Swimming and Toys

Dear Puppy Raiser
Swimming and Toys

Thank you once again for the love and attention that you give our puppies.

In this letter we would like to discuss:

1) Swimming and the working dog
2) Our decision to discontinue the use of rope toys, plastic bottles and the use of hooves.

Swimming and the working dog

Generally Labradors and Golden Retrievers are water dogs that enjoy nothing more than a good swim. We would like to ask all Puppy Raisers to strongly discourage swimming as the dog that is constantly in the pool will become problematic for a person who is disabled.

Some of our working dog owners do have a pool but unfortunately many people in South Africa do not have a fenced pool.

If you fall into the category of not having a fenced pool it is important to “drown proof” your puppy or dog to ensure that they know how to get out of the pool. Dogs that do not know where the steps are will panic and try to get out the closest edge, this will be impossible and the dog will drown once it is exhausted. Preferably be in the pool and take your dog in and guide him to the furthest point in the pool from the steps and then show him the way to the steps. Repeat this from all sides of the pool. Then the pup needs to be “pushed” in under adult supervision and encourage him from the side of the pool to find the steps to get out. Repeat this on different days in different parts of the pool. Till the pup shows that he understands where to get out safely. Please speak to the Puppy Raising Supervisors to assist to do this before leaving your puppy unattended near an unfenced pool.
After this exercise always discourage your pup from swimming. If your pup is swimming say “No swimming!” and physically remove your dog from the pool.

The only time that we condone and encourage swimming is if the dog needs hydrotherapy after an operation. If you feel your dog does need to cool down, especially in our summer months, then wet some towels and lay them flat on the grass so that the dog can lie down on top of them. If you want to cool your dog quickly then a cold cloth or splash of cold water on his stomach and groin area is the best spot to revive a hot dog.

Guide Dog owners often need to use public transport or to rely on lifts from friends or family. A wet, muddy dog will not be readily welcomed. Service Dogs need to physically place their front paws on their owner’s lap for some of their tasks and this will not be pleasant if the dog is wet and muddy.

The instructors may often only realise that the dog has a swimming problem during the aftercare. This is a time when the dog and owner are at the start of their relationship (the bond is still forming) and we want to avoid any negative interactions.

The dog and owner will both be experiencing some degree of stress and an “unwanted swimming problem” will increase the stress levels experienced by both parties.

The instructor has limited time to practice guiding or service dog tasks. They do not have time to spend on trying to modify inappropriate swimming. This is a behavioural problem that is difficult to modify once it has become a habit. Skin and allergy problems are made worse when a dog swims and although your pup may not have a skin condition he/she could develop an allergy in later life.

Unwanted swimming could result in the dog being disqualified as a working dog. Please help us to avoid withdrawing a good dog for a problem that could have been avoided.

If you pup is a keen swimmer please discuss a solution with your Puppy Raising Supervisor.

Rope Toys, plastic bottles and hooves

After much thought, we have decided to discontinue the use of rope toys (of all descriptions), plastic bottles and hooves.

Recently we have had to surgically remove rope toys from the gut of more than one puppy. This can have long term affects on the digestive system of that dog. There have been cases where the vet was not aware of an obstruction and if the obstruction is not timeously removed the dog will die. I can recall three working Guide Dogs (who were all under veterinary care) dying because the veterinarian did not know that they had swallowed a foreign body. One swallowed a rope toy, one ate a pair of pantyhose and one ate a facecloth.

It is safer to prevent these unfortunate incidents than to deal with the consequences of a rope toy stuck in the gut.

We have used plastic bottles in kennels for a few years. Bottles are inexpensive and dogs generally enjoy playing with them. We have recently become aware of stools containing blood and pieces of torn swallowed plastic. This is not healthy and we have stopped using bottles with immediate effect.

Our dogs are generally greedy and will often swallow the “toe” portion of the hoof whole. More than one dog has had to have the hoof cut out surgically.

PLEASE do not allow your pup rope toys, plastic bottles and hooves.

You can allow:
♦Thick canvas large tug toys (please throw away if the pup has started to break the toy)
♦Rubber tug toys
♦Other chews e.g. gut or tracheas
♦Large rawhide chews

In summer you can make the dogs frozen ice lollies to keep them entertained. Mix treats/food and water/yogurt/a small amount of chicken stock and freeze in a used yogurt carton or, even better, freeze in your Kong.

If we can save one dog suffering by following these measures then we will have achieved our goal. I hope that you all understand and agree with our reasoning regarding these items.

Please do not hesitate to send in your suggestions of topics that you would like us to discuss in future letters.


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