September 28, 2016

Association of Canine Water Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I am from the state of Missouri and was recently watching the early morning show and saw a piece on ACWT and was very interested in this. I began looking on the web and have not had any luck finding any in our area. Is this one person that has been opening these around the U.S. or is this something one buys into to open. This would be a very good thing for people in our area. I now do petsitting for a business and I want to get into training dogs for a purpose. As Therapy Dogs. How can I get more informatiion on this subject. I have a Lab that is overweight and we walk but she has bad hips and it is hard for her so this would be a great thing not only for me but others. Juli

Answer: Hello Juli, No, the canine water therapy/swim centers are all privately owned by individuals who are motivated to do so... it is my hope that eventually all areas will have a location for this service as it is an amazing and wonderful business for both the business owners and for the community.

Right now there is not a special license to operate, although what you can call the service does vary from state to state (ie: in most states you can not call it 'therapy' or 'rehab' as those terms belong to veterinarianss, licensed massage therapists, physical therapists, etc. Most people get around this by just calling it a swim center. You need to check with your local authorities to see what you can do and then work within the guidelines of the laws that are in your area.

Let me know if I can help you further and be SURE to let us know if you decide to OPEN a pool in your area !!! We would love to list you.....

Great question and thanks for your interest, Cindy, ACWT President

Question: Hi, I am in the process of building a boarding and training kennel, and water therapy facility. We are starting with a covered outdoor pool and a pond. Because we're located in the southeast the pond will be used primarily for sports and conditioning 3/4 of the year because of moderate weather. The pool though, there are so many choices it's mind-boggling. Cost-wise, we are shooting for a rectangular 12' to 16' by 20' to 32' pool. Warm enough for therapeutic value, but cool enough for conditioning, too.

What are the pros and cons of pool types in the opinions of people already using the pools? Does the ACWT have a site or information we could rely on to make an informed decision?

We do plan to join ACWT once we're open.

Thank you, Paula P.

Answer: Hello Paula! Sounds like you have a great business idea and we all can't wait to hear about your new facility.

Since you have the luxury of having a pond for recreational swimming, what I would probably recommend is buying a swim spa for your therapeutic use. One option is the FLORIDA NORTH Swim Spa. Florida North offers a discount to ACWT members. Their Swim Spa is an 8' x 20' fiberglass portable unit. The spa itself retails for $11,500 (not including shipping and installation costs) and the bench and stairs are quite usable for therapy. Some of the swim spas we have seen have weird molded seats or little corner steps making them impractical for our canine friends. The Florida North spa is a stand-alone unit so it can be installed above-ground. There are also other options in swim spas such as the stainless steel and tile swim spa available from Bradford Products. However, these types of spas are over $30,000 (not including shipping and installation) and are much heavier than the fiberglass models which make installation a bit more limiting. For fiberglass or acrylic vessels, if you go with any size over 8 feet wide, you will probably need to install them in-ground due to weight and the pool's inability to contain itself when full. Always check with the manufacturer to see what kind of installation is appropriate.

 These are the reasons why I would suggest you consider a swim spa:

  1. The swim jets and the circulation jets are strong, allowing for the water to turn over many times which leads to the sanitation that is always a challenge with dog hair. You don't want a stagnant pool and those that do go with the in-ground pool have to beef up their circulation system to drive the pool water through the filters (3 options - DE/SAND/CARTRIDGE).
  2. Swim spas can be portable and relatively inexpensive, allowing one to get into business on a limited budget with a great pool.
  3. I have never had a dog who I couldn't do wonderful therapy work in an 8' x 20' spa. Even 240 pound mastiffs have ample room for therapeutic swimming and work.
  4. They aren't too big so you can't implement a complete dump/clean and water change with your program. This is an ideal situation for a canine spa. One rarely dumps an in-ground pool.
  5. You can turn temperatures up and down as needed. Due to the lower water capacity over a pool, a swim spa is very efficient. I used to have tropical Tuesdays set at 96 degrees for the greyhounds and whippets and very elderly who only came in for massage and then it would be 88 degrees by Friday for the hard core swimmers. My usual temperature is 94 degrees for all kinds of work and my comfort. Also, maintenance costs are much less with a spa with lower water capacity.

Keep us posted here at the ACWT and good luck !!!

Warmest Regards,
Cindy Horsfall