It’s a terrible situation: the dog, full of zest for life, suddenly jumps into a river, submerges, emerges, gasping, and desperately fights against the current. The first thought: For God’s sake – he’s going to drown – I have to get him out. The first impulse: jump in and save your four-legged friend. If you give in to this first impulse, it can have fatal consequences.
It may sound brutal with the dog struggling to stay afloat, but never play the hero in this situation! And inculcate the same thing in your children: “You must never jump into the water after the dog!” In fact, there is no point in chasing after the dog. If it sank, you will not find it anyway, because it may have dived further or was carried away by the current. And: Where the dog cannot stay afloat, you certainly cannot, because the dog is a much better swimmer than the human being, ie you would not be of any help to the dog in an attempt to rescue it.
In addition, the dog is endangering your life by swimming towards you, rowing its paws furiously at you and trying to climb on you, even pushing you underwater. He does not do this with bad intentions, but because it is just like a dog. You will only be of real help to your dog if you do not endanger yourself. The safety of the rescuer is also the top priority when rescuing people.
The German Life Rescue Society (DLRG) recommends trying to rescue a dog first with aids from the shore. It is best if a lifebuoy is within reach. Throw it to the dog. Most dogs accept this offer of help and hang their paws in the ring so that you can pull the animal out with the lifeline. A long branch can also be of help to the dog. Hold the branch out to the dog, it will usually bite into it and you can slowly and carefully pull it ashore. If you do not have this option, try to guide your dog to a safe place on the bank. This area should be such that either the dog can come out on its own, or you have a safe place for you to pull him out. Even if this spot seems far away, it is worth a try because most dogs are persistent swimmers and last much longer than you think.
If you see no other chance to get the dog on land than to go into the water yourself, only do it adequately secured, ie “leashed”. To do this, you need a sturdy, long leash and a second person who can pull you out in an emergency. It is not enough if you put the leash around your wrist. Loop the leash around your chest, making sure that the clasp or knot does not loosen. Don’t forget to at least take off your outerwear before going into the water, otherwise the soaked clothes will drag you under the water like lead.
(Text: Barbara Welsch / veterinarian)