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Pool Party: Swimming Fun for Water-Loving Dogs

Pool Party: Swimming Fun for Water-Loving Dogs

Making a Splash: The Rise of Dog Waterparks

Public leash-free dog parks are becoming ubiquitous in urban planning, but what about dog waterparks? True, dog parks are not for everyone and can be a hot bed of controversial dog-related issues. But dog parks are now common in most municipalities (ironically, not mine). In fact, I plan my road trip stops based on the availability of fenced-in areas to run my high energy spaniel. Dog parks are almost everywhere. How soon then before we have water parks specifically for dogs?

Dog waterparks. Crazy idea, right? Well, so were leash-free dog parks not that long ago. However, considering I’m still trying to advocate for a dog park in my own town, taking on the dog waterpark mission might solidify my reputation as a crazy pet lady. Instead, I’m excited about a new trend: public pools and private water parks are going to the dogs. Or at least the day-after-the-last-day of the swimming season, closing to people but opening for dogs to enjoy.

Diving into the Fun: Doggie Dips and Pooch Pool Plunges

Toronto opened public pools last weekend to dogs just for fun before closing for the season. But most ‘doggie splash days’ or ‘pooch pool plunges’ are organized to benefit an animal rescue or shelter. What a great idea. The day before the water is drained and the pool or splash pad is cleaned, dogs get to have their day in the sun (hopefully). Pet rescues get to collect the admission fee, plus donations.

First up: The Second Annual Doggie Dip benefiting the Milton and Oakville Humane Society at a Lions’ Club public pool in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. My pup had her first pool experience, and being a spaniel, I assumed she’d take to the water like the ducks she loves to chase. However, I made a mistake. This particular doggie dip was a timed event, meaning it only offered half-hour time slots for only 20 dogs at a time. So, I immediately I figured we need to make our time count.

Lessons Learned: Slow and Steady Approach for Water-Shy Pups

When we stepped into the pool area and took off the leash, I immediately picked up one of the hundreds of tennis balls scattered around the dock and threw it into the pool. Naturally, my spaniel ran after the ball, leaping from the edge of the pool into the water. Immediately, she swam and I cheered her on gobsmacked. ‘She’s swimming!’ I thought … or maybe I shouted. ‘I’ve never seen her swim before.’ The only thing was, she didn’t have the ball in her mouth but was swimming toward the edge of the pool where she ran frantically tried to claw her way to dry land. She wasn’t swimming so much as panicking – the entire water experience took her by surprise.

Of course, I lifted her out of the pool. Then she was too afraid to try again. Later, she fell into the pool once more by accident – reaching for a ball – and again frantically swam to shore. Dammit Jim, she’s a Spaniel, not a Lab. I’d made the mistake of making her first pool experience frightening. She spent the rest of her time happily chasing balls along the dock. I managed to convince her to step into the water as far as the top step – which is how I should have started. Eventually, she made it briefly to the second step before jumping out of the water. So much for my vision of her gleefully swimming laps.

Finding the Right Fit: Exploring Local Doggie Dips

In fact, not many dogs did swim across the pool except for a few water-loving Labradors. This pool pooch plunge was a markedly different experience than my dog’s water splash pad experience last year (see here). We’re heading back to the Kitchener splash pad next week. Running through the water she loves – swimming in water over her head, no so much.

Want to take your pup to a pool plunge? If you’re near Southern Ontario, Canada, there’s still a number of Doggie Pool/splash pad experiences to take advantage of this year. If you’re not near Ontario, let us know in the comments below about any similar events pup plunge happening near you and where. And, most importantly – don’t surprise your dog by encouraging a big leap of faith. Slow and steady introduction wins the race. Many dog pool events require pre-registration and evidence of vaccinations. For a list of dog pools open this weekend and beyond in the United States, check out this list from Pet Friendly Travel.

So, whether you’re near Southern Ontario or elsewhere, consider taking your water-loving pup to a doggie dip or pooch pool plunge this season. Just remember to go slow and make it a fun, stress-free experience for your furry friend. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll see dog waterparks popping up all over. For now, let’s make a splash at the local pool party!

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