Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


11 tips to help your dog get in the swim this summer

By Kim Campbell Thornton

It's summertime, and that means it's time to get in the water. And what water-loving dog owner doesn't throw tennis balls for Jake to fetch from the pool, take him to the beach or have him as first mate while power-boating, sailing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding?

Those are all great ways to spend time with your dog, but it's important to ensure that he's "waterproof." People often assume that dogs know instinctively how to swim, but that's not the case. Teaching your dog to swim is an important part of his education, especially if you have a pool, hot tub or pond on your property or spend lots of time at the shore.

-- Summer is the best time to introduce your dog to the joys of playing in water. Even dogs such as Labs or Chesapeake Bay retrievers may balk if their first experience in the wet stuff is a cold one.

-- If possible, take your dog to an area where he can get his paws wet gradually, such as a lake or an ocean beach that doesn't have big surf.

-- Never throw your dog in the water. That's a good way to teach him to hate swimming.

-- If you're introducing a puppy to water, it helps if you have an older dog who can show him the ropes. Pups will usually follow older dogs and copy what they do.

-- As your dog gets more used to being in the water, up the fun level by throwing a bumper or floating ball into shallow water for him to fetch.

-- As your dog goes deeper, support his body until he starts swimming on his own. Encourage him to swim to you.

-- No easy access to a lake or ocean? A child's wading pool is an equally good start. Let your dog splash around in it to get the idea that playing in water is fun. When he encounters the real thing, he'll love it.

-- Even the most water-loving dog can tire or panic for some reason. Always be sure your dog knows how to get out of the pool. Take him into the pool and show him how to find the stairs and climb out. Let him get in the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Practice this frequently until you're sure he's prepared.

-- If you have a boat, the same rules apply. Put your dog in the water and then help him get back into the boat. Some dogs learn to use the boat ladder to scramble back on board. More important, keep a safety harness or canine life vest on him anytime he's on board, whether you're in a canoe or on a yacht. Choose one with a loop on the top so you can grasp it by hand or with a boat hook to haul him back in. It should fit snugly without restricting your dog's movement. The best choice is one with adjustable straps and quick-release buckles.

-- Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. The ramp is easily visible because it's white and it angles down, breaking the surface of the water and placing it at pet's-eye level.

-- Use a pool fence or other barrier to keep old or blind pets away from water. If they fall in the pool, they won't be able to get out. Other dogs that risk drowning if they fall in the water are those with big heads or short legs, such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, dachshunds and basset hounds.

Now, get out there and enjoy the dog days of summer.


Teach runaway that

it's more fun to stay

Q: I have a 4-year-old maltipoo who is the love of my life, but I can't allow him off leash. If given the opportunity, he will run off down the street. He always comes back, but only on his terms. Why does he do this? The cockapoo we had before Teddy always stayed with me when off leash. -- via email

A: Typically, companion dogs such as yours are more likely to stay close to their owners, but your maltipoo apparently inherited the genes of an adventurous ancestor. The fact is, running away is rewarding for dogs. They get to run through the grass, feel the breeze in their fur, freely greet other dogs and people, and chase birds and squirrels. Every time your dog got away with it, that success reinforced his desire to run away again.

You need to make staying with you more fun than running away. Start by practicing inside your home or a fenced yard. Standing a few feet away, call your dog to come. Praise and reward him with a treat every time he responds. Use a really great treat that he doesn't get at any other time.

Gradually extend the distance from which you call him. Practice in different areas of the house and yard. If you don't have a fenced area where you can practice, use a long line, such as 30 feet of clothesline, to make sure he can't run away. Walk around with your dog on the line, letting him sniff or play. Every once in a while, call him and reward him when he comes.

The goal is to teach him to always come when you call, no matter what the distractions. It may help to take him to training class or enlist the services of a certified trainer or behaviorist who can work with you privately. -- Mikkel Becker

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Adoption blitz finds

new homes for pets

-- Far exceeding the goal of 10,000 adoptions, more than 15,000 pets found new homes over a two-day period as 200 rescue groups and shelters in more than 500 cities and towns across the United States participated in the fifth-annual Maddie's Fund Adoption Days held May 31 and June 1. Maddie's Fund awarded participating shelters $500 for every healthy young dog or cat adopted, $1,000 for every senior dog or cat or animal with a health issue, and $2,000 for every senior dog or cat who also had a health issue. The donations totaled more than $10 million.

-- You may have seen the story recently about the lion, tiger and bear who are best friends. Or the Siamese mix in Florida who brought up two orphaned Chihuahua puppies with her own litter of kittens. What's behind these unusual friendships? Under the right circumstances, animals of different species can form close and lasting relationships. They are most likely to bond when they meet at an early age, in an environment that provides warmth and softness, such as nursing or sleeping together. Animals are more adaptable when young, and most animals are nurturing toward the young of any species.

-- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed the "Beagle Freedom" law on May 21, making the state the first to mandate that dogs and cats used in laboratory testing be put up for adoption once the research is complete. Sponsored by Los Angeles-based Beagle Freedom Project and authored by State Sen. Scott Dibble and State Rep. John Lesch, the legislation links animal rescue groups with taxpayer-funded laboratories and educational institutions that use dogs and cats for research. Beagles are popular research dogs because of their small size and friendly temperament, characteristics that also make them great companions. Similar legislation has been introduced in California. -- Kim Campbell Thornton


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.


Caption 01: Always be sure your dog has a way to get out of the pool and knows how to use it. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: Waived adoption fees help animal lovers bring a new pet home and put the money toward food and other necessities. Position: Pet Buzz