Skip to main content

Keeping Your Dog Fit and Healthy


Many dog breeds love to go boating, partake in a good swim and enjoy water play at the beach. The following tips help make the water safer for Spot and lots of fun for Fido, no matter where you are in the Sunshine State.   


Be sure your dog is comfortable and has a “safe spot” on the boat. First try short trips to get your dog acclimated. Use canine life preservers on boats, kayaks and paddleboards. “Make sure they are the right size, are fitted right and are kept on at all times when on the boat,” explains Brian Wierima, community relations coordinator at the Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers.

Wierima also suggests having fresh water, and a leash for “potty breaks.” Provide shade and consider using pet-safe sunscreen. To find out more, visit


For water-loving dogs of all types, swim lessons and swim competitions are held at The Shell Factory and Nature Park’s dog park, known as “Doggie Heaven,” in North Fort Myers. SunCoast DocDogs meets at the dog pool on Sunday afternoons, to compete in Big Air, Extreme Vertical, Speed Retrieve and Iron Dog events. Private sessions are available by appointment. Further information is available at and


A little backyard water fun is all you need to entertain many breeds of water-loving dogs. Try a sprinkler, give a good spray with the garden hose or fill a kiddie pool and let them jump in. If you’re heading out to a dog beach, be sure to take along a ball or Frisbee. If you have a swimming pool, lots of dogs love dock dives, jumping into floating hoops or “kicking back” on float boards. Always keep safety in mind and never leave dogs unattended near or in a pool.


Some dogs are “just made to swim,” having been bred for water rescue and activity—such as retrievers and spaniels. The American Kennel Club website,, lists 16 breeds that naturally love the water. Dogs that are good swimmers are generally medium- to large-size breeds with water-resistant coats and webbed paws.

Other types of dogs, including mixed breeds, can often be taught to swim. Some smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, can swim but may also get easily overwhelmed by the water.  

Breeds that are not “built for swimming” include boxers, basset hounds, bulldogs, pugs and dachshunds. They have large boxy chests, short legs and short muzzles—and could possibly sink and drown. 

When teaching dogs to swim, it’s best to start slowly and use a flotation vest. Make sure to never push dogs into something they are not comfortable with.


Some Lee County beaches allow dogs. Dog Beach Park on Fort Myers Beach “is an off-leash dog beach is a favorite among pet owners in Lee County,” notes Betsy Clayton, communications director for Lee County Government. That is “thanks to its friendly atmosphere and the fact that dogs are free to swim and play at their own leisure,” she adds.

When going to the beach, be sure to pack a leash, clean-up bags and fresh water. Call ahead or check online for details and regulations.

Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor of TOTI Media.


Causeway islands (on-leash)
19931 Sanibel Causeway Road, Punta Gorda

Dog Beach Park (off-leash)
8800 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach

Sanibel Island public beaches (on-leash)
Parking fees apply

Fort Myers Beach along Estero Boulevard (on-leash)
Parking fees apply