Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 1

Many families like to vacation near beaches, rivers or lakes and all of these have one thing in common – water!  When there are large bodies of water present, we should always think of the safety of our children and our dogs.  This two-part series looks at how to keep dogs and kids safe so that everyone can have a fun and safe time on vacation or on weekend trips.

family-in-pool-on-vacation

Part 1: Kids

Ideally, swimming is an activity that should be introduced when children are still infants.  Many pools and community programs offer instructor-led “Mommy and Me” swim sessions that allow the babies to get used to being in the water and are great for Moms and babies to bond further.

mom-with-baby-swimming-2

It is preferable to then progress to swimming lessons with a trained swimming instructor who can show your child the correct techniques from the beginning – it is a lot more difficult to unlearn bad habits and techniques.  This type of swimming instruction is usually available on a group or an individual basis.  Group sessions tend to be less expensive, but as there are more children involved there tends to be less actual swimming time.  If your budget won’t stretch to professional lessons, you may want to consider teaching them to swim yourself. This does not always work, as learning to swim can be a frustrating process and sometimes kids will take instruction better from a swimming instructor than from a parent. It is also problematic if you have multiple children. If you are keen to give it a go and will be working with just one child, here are some ideas to make parent-child swimming instruction successful.

Make it a regular date

In order for parent-child swimming instruction to work, kids need to swim regularly and preferably once a week.  Make a point of assigning this time in your calendar once a week and sticking to it, except when your child is sick.

child-learning-to-swim

Keep it short and keep it varied

Swimming is a very tiring activity and as much as we want our kids to sleep well at night, having prolonged swimming sessions when they are learning to swim can be counterproductive.  It’s far better to keep it short (15 – 20 minutes for very young and new swimmers) and to keep lesson activities varied.

Make it fun

Making the swimming lessons fun with games and other activities is crucial to keeping children engaged and in building their confidence in the water.  For very young kids, use games involving nursery rhymes and plastic toys.  As they get older, continue to use those techniques, but also introduce games such as “red light, green light,” (where children kick like crazy on green, slow down on amber, and stop on red) to help improve specific swimming techniques. As they get slightly older, drop the nursery rhymes and include the use of more games, varying the games from session to session.

Kids of all ages will learn better if there is variety in the lesson.  If they get to use kickboards, pool noodles, and other flotation devices once in a while this will be beneficial.  Using these items helps to improve stroke technique, keeps them interested, and will leave them wanting to come back for more.  Not all community pools will allow their use, so check on that before taking yours along.

boy-swimming-with-kick-board

 

Make swimming enjoyable

Building up confidence in the water is vital so that kids are not afraid of the water and want to swim. As your little swimmer progresses in ability and confidence, you may want to think about enrolling in swimming clubs where a range of swimming and social opportunities will be offered.

Set rules

Make sure that your children know how to stay safe near a swimming pool.  They must always ask for permission to go in a pool and must have adult supervision during this time.  Rules such as not running by a pool are really important to follow. Use life vests or floaties for young kids when they are not actually practicing their swimming strokes, but do not rely on the floaties for safety. For young kids and those who are not strong swimmers, life vests should be worn for activities such as river floating or when in lake water.  If swimming in the ocean, be conscious of the tide and possible currents.  Where possible try to swim in a lifeguard supervised zone.

river-float-with-kid

 

Even when your child has become a good swimmer, it is possible to get into difficulties in the water.  Always ensure that children are supervised to minimize risk and ensure that you are all able to enjoy a fun and safe vacation.

Learning to swim is not a luxury, it is a necessity! Being able to swim is such an important skill to have.  Swimming provides fantastic exercise for able-bodied children and those with physical challenges and is an activity that can be continued throughout their lives.

Some of my happiest and most memorable times have taken place around water with my children. What experiences have you had? We’d love to hear about them.

 

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Tricks and Treats

They can't read, so they need other ways to keep busy
They can’t read, so they need other ways to keep busy

To keep our dogs busy and healthy, we don’t only have to make sure they get enough physical activities like a stimulating walk or swim. Like the body, the mind has needs too and needs to be used. Preventing boredom is of the essence. Most of you will probably have some (funny) anecdote showing that boredom leads to trouble, in dogs and humans alike.

One way to keep a dog’s mind occupied is to teach him of her tricks. Most people know about the basic tricks and commands such as sit, heel, down. These are things every dog should know to operate and be safe in our society. However, dogs are capable of learning much more than that. They might even pick up a few tricks on their own, whether you want them to or not.

To teach your dogs new tricks, you don’t need much: a list of tricks, patience, perseverance and lots of treats. However, if you don’t really know where to start and the internet is no help, you don’t have to do this on your own. There are dog schools and trainers who will gladly help you and that offer more advanced classes that go beyond basic obedience. Though, make sure you transport your pooch safely in the car, with a crate or pet barrier, when you go to these classes.

dog treats
Lots and lots of treats

You can find a lot of dog tricks online. Here’s a list of some tricks I liked:

Fun ones:

  • walking backwards
  • barking on command
  • slalom
  • jumping
  • crawling
  • a classic: play dead

Useful ones:

  • difference between left and right
  • opening and closing doors
  • picking up toys
  • switching the light on and off
  • Leave it, for refusing strange food and other non-edible things
  • baring their teeth, useful for brushing those pearly whites
  • find my keys

Does your dog know any fun or unusual tricks? Is there a something you would like him to know? Let me know in the comments!

Things to do with your dog

Mutual love
Mutual love

The love between dogs and humans is a mutual thing and we love nothing more than spending time with each other. However, at times we have to leave are beloved furry family members alone for a while and they can get bored. When we get back, we want nothing better than to make up for it and to give our dogs a chance to be active and release some energy. But at times, we get tired of playing the same games and going for the same walk all over again. That’s why in the next couple of articles I hope to give you some new ideas on things to do with your dogs to keep them active and happy.

In today’s article I’ll start off with a tip that is easily manageable: instead of going for that same old walk in the same old neighborhood, why not go somewhere new. This can still be close-by, in your own area, but just a different street or park than usual. Even deviating from your normal route or routes just by a bit well make the walk more exciting.

Or when you have some more time, in the weekends or on a day off, you could go for a drive and explore a whole new area, like a nearby forest. Your dog will love exploring new places with different sights and smells. You might even find some hidden gem which will become your new favorite place!

Off to explore!
Off to explore!

You don’t have to go to a new place every day, but it will be nice for both the two-legs and the four-legs to mix things up a bit occasionally. This will stimulate your minds and bodies. So give it a try and I’ll guarantee you’ll get a happier dog. Have fun!