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A safety net for your pet

August 16, 2007|James Gilden

Ray and Paula Mays installed a pool three years ago for themselves but knew that it could provide good exercise for their dog, a 7-year-old German short-haired pointer now joined by a 15-month-old Great Dane.

"Now they use it more than we do," Ray says.

The couple certainly aren't alone, if the growing prevalence of water toys, life vests, pool ramps and other paraphernalia specifically for water-loving dogs is any indication. It seems only a matter of time before those bone-shaped pools at boarding facilities and doggie day-care centers make their way into private backyards.

The Mays introduced their dogs to the pool gently and trained them to haul themselves out using the steps. Now, when the weather turns warm, Ellie and Sawyer splash around for as long as 2½ hours.

"On a summer day, it's just the most enjoyable thing," Ray says.

Not all dogs take to the water with such ease. When Sandy Eldridge moved from Napa to Palm Springs a year ago, her longhaired Chihuahua, Maltese, Scotty and two Yorkies had never been around a pool.

"My dogs aren't water dogs," Eldridge says. As if to prove the point, two fell into the pool shortly after moving in. "Luckily," she says, "I was at home at the time."

Her veterinarian mentioned a device called a Skamper Ramp, which is designed to help prevent pet drownings at home. Eldridge found a local retailer on the manufacturer's website ( and had the ramp installed by a pool repair company. The total cost was about $140, including installation, she says.

Eldridge then spent about an hour training all five dogs how to use the ramp. Now they swim right to it and clamber out unassisted.

"It's not the prettiest thing in the world," she says of the device, "but neither is a dead animal."

For more safety suggestions on pets and pools, go to and click on "pet care," then "training tips," then "splish, splash and caution."

-- James Gilden

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