Chloe, my eight-year-old Labrador Retriever, loves to swim. When we lived in New York, she spent almost every morning in streams and lakes, diving from high granite boulders in summer and breaking through ice in early winter. But when we moved to Montana, finding clear, open water for swimming was a challenge. Then we discovered the therapeutic pool at Apex Animal Hospital and signed up for recreational swims. Now every Tuesday Chloe swims laps while retrieving a tennis ball.
But her wet ears bothered Chloe and she spent part of every swim and much of the day after shaking her head. Her ears weren’t infected; they just did a lot of flapping.
I went online to see whether anyone makes ear plugs for dogs and discovered something even better, swimming headbands. I bought both types: the AquaBandit from AquaBandit International and the Swim Snood from DogLeggs Therapeutic & Rehabilitative Products – and left them at the pool for other dogs to try. Rehabilitation practitioner Jennifer Hill and veterinary technician Adele Delp tested them on several swimmers.
“I think dogs are more comfortable when wearing a headband,” says Delp. “Instead of shaking their heads, they relax and focus on swimming.”
When Casey, a six-year-old Border Collie, started swimming, he was intent on getting the ball, hypervigilant, and wild in the pool. “We tried a swim band on him,” says Delp, “and we were amazed at how focused and calm he became. Whenever we took it off, he became a wild man again. This led us to speculate about the band’s applications in thunderstorms and other stressful situations.”
The AquaBandit comes in five sizes and two colors at prices under $25. It works well for Chloe and other dogs as long as we readjust it frequently, for with activity it slips toward the back of the head and exposes the ears. Hill and Delp give the AquaBandit 3 stars.
Swim Snoods are custom made for the dog’s head measurements. Longer, wider, and with a larger Velcro area than the AquaBandit, the Swim Snood stays on more securely. Its price is $43.50. Hill and Delp give the Swim Snood 5 stars.
Like Chloe, most swimming dogs adjust quickly to head bands. And they work. Chloe seldom flaps her ears any more.
In addition to protecting the ears of swimming dogs, swim bands can be used during dental procedures to protect the ears from fluids. Dogs with long ears can wear them at meal time to keep their ears from being soiled by food. Dogs sensitive to the sound of a dryer during grooming or after swimming can relax without being stressed, and the compression these bands provide has a calming effect on most dogs.