Float Coats for the Deaf Swimmer Dogs

We’re having a heat wave at least through early next week.  Temperatures up to 100 on Sunday, and 95+ tomorrow and Monday.  Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 7.53.31 AM.png

To aid with keeping the dogs cool, their schedule for the next few days includes early morning trips to Taughannock Park for their walk, to be followed by swims.

This morning, we were hailed by a fisherman.  After chatting a bit, while he scratched and fussed over the pups, he asked why they were both wearing life jackets.  I explained that they are deaf, and the flotation devices help keep them stable and give them confidence in the water.

As we walked off, I recalled the selection process we did to pick their jackets.  I’d tried several brands, and was unhappy with all of them for various reasons — too many straps, too flimsy, jacket didn’t provide enough stability.

I’d been eyeing RuffWears’ option, the Float Coat, when i had a brief chat with a friend who coaches a local crew team.  Her dog is out on the coach’s skiff with her daily, and she extolled the brand.  That sold me.

The jackets came quickly, and I was immediately impressed with the quality of the work. They’re well made, attractive, bright colors for ease of spotting, and durable.  The neck size is adjustable, and the coat wraps entirely around the dogs body, providing additional  stability.  2 adjustable straps close the coat around the dog’s abdomen.  RuffWearBlog

The main issue for me is whether they help my dogs feel more confident in the water.  In my opinion, absolutely.

Kiyo got over her dislike of swimming a couple of summers ago, when Toka was still a puppy. She’d sprained her foot, and the only physical activity she was cleared to do was swim.

We’d drive down to the lake each morning, I’d cinch up her coat, and she’s resignedly plod into the water.  I’d wade in beside her, and hold her in place by the handle on her coat while she got 20 minutes of much needed exercise.

After that, she turned into a little water sprite.  This is a short video of her swimming last year, before I upgraded to their Float Coats:  Kiyo is now a water sprite.  (The coat she is wearing in the vid is why we upgraded — lots of straps, not enough coat, therefore not enough stability.)  While she will never have the water skills of  a lab, she’s an even more confident swimmer now.  She swims for longer periods and is less likely to have water wobbles. I attribute that to her Float Coat.

I thought Toka would always be a land lubber.  While he struts around in his Float Coat, he’s been reluctant to let his feet leave the bottom.

Today he shocked me!  Kiyo was off playing happily in shallow water.  I was standing knee deep in the lake, looked at Toka and said ‘it’s going to be hot today.  You’ve got to get in the water.’ (Yes, that’s me, talking to my deaf dog.)  He looked back at me, and I waggled my fingers at him.  “C’mon!’

To my shock, he waded directly out to my side.  I put my hand on the coat’s handle, lifted up just enough that he could feel the support, and he kept on walking until his little feet were paddling away.  We just did a quick turn, and he immediately paddled back to a safer depth.

I waited.  He shook himself off, looked out at the lake, looked back at me, looked at the water again.  “C’mon! Let’s try again!” I said.

Sure enough, he waded out again, and we repeated the episode.  We did that again, too, and then I figured we’d take a break and try again tomorrow.

The fact it was already over 70 degrees at 6:30 in the morning certainly played a role in Toka’s decision to swim.  I’m sure Kiyo’s willingness to paddle about also influences him. He’s quite good at copying her actions.  Before he got his Float Coat, he has never allowed his feet to leave the safety and security of the bottom of the lake when he wades.  (I don’t believe in forcing a dog to ‘swim’ thinking that ‘they’ll get over it.’)  It’s clear to me that the magic stability of the Float Coat will make Toka a true swimmer dog.

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