A dog day afternoon spent in the swimming pool

By Michael Boriero – Local ­Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Centre canin de l’Estrie offers a unique opportunity for dog owners to help their pets beat their fear of water and get in some much-needed exercise at the same time.
The centre boasts a pool dedicated to dock jumping, an emerging sport where dogs leap as far as they can into a body water. During a competition, judges measure the distance and the dog with the furthest jump wins.
But the pool is used for more than just sport, according to Alex Ann Breton, one of two employees at the centre who focus on dock jumping. Breton said the most important function of the pool is helping dogs acclimate to water.
“Our main goal is to desensitize them to water, the animal will descend into the pool using a ramp, where I’ll be waiting to help take them around for a few laps, and then the dog will start jumping off the deck when they are comfortable,” she said.
Standing beside the large makeshift platform, the 25-year-old veterinary technician explained that many people often assume dogs are comfortable swimmers, but it’s not always the case.
And growing a dog’s comfort level in water is important for a number of reasons, she continued. When it’s 40 degrees outside, a pool, or any body of water, can be the best option to cool off. They can also be used in a dog’s physiotherapy routine.
“It’s really a lovely activity in the sense that it works the muscles,” said Breton. “There isn’t an impact or any sudden strenuous movements; the sport really just works the muscles without a negative impact.”
She works part-time for the Centre canin de l’Estrie and spends roughly five to 10 hours in the pool. Breton said that the dock used to be located in the garage, but they opted to move it outside so that participants can enjoy the summer weather.
Breton has worked at the centre for three years, but she only started giving dock jumping lessons last year. Breton said she never thought her studies would take her down this path, but overall the experience has been positive.
Her full time job is at the Hôpital vétérinaire de l’Estrie, where she assists veterinarians in animal surgeries, meets and consults with clients, and treats animals on her own. She describes her job as nurse but for animals.
“I never imagined I would do this, but I really like it, it’s a really nice sport,” she said. “The clients are really nice, they’re patient and people realize that it’s fun for the dogs.”
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