Pit bull looking at river

10 things to look out for to stay safe when walking by water

Summer is upon us and we are all exploring our local areas a bit more due to lockdown.

Science tells us that getting out in nature improves our mental and physical health; what a lovely way to feel good whilst having our dogs with us too!

Here are some helpful tips whilst you’re walking out and about near water.

  1. Be aware of fishing hooks in the water or near the waters edge, they can cause nasty injuries and can be tricky to remove; where possible avoid any areas where fishing takes place.
  2. Your dog should be fully vaccinated before they explore around canals, rivers and lakes as some waterways can be a source of infectious disease.
  3. Be aware that there could be potential hazards under the surface of the water which we can’t see, for example: broken glass, discarded rubbish and avoid blue-green algae as this is toxic to dogs. It is highly toxic and not always obviously visible, be on the look-out for warning notices which may indicate affected areas. If your dog has been swimming outside, it might be sensible to give them a thorough rinse with clean water afterwards.
  4. When walking by water it’s important to have well-practised recall so that your dog doesn’t explore anywhere you can’t get to them. It may help to have a harness of longline with you so you can ensure control over your dog, while still permitting them some freedom to roam.
    How teach your dog good recall
  5. Letting your dogs paddle can help with confidence, keep them cool on warmer days and it’s also a different type of experience for dogs that can be enriching if they don’t get near water very often.
  6. If your dog is a little unsure about going into the water, try to find a sloping flat ‘beach’ so they can have a walk without leaping in. Ideally it would be best to find a spot where the bottom can be seen, stand calmly waiting next to the water to see if your dog wants to investigate it, then praise. Let your dog go at their own pace and if they don’t want to paddle, that’s fine. Let them decide then they will trust you to help them out if they do start to feel uncomfortable.
  7. Some dogs will enjoy playing with toys in water and will swim out to fetch these. You will need to make sure you have a toy that will float and be visible once floating, plus easy for your dog to hold with their mouth. Try not to throw any toys too far or near to any people or wildlife.
  8. Your dog may naturally want to enter the water or even leap in so you need to vigilant at all times. Here is some advice from the RNLI if you can’t reach your dog in water: Advice from RNLI for walking by water with your dog. It is recommended that owners do not jump in after their dog if they get into trouble. 
  9. Another risk with waterside walking is that sometimes reed and water grasses grow very close to the edge, dogs can sometimes not realise this and run into them then suddenly plunge in; so be vigilant!
  10. Exploring and experiencing new sights, sounds and smells can be so enriching for your dog. They can reap the benefits of having positive new experiences and enjoy exploring new places with you there for support, and it can often be a nice place to stop and have lunch or a picnic yourself so you can practice ‘settle’ too.
    Teach your dog how to settle 

Pit bull overlooking river

Happy and safe exploring everyone!