time at Lake Parramatta [in western Sydney] with Bagel but he was so scared of the water, especially when he couldn’t touch the bottom,” Ms Yang said.

“I started to research swim jackets and realised there was a huge gap in the Australian market. “We enrolled Bagel into a doggie daycare swim program and made sure he had the prototype Dog Swim Jacket and it made such a huge difference to how he felt about the water. So the Stylish Hound Dog Swim Jacket was born.”

The high density foam of the jacket assists dogs to float which gives them the confidence to learn how to swim.

It’s hard to get exact figures on dog drownings due to under reporting and lack of awareness about the issue. But several pet cremation services contacted estimated as many as 1000 dogs die due to drowning in Australia each year.

And not just in lakes, waterways and beaches, drownings can also happen in pools when the dog is unable to get out. Secondary drowning – when water gets into the lungs after a near drowning experience – can also be fatal or cause severe complications.

Crystal Bulmer, a senior veterinary nurse at Petersham Vet Hospital said owners should consider training their dog with swimming skills and be aware of water safety when they are with their dog before going to the beach or lake.

Research shows that dogs can remember traumatic events from the age of 12 weeks, so a bad introduction to water can be a lifelong fear.

“We always encourage positive introduction of the water before anything else,” Ms Bulmer said.

“Use treats as a reward and take it slowly. Your dog will let you know how far he is willing to go.

“It’s best not to push them if they’re timid or unsure as this can cause them to associate the water with something negative.”

Ms Bulmer says a swim jacket is perfect for nervous dogs who will feel reassured by their buoyancy and are therefore more likely to enjoy a swim.

“Once they understand they aren’t at risk of going under they’re likely to love it,” she said.

Just like born again water baby Bagel.

“After Bagel conquered his fear of the water he actually became a bit over confident,” Ms Yan said.

“He decided to just swim to the middle of Lake Parramatta one day without his Dog Swim Jacket and I was pretty close to jumping in after him.”

For more visit: Stylish Hound.

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