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Swimming can be a great activity for your dog (as long as they enjoy the water). In fact, according to vets, one minute of swimming is equivalent to approximately four minutes of running for our pups. This is because the water creates resistance, meaning they work harder swimming than they do walking or running. This low-impact activity has other health benefits too. It can strengthen the muscles, heart and lungs; improve metabolism and circulation; and reduce stress, pain, inflammation and weight. Plus it's great for senior dogs with decreased mobility, arthritis and joint stiffness. But swimming isn't just a healthy form of exercise for our dogs - it's also fun. Here are swim toys and accessories for water-loving dogs that will take swimming to another level.
Before you and your dog dive into the water, make sure you're keeping your pup safe. Start by making sure your dog enjoys swimming, or is at least comfortable. If your dog loves water but can't swim , make sure to suit them up in a life jacket. Also, always check the water to make sure it's safe, clean and the right temperature for your dog. Avoid water that is an unexpected color, too cold or too hot, covered with something (like algae or a film) or seems suspicious in any other way.
Pro Tip: For extended exposure, anything under 50 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for dogs.
In addition, try not to let your dog drink pool, lake or ocean water. It's not the safest and can cause health issues like gastrointestinal upset. Chlorinated pools usually have low levels but drinking too much can cause stomach irritation, vomiting and esophagus erosion. Saltwater is even more dangerous, as ingesting too much salt draws water from the blood into the intestines, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Furthermore, it can throw off the fluid balance in your dog and end up being fatal.
After your dog's swim, it's a good idea to rinse them off with fresh water or give them a bath to remove any salt, chlorine or other substance that may have been in the water. Also make sure to dry them off thoroughly, to avoid a drop in body temperature or the chills (particularly important for dogs with longer fur).
Pro Tip: Make sure to dry your dog's ears and paws after a swim in a chlorinated pool, as chlorine can cause irritation, burns or other skin reactions.
For more information, check out our article on dog swimming safety tips.
Once you know how to keep your dog safe around water, you can enjoy time together swimming and playing. Here are some of the best aquatic toys and accessories for dogs!
It's always a good idea to have some extra protection and safety gear when it comes to dogs and swimming. A lifejacket or vest is great for ensuring dogs who can swim don't get too fatigued and is a must for dogs who like water but can't swim. It's also especially helpful for adventures in large bodies of water with strong currents, like the ocean. Make sure to pick one in a bright color for easy spotting and strong handles for secure handling while on. Larger dogs typically require two handles, while smaller dogs only need one. We use Outward Hound's in yellow and orange but there are plenty of other dog life jackets to choose from!
Pro Tip: It is recommended that you use a dog lifejacket or vest around water, even if your dog isn't going to be swimming.
If you have a water-loving (or liking) dog who also loves fetching toy balls, taking the game to the water is easy with the right toys. Regular felt tennis balls get soggy but, fortunately, there are balls made specifically for the water. The ChuckIt! Amphibious Fetch Balls are made from lightweight yet durable materials that allow them to float while being gentle on the gums and teeth.
For a more durable option with a little extra engagement (thanks to the unique shape that makes it bounce erratically), there's the West Paw Zogoflex Jive Ball. These balls are solid yet lightweight enough to float and come in three sizes (extra small, small and large). They are also recyclable, FDA-Compliant, and free of BPA, phthalate and latex. Bonus: they're dishwasher safe too.
If you want to go big or go home, the Jolly Pets Soccer Ball Dog Toy may be for you. It comes in two sizes, six inches for dogs under 40 pounds and eight inches for those over. The flexible material allows the ball to float, makes it easy for your dog to hold even when wet and prevents deflation if punctured.
For dogs who like water and frisbees, it's easy to combine the two, thanks to several different types of flying discs made specifically for water. ChuckIt! has a variety of water frisbees - from their 10 inch Paraflight Flyer (featuring a multilayer nylon interior and soft rubber edges to be gentle on your dog's mouth) to the nine inch Zipflight Flyer (made of non-toxic EVA foam under multiple layer of dense polyester canvas) to the spinning Flying Squirrel (which comes in small, medium and large sizes).
Rough players and tough chewers may enjoy the 10 inch Nerf Dog Atomic Flyer more, which is lightweight and durable from the thermoplastic rubber construction. And if you want a fun color or pattern, the nine inch Hyper Pet Flippy Flopper Dog Frisbee is the way to go. You can get it in bright pink, blue, green, donuts, camouflage, swirls and even Toy Story characters. All of the options are made of durable, multilayer nylon construction, which is buoyant and safe on your dog’s gums and teeth.
If your dog loves squeaky toys, there are lots of water-friendly options. You can go for soft options like the Outward Hound Floatiez (made from quick drying materials, come in a variety of cute animals and float upright in the water), the ZippyPaws Floaterz (lightweight enough to float yet durable enough for hours of play; comes in a shark, duck, turtle, and walrus) and the SCENEREAL Dog Float Snakes (made of a soft but durable nylon exterior, not stuffed and measure over 20 inches long).
You can also find hard water toys that squeak, which are especially good for touch chewers and rough players. Two football shaped options by Nerf are the Dog Shark Football Toy and the Rubber Football Dog Toy. Both are seven inches, made of Nerf-quality materials and float. The Shark Football has a tough thermoplastic rubber outer shell and a soft center that soaks up water, while the Rubber Football is designed with grip-friendly ridges. Another fun option is the Hyper Pet Dura-Squeaks Dog Toy, which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each version is made from thermoplastic rubber, free of BPA, floats and bounces erratically for extra engagement.
There are so many options for dogs who like to fetch in the water that it's almost overwhelming. For example, dogs who like to tug would enjoy the Kong Floating Fetch Toy and the Starmark Swing 'n Fling DuraFoam Ball, both of which are made from strong foam to keep them afloat and feature ropes for easy tossing and tugging. There's also the Kong Wubba Wet Dog Toy, which is covered in quick-drying neoprene fabric.
For dogs who like sticks, you can go for the Hyper Pet Chewz Stick Toy or the West Paw Zogoflex Hurley Dog Bone Chew Toy. The Hyper Pet stick is made of lightweight and durable EVA foam that holds its shape when chomped on but is gentle on the teeth and gums. The West Paw bone is made of a rubber-like material that is non-toxic, recyclable, floats and dishwasher safe.
If you want something that's fun and unique, you have some options too. There's the ChuckIt! Amphibious Shark Fin Dog Toy (made of nylon, rubber and EVA foam to be durable yet gentle on dogs' mouths), the Ruff Dawg Flying Fish Dog Toy (made of quality rubber that's gentle on dogs' mouths but tear- and puncture-resistant) and the Kurgo Skipping Stones Fetch Toys (which skid on water like real stones but float because they're made from a non-toxic, BPA free and dishwasher safe material).
Playing in the pool is fun but sometimes dogs just want to relax in the water. For pools without a shallow area where dogs can lie down, there are dog pool float loungers. These are basically the same as floats for humans but with pet-friendly construction to prevent nails from puncturing them. The SwimWays Spring Float holds larger dogs, including those over 65 pounds, and is made of claw-friendly, heavy-duty reinforced canvas and mesh. For smaller dogs and a fun style, there's the PoolCandy Inflatable Pet Float (made from sturdy and stretchable PVC in a leopard print) and the Paws Aboard Doggy Lazy Raft (made of puncture- and UV-resistant durable vinyl top in the shape of a paw).
If you want to make it easy for your dog to enter (if they don't like jumping in) and exit the water, you can buy a special ramp or ladder specifically for this purpose. These tools have non-slip walking surfaces to provide traction while also preventing damage to your pool. The lightweight Dog Pool Exit Ramp is made of PVC, holds up to 70 pounds and is blue and yellow for dog color vision. For a more heavy duty ramp that can hold up to 500 pounds, there's the Petstep Pool Bundle. Despite its sturdiness, this ramp is still portable because it folds in half and weighs just 18.5 pounds.
Another option is the WaterDog Adventure Gear Dog Ladder for swimming pools, which isn't a ramp at all. This tool features six slip-resistant steps that are each four inches tall and positioned at a dog-friendly 45-degree angle. It provides a vertical rise of 24" (bottom step to deck), doesn't touch the inside of the pool to prevent damage and can also be used for an above ground pool.
For an option you can use in the pool and on a boat at the lake, there's the Solstice Inflatable Pup Plank Pet Ramp. It has weighted mesh to sink below water-level, eight foot tie-ropes that can secure anywhere, and drop stitch construction with extra-dense EVA traction pad for stability and grip. And because it's inflatable, it's easy to take anywhere and store.
Other water-entrance and water-exit options for lake trips and boating adventures include the Drifter Marine Dog Boarding Boat Ladder (made of anodized-aluminum and mesh, holds dogs up to 125 pounds, adjustable and foldable), the Great Day Load-A-Pup Pet-Loading Platform (lightweight construction from aircraft aluminum, gripping ridges for traction and hooks to attach to boat ladders), and the Beavertail Aluminum Folding Dog Ladder (made of aluminum and stainless steel with rubber arms that adjust to fit your boat and prevent scratches or noise when hunting).