Studies show that more than 70% of dog owners would willingly “put themselves in harm’s way” to save their dog– an unsurprising statistic, considering about three quarters of the American population considers their dog a member of the family.
Frigid and icy waters are especially dangerous in the winter months, when lakes, ponds, and pools freeze over. The water’s temperatures drop extremely low to dangerous levels. Unfortunately, too many accidents have occurred involving dogs falling into these frigid waters, whether in the wilderness, or even at home.
Some dog owners have even gone so far as to jump into a frozen pool of water to save their dog’s life— of which some feats have been successful, and others have not. The dangers of committing such a brave act, however, far outweigh the successes.
If your dog falls into freezing waters, although it’s tempting, jumping in to save them is NOT your best immediate course of action. By following your dog into icy waters, you are endangering yourself, your dog, and anyone else who tries to help you. Instead, prepare yourself accordingly to avoid something like this from happening, and educate yourself on what to do if it does happen. We’ve compiled a basic guide below for how to prevent this situation, and what to do if it happens.
If your dog does fall into icy waters, don’t panic. Reminder: jumping in after your dog should never be the first course of action. You will endanger yourself, your dog, and others. Instead, here are a few things you can do to ensure your own safety, and promote the best outcome for your dog.
- Keep your dog on a leash near frozen ponds, pools, or frigid waters. If you’re anywhere near an icy pool of water, don’t be overconfident in your dog’s personal safety precautions– instead, take precautions yourself, and don’t let your dog near water unleashed.
- Dogs don’t instinctively know when ice is thick or safe enough to walk on, so don’t blindly trust their judgement. Keep a close eye on them and don’t let them wander near any pools of water without supervision. If you’re not 100% confident that ice is thick enough for a car to drive across, don’t let your dog (or yourself) on it.
- Invest in a Throwraft: This nifty tool is great to have on hand, and to take with you whenever you’re venturing out into the wilderness in the cold. Throwraft is an inflatable safety device designed to save lives. They come in many different designs, each suited to particular needs.
What to Do If It Happens
First, let’s take a look at what NOT to do, and why NOT to do it:
- Don’t jump in after your dog. You endanger yourself, your dog (because even if you manage to get your dog out of the water, if you’re unable to make it out, no one will be there to care for you or your dog), and anyone else who tries to help.
- Don’t encourage your dog to move or swim. While your first instinct will be to get your dog out of the water, it’s important for your dog’s body to regulate its internal temperature. Moving around too much will decrease that temperature, making it harder for your dog to stay afloat, and causing joints and muscles to lock up.
Instead, don’t panic, and DO try these following steps:
- Call 911 for help. The first thing you should do is call for help. Don’t rely on yourself or any random passerby to save your dog– call in the professionals. In the meantime, encourage your dog to sit tight and stay where they are.
- Find something you can throw to your dog (like the Throwraft) or something they could reach (like the edge of the ice). Dogs are surprisingly good at keeping themselves above water until rescuers can get to them, so just let your dog know you’re there, and give them something to grab hold of if possible.
- Follow directions from rescuers. While it’s tempting to dive in after your dog, or to lead the rescue since you know your dog best, sit back and let the professionals do their job. You’ll be in good hands, and you and your dog will be safer if you let rescuers lead the charge.