Why Your Dog Should Never Swim in Rock Creek Park
Swimming is a great and fun exercise for dogs. Swimming provides dogs both a cardiovascular and muscle building workout, while minimizing the impact to their joints. Swimming should certainly have a place in any canine fitness training regimen. However, finding a suitable place for your dog to swim can be a challenge in Washington, DC. Many people let their dog swim in Rock Creek Park but unfortunately this is unhealthy, dangerous, and unlawful.
The water in Rock Creek Park is very polluted. Despite the fact that the water is sometimes crystal clear, it still contains both dangerously high levels of bacteria as well as chemical pollutants such as highly toxic antifreeze. One of the reasons the water is clear is because it can’t sustain much life; you’ll rarely see any fish or minnows in the streams of Rock Creek Park and other naturally occurring organisms such as mold or fungus—which might otherwise cloud the water—have trouble surviving in this contaminated environment.
Additionally there are several storm and sewer drain runoffs that dump dirty water directly into the stream. Letting your dog swim in this is no different than letting him swim in used toilet water. You probably don’t even let him drink out of a clean toilet, so why let him swim in it? There are multiple signs posted along the waterway, but unfortunately, dogs can’t read. So it’s up to us humans to take responsibility for this.
Bill Yeaman, a Natural Resource Specialist at Rock Creek Park had this to say: “As a general statement, I would not advise letting your dog come in contact with any of the waters in Rock Creek Park. Unfortunately, our local streams often have high bacteria levels which are considered unsafe for human contact. There is no official standard for dogs but safety would take precedence. Also, there are occasional slugs of other pollutants such as pool cleaning chemicals, detergents, and antifreeze, etc. that are dumped illegally down storm drains and end up in our local streams.”
Dogs usually ingest a large amount of the water they’re swimming in making swimming in Rock Creek Park a truly unhealthy endeavor.
Let your dog swim in Rock Creek Park isn’t just unhealthy, it’s also dangerous. Throughout most of the park, the water runs directly next to the parkway. The parkway has minimal traffic lights and stop signs, making it a great way for drivers to zip from southern Washington DC to Northern Washington DC and Maryland. Sadly, many unleashed dogs find their way into the roadway and die as a result.
Finally, letting your dog swim in Rock Creek Park is illegal. Dogs must always be leashed when in the park, so unless you’re keeping your dog leashed while he swims—which would present its own safety issues—there is no legal way to let your dog swim in the park.
Does the reward of swimming match the risk of getting sick or dying from pollutants, getting hit by a car, or getting fined from the park police? Of course not. Take your dog for a leashed run or hike among many of the parks gorgeous trails. Or take him swimming in a safer area specifically designed for dogs, such as Dog Beach in Pasadena, Maryland. But please keep your dog safe and healthy by keeping him out of the waters of Rock Creek Park.