Discovering Something New: Wild Swimming with Lulu & Foxy
Fay Preene is an outdoor enthusiast. You can usually find her up in the fells, running on the trails, swimming in the lakes, or exploring with her two Spaniels - Lulu & Foxy. Fay has discovered that wild swimming with her two dogs strengthens their human-canine bond and inspires her to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
For me, wild swimming with the girls is not just an action or an exercise. It touches on my happiness, my job, the environment, and my social life. I have always loved water, be that being in it, on it, beside it or listening to it. It's interesting when I tune into how I feel when I’m in the water. I feel calm, quiet and tranquil. More at ease than anywhere else. Add on you get to do it with your best four legged friends. What could be better?
We are definitely spoiled rotten in the Lake District with so many beautiful swim spots. This is something I truly never take for granted. Whether it’s a lake, a river, or high mountain tarn, they each provide a different experience. It is for this reason why wild swimming with the girls has just become a natural activity that we do together. I especially love swimming with the girls where there is a jetty because the girls love launching themselves into the water after their Lunker toys. They would do this all day long if they could. Whenever we play this game, we get so many stoppers by asking about the Lunkers and how great they are!
Even in the winter when the water cools, they still love to be by the water. A great indication of when the water is getting cold throughout the year is when your dog becomes more apprehensive to get in. In this case, with Spaniels, this is very rare! It’s really important to highlight this, as this is when dog ownership is really important. Dogs just want to please and can become fixated with games. It’s important that we assess whether it's safe for them to be in the water and for how long.
The first time I took Lulu wild swimming with me, she mustn't have been much older than 12 weeks. We headed up to High Damn in the Lake District on a beautiful summer day. She had already taken an interest to the water previously, but she hadn’t voluntarily swam out from the shore. I got changed, picked her up and we headed into the water together. It amazes me how natural it is for them to swim without being taught. It’s an innate sequence of movements that their bodies just instantly know how to do. There wasn’t much stopping her after that! Then came Foxy, who needed no introduction to the water, and instinctively followed her sister's footsteps from the get go!
The girls took to the water very naturally and I truly believe that this is down to their breed – Spaniels! I find myself watching them and observing how intuitive it is for them to be in the water. I find this with any Spaniels that we come across by the water – they are all exactly the same. Launching themselves in, freely swimming and always splashing around by the water edge. Find me a Spaniel that doesn’t love the water.
One memory I will never forget, we had taken the girls for a walk and swim on a stunning summer evening. The lakeside was filled with people enjoying the sun and water. Upon exiting the water, Lulu ran to a family having a BBQ, helped herself to a pork chop and ran off. I was feeling mortified and helpless whilst exiting the water myself, before finally getting my hands on her and unclamping the pork chop from her jaw! Fortunately, the family found this hilarious, and it created entertainment for all. It’s fair to say that I now get lakeside BBQ anxiety in the summer!
As someone who swims regularly in open water, there are many things to consider before getting in the water – both for you and your dog. As for your four legged friend, it’s really important to consider the following:
- Condition of the water – Does the water condition look safe to swim in? Blue-green algae is a toxic substance that’s found in lakes and rivers around the UK. It can be very dangerous to dogs and can even be deadly.
- Entry and exit points – Can you identify safe entry and exit points in and out of the water? It’s always good to identify a few in case an entry and exit point is cut off for some reason.
- Ground – Beautiful places attract people, so it is always good to scan the floor for any rubbish, glass, fishing equipment and other items that could get stuck in your dog's paws.
- Other water users – Be vigilant of other people in and around the water. This also includes boats and marine equipment.
- Toys and sticks – Consider what toy you are using for your dog to retrieve from the water. Is this safe for water use?
- Weather – Pay close attention to the weather conditions. Will your dog get too cold? Is it windy and are the waves big? Is there a tide etc.?
Reflecting on my experience, I think the best tips for beginning wild swimming with your dog are keeping it fun. Even if they don’t particularly want to swim far out it's still a special experience having them be at the water's edge. They often like something to play with and retrieve from the water, and this is why we love the Ruffwear Lunkers, so it’s always good to pack something like this. It’s always important to stay relatively close to them too, whether that’s when they are in the water or on shore to make sure that you can get to them if something happens.
Ruffwear Ambassador, Fay Preene (@faypreene), is a member of the Wonderful Wild Women community in the Lake District, UK. The Wonderful Wild Women are a collective of people who are passionate about the outdoors and making everyday choices to live more adventurously, more actively, and more mindfully in whatever capacity that takes for them. They aim to inspire all women no what their age, experience, or ability to get into the outdoors and get active.