Dog_on_a_frozen_lakeAlthough most of the water and ice safety tips are for humans they also apply to your dog. There are a lot of people like myself who live on or near open water; rivers, ponds, lakes etc. we are now entering a very dangerous time of year which is all the water is starting to melt and the dangers of people and dogs falling in have doubled. Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you have a leash on your dog at all times near open water, here are some water safety tips.


Here’s what you need to know to ensure a safe day out there.

First and Fore­most, Mea­sure the Ice
There’s no way around it. While there are many visual cues that can help you deter­mine whether or not it’s safe to step out onto on the ice, the safest way to find out is to mea­sure the stuff.

There are a few tools you can use to mea­sure ice. An ice chisel can be stabbed into the ice until it pen­e­trates all the way through. Then, a mea­sure­ment of the rod can be taken to deter­mine the thick­ness of the ice. You can also use an ice auger to drill a hole through the ice, then mea­sure the depth with a mea­sur­ing tape—gas, elec­tric, and hand augers are all options here. A cord­less drill with a wood auger bit can also drill a hole through ice.

What is a Safe Thick­ness?
Any­thing less than 3 inches should be avoided at all costs. 4 inches can sup­port activ­i­ties like ice fish­ing, walk­ing and cross-country ski­ing. 5 inches can sup­port a snow­mo­bile or an ATV, while 8 to 12 inches of ice is enough to sup­port a small car. And while these guide­lines are generic, ice con­di­tions vary and the above is for newly formed ice.

Mea­sur­ing in one place is not enough. Take the thick­ness mea­sure­ment in sev­eral dif­fer­ent areas to ensure that the entire area is safe. Ice thick­ness can vary, even over a fairly small area—especially over mov­ing water.

Assess the Area Visu­ally
A visual assess­ment can help sup­ple­ment your mea­sure­ment, and can also help if you’re rely­ing on some­one else’s measurements.

Watch for dan­ger­ous signs like cracks, seams, pres­sure ridges, dark areas (where the ice is thin­ner) and slushy areas—even slight slush sig­nals that the icing isn’t freez­ing at the bot­tom any­more, which means it’s get­ting pro­gres­sively weaker.

The Color Wheel
Check out the color of the ice. Clear, blue or green ice might be thick enough to skate on. White ice typ­i­cally has air or snow trapped inside, weak­en­ing it. Dark ice might be an indi­ca­tion that the ice is quite thin—probably too thin for skating.

The Fresher, the Bet­ter
New ice is typ­i­cally stronger than older ice. As time passes, the bond between ice crys­tals decays even in very cold temperatures.

When spring hits, find man-made rinks. Once the spring thaw begins, ice weak­ens con­sid­er­ably. It can be tempt­ing to head out for one last skate in the event of a late sea­son frost, but it’s safest to just say no. Even if ice fits the mea­sure­ment cri­te­ria, it can still be very dangerous.

Know Proper Res­cue Tech­niques
Any­one doing any­thing on ice out­doors should have knowl­edge of ice res­cue tech­nique. Even kids should be famil­iar with pro­to­col, so be sure to edu­cate them ahead of time. If some­one in your party falls through the ice, the first thing to do is call 911. Any­one still on the ice should slowly lie down, dis­trib­ut­ing their weight over a larger area.

Reach the per­son in the water using a long reach­ing assist—a large stick, a rope or a lad­der are all good options (read: have these things ready before you start). The per­son in the water should be instructed to kick and slowly ease their way out of the water. Once they make it to the sur­face, they should crawl or roll away from the bro­ken ice area.

Any­one on the ice, includ­ing the vic­tim and res­cuer, should avoid stand­ing up until they are far away from the bro­ken ice. As soon as you can, get the vic­tim into dry cloth­ing and treat them for hypothermia.

Watch Your Dog!
If you’re out slid­ing around on a frozen lake, your dog is going to fol­low. Keep an eye on your canine to ensure that it remains in safe areas. If you can’t rely on your dog to stick close and come when called, you’re best option is to keep it on a leash.

If your dog does fall in, phone 911. Res­cue pro­fes­sion­als have the equip­ment needed to keep every­one safe—if you try to res­cue the dog your­self, chances are you’ll fall under, too.