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August 8, 2010

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Dog days of summer a time for pooches to plunge

"THERE all day we'll stay and play and Never mind the heat, While the water gleaming, streaming, Ripples round our feet." -- "In July" by US poet Evaleen Stein (1863-1923) Wang Zhiyu

In these hottest, muggiest dog days of summer, most canines love to go for a paddle, or at least splash around. Swimming is a great cooler-off, it's fun and it's good exercise for your dog -- if he or she can swim (not all dogs can). Let's find out more about dogs, swimming and where to splash around in Shanghai.

The first rule: Make sure your dog is properly licensed and wears a collar and tag; carry his/her vaccination and other documents with you.

The second rule: Obey leash laws.Can all dogs swim?

Most people think all dogs are natural swimmers. Believe or not, some of them don't know how to dog paddle. For example, an Afghan hound may be good at running, but swimming is not his thing. Dogs that have unpleasant memories of water and swimming are likely to be afraid of water.

Some breeds love to swim and there are natural water dogs. US President Obama has a Portuguese water dog, for example. Generally working dogs and hunting dogs take to the water -- all kinds of retrievers and spaniels; some breeds even have "water" in their names.

We often see golden retrievers and Labradors showing off their aquatic skills. Labs have webbed paws, once useful to retrieve fishing nets; they also helped hunters. Retrievers were bred to help hunters and retrieve waterfowl.

These are among the swimming breeds: Golden retriever, Labrador retriever, Poodle, German shepherd, Doberman, Bloodhound, Portuguese water dog, Irish and American water spaniels, Newfoundland, Cocker Spaniel, Corgi. There are others, but introduce your dog carefully to water.

Also, fatter dogs are more buoyant and find swimming easier.

Take precautions

Under most conditions, if you put your dog in water, he or she is able to float and dog paddle, keeping their heads above water and moving their legs. Occasionally there are accidental deaths from swimming, though these are rare. They can be caused by cramps, exhaustion and very cold water. Some dogs have heart problems and, of course, should't swim. It has (quite rarely) happened that some dogs get so excited about swimming that when they actually plunge in, they suffer a seizure.

Preparing to splash around

You can't be too prepared.

Fresh water

Take fresh drinking water for your dog and a clean bowl. Swimming pool or lake water isn't drinkable, though doggie may drink it. Don't share bowls with other dog owners.

Towel and mat

Dry your dog off immediately with a towel after the swim, otherwise it could catch cold. Dogs will, of course, shake vigorously and get the water out their ears. Dry the ears gently inside. If you drive, keep a towel or mat in the car for the dog.


Obey leash laws.

Keep your dog on a leash until you're sure the water area is free of hazards -- and unfriendly dogs. A harness may be better for controlling an excited dog.


There are lots of float toys and you can play fetch with your dog in the water.

Life vest

If your dog is learning to swim, try a vest, but don't push it.


Some dogs accept them, some don't, but dogs manage fine without them.

Why swimming is good for dogs

Cool down

Dogs pant to cool down, but panting isn't enough if the temperature is too high and dogs can't sweat like humans. So keep your dog in a cool place when it's very hot. A dip in the pool is another way to cool down. Give your dog water. Man and dog need to stay hydrated. We seldom hear of doggie sun stroke, but it could happen.


Dogs like to play. Everyone likes to have fun.


Swimming is great exercise, increasing muscle strength and cardio fitness. Everybody needs fresh air.


Swimming can help alleviate arthritis, hip dysplasia and spine pain, while providing exercise. Ask your vet.


If your dog seldom goes near water, the new experience in a new place can not only be fun but also build confidence.Let's splash around!

Swimming places for dogs in Shanghai

Tian Chi. Qingpu District (near Da Guan Yuan)

Entrance fee: 30 yuan (US$4)

Great place to take photos and barbecue.

San Jia Harbor (No. 6015, Huaxia Road E., Pudong New Area)

Entrance fee: 30 yuan

Beautiful scenery; dogs and owners can play and get in the water.

Nanhui Forest Park

Entrance fee: 20 yuan

Large lawn, lake; dogs can swim and play.


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