Did you know Suffolk had a doggie swimming pool? It re-opens this week
PUBLISHED: 19:30 13 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:12 14 May 2020
Find out how you can book a session at the outdoor pool for you and your pet.
They say dog is a man’s best friend, and what better way to bond with your pooch than by taking them swimming on a hot summer’s day?
That’s where Canine Dip and Dive comes in – an outdoor swimming pool specifically designed for dogs and their owners, based at Starwing Brewery in Redgrave in Suffolk.
It’s run by Andy Brownlie and his wife Jo Allen, who moved to Suffolk for a quieter life a few years ago – and haven’t looked back.
Guided by a love of dogs, the two have been running Canine Dip and Dive since August 2017.
“We first opened to simply ‘test the waters’, as to whether or not it was a viable business,” Jo explained. “We thought this would just be a weekend thing, but it literally went from weekends to five to six days a week in a couple of weeks.
“We work well together and just seemed to naturally fall into our roles. Andy is the Senior Splash Maker, working with and nurturing the dogs in the pool and I’m the General Dogsbody, dealing with everything from bookings to what I call ‘crowd control’ at the pool,” she continued.
With plans to reopen and welcome its first dogs this Friday, the company has implemented a range of responsible hygiene and social distancing measures, so both pooch and owner can paddle in peace.
In terms of hygiene, Jo said: “Being a dog pool, we have a lot more measures in place to keep the pool clean as opposed to a human pool. We use a chemical called bromine in our pool which is safe for the dogs and doesn’t dry their skin or irritate them. It’s a biocide that kills any potential bacterial and viral organisms in the water.
“Bromine levels are checked daily and adjusted accordingly. We ‘shock’ the water with a treatment at least once a week, and more during busy periods, to kill off all bacteria. We also have a sand filter and pump which is on up to 12 hours a day to filter the pool, and Andy has a very large net which he uses after each session to clear the dog hair out.”
To adhere to social distancing, Canine Dip and Dive has added a new range of measures to keep customers as far apart as possible. “In group sessions, we would normally be open for up to five dogs from separate households in a group session. However, while social distancing rules are in place, we are only allowing two separate households. This allows for them to stand either side of the pool. As the pool is almost five metres wide, this is more than enough space. Only two people per dog are permitted to attend and must be from the same household,” explained Jo.
With anyone who has booked a solo swim, only members from the same household will be permitted to attend the session.
“We also have a separate entrance and exit for the enclosure, so that no one will have to cross paths. Any customers not adhering to social distancing rules will be asked to leave the premises. We will also have disposable gloves available for customers and all surfaces will be cleaned after every session,” added Jo.
With Jo and Andy adapting their business to suit the needs of the current lockdown situation, what does the future hold for Canine Dips and Dives? “We are setting up at a new venue this year at Starwing Brewery,” Jo said. “They have given us a section of field which we fence off with temporary fencing, so the dogs are fenced in.
“In addition, we have the pool in a fenced-off enclosure, and only owners and dogs who have booked into a session are allowed in the enclosure for that duration. Our policy does state though that owners are responsible for their dogs at all times, as we are not a drop off service.”
While the whole venue is dog-friendly, and dogs would be allowed into the bar and café under normal circumstances, these are closed during the current coronavirus restrictions.
More than just a business venture, dogs are a strong passion for the couple, with Andy having been a dog lover since a young age. “Andy has had family dogs since he was a child,” said Jo. “His love of dogs has always been there – I call him ‘the dog whisperer’, as he just has this affinity with dogs that I’ve never seen, and our customers see it too.
“My dog journey started eight years ago when we got Buddy – our Cavalier/Springer cross. Until then, I’d never understood the appeal, but I was hooked right from the start. Now I couldn’t imagine life without him,” she said.
With Andy having also previously worked with dogs, setting up Canine Dip and Dive seemed a no-brainer. “Andy worked for another company which travelled around the country doing dog dock diving at country fairs,” Jo said. “He taught dogs to dive off the dock into the swimming pool.
“He loved it, but over the years he became disheartened by the number of dogs that were nervous of the water. He decided that he wanted to focus on teaching nervous dogs to really enjoy the water. Andy gave up the dock diving and Canine Dip and Dive was born. It’s a real passion that he has, and he is definitely at his happiest when he is in the pool with the dogs,” Jo added.
Since Canine Dip and Dive’s inception, it has won two consecutive accolades, bagging The Dog Friendly Award for Best Day Out for Dogs in both 2018 and 2019. And it’s not hard to see why it has won twice in row – the range of activities on offer speak for themselves.
“With all of the group sessions, they are first and foremost a great way for socialising your dog,” Jo explained. “They can be used for all sorts of reasons, and we have even had people bring their dogs weekly to lose weight.
“Up until this season, owners have been allowed into the pool with their dogs, which has been something that everyone wants to do, but obviously with social distancing measures in place this is no longer allowed at the moment.”
Among the sessions and activities on offer includes Paddle Pups, and Senior Swims. “Paddle Pups is for up to six months, and is a great way to introduce your dog to water at young age so they grow up with confidence around water. Owners are always amazed at how quickly a puppy will take to the water.
“Senior Swims is for dogs of around eight years and up, or any dog with joint/mobility problems. It’s a much slower paced session and allows exercise without putting pressure on the joints as walking and running does. Owners love seeing their senior dogs being active again for the time they are in the pool,” explained Jo.
Additionally, dog owners can book their pet a pool party, dip and dive sessions, and solo swims.
“Pool parties are loads of fun for both dogs and owners. This is a session for dogs who are already confident in water and just love to swim and retrieve toys from the pool – owners love watching their dogs having fun.
“Dip and dive sessions are specifically for dogs who are very confident in the water and love to jump from the dock. Owners love to watch and encourage their dogs jumping and we have tape measure banners along the sides of the pool for them to see how far they jump. Our solo swims are available for all sorts of reasons such as reactive dogs, unsociable dogs, nervous dogs, weight loss or simply just because the owner would like the pool to themselves,” explained Jo.
Canine Dip and Dive has already started to franchise as well, with Jo and Andy hoping to have a branch in every county in the years to come. “Our first franchise in Barkway, Hertfordshire opened in April 2019. We were due to open one in Wymondham, Norfolk in April this year but as coronavirus took over, that will have to be put on hold for now,” said Jo.
For further information on booking you and your dog onto a swim session at Canine Dip and Dive, visit the Facebook page.
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