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Barely Frozen Pond Safety

best dog blog, champion of my heart, dog trainingOur crazy-cold spring means finding our pond somewhat frozen many mornings. That’s a real risk.

One of our neighbors lost a new Lab puppy, after he fell through ice on their pond.

So, I’m super careful to supervise Lilly and Ginko.But, a few weeks ago, Lilly flung her ball at me, and it skidded onto the ice. She went after it.

Thankfully, Lilly has a pretty solid LEAVE IT and a decent WAIT under her dog-training belt.

I’m sure the urgent tone of my voice helped convey how serious I was in this instance.

With Lilly dancing in anticipation on the pond’s bank, I hunted around for a stick long enough to bat the ball close enough to the edge to grab.

I laid down on my stomach in the cold, damp muck and stretched as far as my little self could. Lilly found the entire process beyond fun, but she did not try to walk out on the ice. As instructed, she waited for me to safely retrieve the ball.

Our dog trainer (Gigi Moss in Boulder) teaches that dogs should NEVER enter water without permission. That’s a good policy, if you only run across water on hikes and such.

Because our dogs have access to the creek and pond on our land, that strategy isn’t as practical.

There are times I prefer they not get wet and muddy, and I’m able to call them back before hearing the distinct SPLOOSH of them piling into the pond.

As the weather warms up, though, that gets harder. And, I have a couple of damp, smelly pups with which to contend.

How do you handle water safety for your dogs?

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

kb - June 8, 2011

Oh my, that’s scary. The thought of your neighbor’s new lab puppy choked me up.

We follow the Gigi rule. And, because water is rare in our neck of the woods, we are extra careful and often even leash the dogs until we’re ready to release them to play.

I’m glad that Lilly (and Roxanne) came out of that adventure OK.

columbia SC dog obedience training - June 7, 2011

This is a great post! Many people do not realize that proper dog training is crucial for the safely of their pet. This story is a great example. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Pamela - June 5, 2011

When you have a good and attentive dog, it’s easy to let the training slip. Your story is a great example of why behaviors like “wait” and “leave it” are so important. You never know when you’re going to need them.

I’m glad Lilly was such a good listener.

I’m lucky that Honey is very cautious toward water (she doesn’t yet realize that as a Golden Retriever she’s supposed to love the stuff–lucky me!). But I will always call her away from the edge of our “frozen” creeks when she starts to look too interested. Falling through ice is one of my greatest fears.

JJ - June 3, 2011

We encounter water on our hikes and such, but the dogs are on leash until they’re released to go play in the water (after a thorough check that no other dogs/people are around. Having raised reactive dogs, we err on the side of caution, even with the super friendly wiggle butts.)

Ko is pretty skittish (and also very brave, but will only investigate if mom asks her to!) so deep water makes her hesitant, and she looks to me for direction on that front.

But there is water that is stale and unsuitable for doggies to swim in or drink from, so I note these places in my brain, keep an eye out for them, and try to use the leash instead of a call-off…. Call-offs (LEAVE IT or COME) work, but like I said… I’m not a good risk taker when it comes to KoBear. =] And I used to scale rock walls in the valley for fun. Psh. ;]

Cool article. It has my brain going, so I’m glad I stopped by to read it!

Jana Rade - June 3, 2011

I have always been very paranoid about frozen ponds and lakes, whether they are frozen well enough or not.

Right now we encounter those only on our walks and dogs are not allowed on a frozen pond ever, no matter how safe it may or may not be.

Eventually we’d like to have a pond on our property up north, then I’ll have to figure out something else for keeping the guys safe.

Rachel - June 3, 2011

I’m usually a lurker, but i have to ask. Are the goldfish ok?

    Roxanne Hawn - June 3, 2011

    Thanks, Rachel, for asking. It’s so hard to tell exactly how many fish we still have swimming around. Because they are so small, we sunk a clay pipe into the pond so that they had some protection from predators (mostly birds). Oddly enough, they don’t seem to go into the pipe, but they have somehow made a little burrow under it and hand out there … where we cannot see them.

    I try to check on them 3-4 times a day, just because I like seeing them swim around.

    The most I’ve seen at one time (recently) is 4 gold ones and 2-3 brown ones (much harder to see). So maybe 6-7 left from our original 19. We never saw any floaters or found any bodies on the shore, so we can only assume a bird got the rest.

    They are remarkably hearty little fish, even with the cold, cold water temps. Even if the top of the pond freezes, they stay down low where the water temp is more stable. Most often we see them swimming around in the afternoon … after the water has warmed up some.

    So, at least some of them are doing well.

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