As the snow slowly melts, and with it bare ground reappears, a lot of us head out to places where we can let our dogs run free and rid themselves of the pent up energy that has been building all Winter. Some of those places have small (or large) ponds and rivers. Because of the very prolonged cold weather, the ice has been very thick but all that is changing rapidly. A stagnant pond will start to thaw around the edges but some ponds and certainly most streams and rivers have moving water and it is almost impossible to tell where the ice is safe or where the moving water has thinned it from below. The safe bet is to keep the dogs off the ice. It’s actually good practice to keep the dogs off the ice during the winter so they will have it in their minds that ice is off limits.
In the event a dog wanders onto the ice and falls through, do not attempt to go out and save him. We know the basic human instinct is to try to crawl out on the ice and grab your dog, but it is extremely dangerous. More people have drowned trying to save their dogs than dogs have drowned. In the case of a moving river or stream, if you were to break through the ice, you could be carried under it with no way to get out. Remember, dogs, for the most part, can stand the cold water far better than we can. Call for help instead.
Within a couple of weeks or so, this danger will have passed, at least in southern New England. In the meantime, it’s good practice to carry a 20 foot long line and keep your dog on it when in the vicinity of ice. Practice your dogs recall. Yummy treats or his favorite ball as a reward for coming will help get a reliable recall and that could very well save your dogs life. (or yours!)