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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Staying Safe on the Road

 

With the extreme weather conditions currently affecting many parts of the United States, and millions of Americans preparing to drive home for the Holidays, what can be done to keep your loved ones safer in snow and ice?

ice-and-snow

Prepare your vehicle for winter

  • Install snow tires on your vehicle, not all-season radials.  Snow tires give extra traction in ice and snow.
  • Make sure your spare tire is also a snow tire.
  • Ensure your tires are correctly inflated.
  • Chains add another level of safety.
  • Upgrade your coolant levels.
  • Use windshield cleaner rated for winter conditions.
  • Check your battery and replace it if unreliable.
  • Carry a bag of sand, both for weight and traction, and a snow shovel.
  • It’s not always easy to change your vehicle, but if you will be travelling in winter conditions as a matter of habit, choose a vehicle with front wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or 4-wheel drive.  Rear wheel drive vehicles are more difficult to handle in icy conditions.
  • Install a Travall vehicle-specific pet barrier
  • Keep locks from freezing up by using WD-40

man-putting-chains-on-tires

Know the road conditions 

First and foremost, if the conditions are not safe, do not go! If you absolutely must, then plan your route well in advance.  Check road safety conditions before you leave and try to check conditions as the journey progresses.

Check the weather forecast before you leave

Try to check out the weather forecast for your current location, your final destination and for points along the route.  If you are aware of weather warnings, there will be fewer surprises on the way. Carry chains if snow is expected and if you’ll be travelling in hills or mountains. Ensure that everyone travelling has the appropriate clothing for the anticipated weather conditions. Having coats, hats, gloves and sturdy boots in the car is essential if you will be travelling in snowy conditions.

Fuel up

Start off with a full tank of gas and where possible don’t allow your tank to drop below half way. You may have to stop off at the gas station more frequently, but you don’t want to run out of gas in snowy conditions.

Prepare for driving in wintry conditions

Know how to drive in icy or snowy conditions.  Use an empty parking lot to practice steering out of a skid.  Drive more slowly than usual and slower than the posted speed limits.  Allow more distance between you and other vehicles. Pump brakes gently and use gears to slow down.

Carry an emergency survival kit 

  • First aid kit
  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Garbage sacks that could double as a tarp or rain poncho
  • High energy food like granola bars or dried fruit.
  • A portable stove
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Candles (use for light and to keep the vehicle warm)
  • Tin can for melting snow for water.
  • Coats, wool socks, gloves, scarves and other winter clothing

first-aid-kit

Where possible use main roads

This may not always be an option, but try to stick to major routes, so if you do become stranded you can be found more quickly and easily.

Additional driving tips

  • Drive according to the conditions.
  • Reduce speed in poor visibility, where there is snow, or if ice may have formed.
  • Stay in a higher gear to help keep control of the vehicle and avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
  • Maintain larger safer stopping distances, you may have to double or even triple your stopping distance.
  • Use dimmed headlights in poor visibility and snow, so others can see you.
  • Use rear fog lights.

If you get stranded stay with your vehicle

If you need to keep the engine running to keep warm, ensure that the exhaust is not clogged with snow.

Try to keep mobile devices charged so you can call for assistance if necessary

 america-in-snow

Wherever you are driving during the Holidays, we wish you a good and safe journey. Happy Holidays!

dogs-driving-truck-home-for-christmas

 

 

Traveling with dogs: pet barriers

If you have a bigger dog, be it a Golden retriever or a Great Dane, using a car harness or dog seat belt is not a decent option. Your pooch will simply be too big to travel safely and comfortably on the back seat. Your bests options in this case are either a dog crate or a pet barrier, or possibly both. Today I’ll be taking a better look at pet barriers, a kind of metal  or plastic partition between the trunk and the back seat.

Disadvantages

'Universal' plastic pet barrier
‘Universal’ plastic pet barrier

One of the main disadvantages of pet barriers, especially the cheap universal ones, is that they have a bad fit. Because you’re supposed to adjust them to your own car, they will never fit perfectly which means they’re unstable and prone to collapsing. So if you have an energetic dog, or one who really wants to go and sit next to you, these pet barriers won’t hold them back for long.

Another flaw, though a minor one that can be easily fixed, is that when you open the trunk your four-legged family member can easily jump out of the car. To avoid him running off as soon as you open the trunk, it would be best to keep a leash on him when in the car so you can easily grab it to guide Max out.

Advantages

A sturdy and well-made pet barrier, like the vehicle-specific ones from Travall,

Vehicle-specific Travall pet barrier
Vehicle-specific Travall pet barrier

will keep your dog in the trunk where he won’t be able to distract the driver. If you are involved in an accident, it will also prevent your dog from being hurtled through the car and the windshield. This prevents him from hurting you or your passengers.  However, in a serious accident your dog will be liable to hitting the barrier with considerable force which can lead to serious injuries. If you use both a dog crate and a pet barrier this can easily be avoided.

So what does a pet barrier cost?

Well, prices vary depending on the quality. If you go for the universal plastic barriers, which I really do not recommend, you can get them for as little money as $30. A decent custom barrier in metal could set you back $200. Though I recommend you use it in conjunction with a dog crate so you’d have to add the cost of that one on top. But we only want the best for our dogs and for them to safe, right?

What do you feel about using pet barriers? What are your experiences with them? Good or bad, let me know.