Italy Has Over 300 Dog Lifeguards That Help Save Thousands of Swimmers Each Year

Imagine you’re having a summer vacation on Italy’s Amalfi coast and soaking in one of its spectacular beaches. You’ve enjoyed a few Aperol Spritzes and decided to cool off with a little float in the turquoise sea. It must have been the sun and the cocktails, but you notice you’ve drifted too far from shore. While swimming back, you start to run out of energy. Panic sets in as you begin to have trouble keeping above water… But what do you see? A golden retriever dressed up like a canine cast member of Baywatch, swimming your way! And no, it’s not a near-death hallucination – It’s just one of 300+ doggy lifeguards stationed around Italy’s most popular beaches!!

Beaches in Italy have dog lifeguards
Credit: @sicscentromeridionale/Facebook

Why do dogs make for great lifeguards?

For over 30 years, Italy has been training dogs as furry lifeguards. These dogs, often large breeds like Labradors, Newfoundlands, and Golden Retrievers, are selected for their strength, swimming ability, and temperament. After undergoing rigorous training, these canine lifeguards work alongside their human counterparts to ensure the safety of beachgoers and boaters. Their tasks include patrolling the shores, assisting in rescues, and providing a visible deterrent to prevent accidents. These dogs are trained to swim out to people in distress, allowing the individual to grab hold of a harness or flotation device attached to the dog, who then tows them back to shore. This innovative approach not only adds an extra layer of protection to the beaches but also delights and reassures beachgoers who have the privilege of basking in the safety of these furry guardians.

Three dog lifeguards protecting an Italian beach
Credit: @sicscentromeridionale/Facebook

That time three dog lifeguards helped save 14 people

In August 2021, CNN reported that three canine lifeguards named Mira, Mya, and Eros were able to help save a group of 14 people! The group of humans were using various inflatables and swim equipment, off the shore of a beach in Sperlonga, found between Naples and Rome. The group was suddenly overpowered by high wind and waves, causing many of them to lose control or capsize. A family member back on the beach noticed the group’s distress, which included 8 young children. Several lifeguards were able to safely wrangle up the large group, but only thanks to the assistance of the three courageous canines. They were trained by La Scuola (SICS), which has 16 dog rescue dog training centers around Italy.

SICS dog lifeguards save 24 people
The 8 rescued kids with the three dog lifeguards [Credit: SICS]

Dogs are “fundamental” in Italy’s lifeguard rescues, especially when rescuing multiple people… Big groups would be too much for just a couple of lifeguards to handle.

Roberto Gasbarri – SICS, speaking to CNN, August 2021

If you’re looking for a deep doggy dive into this topic, check out the short documentary below:

For another courageous canine, meet Proteo, the rescue dog who passed away after saving Turkey earthquake victims.

Proteo Mexican Rescue dog who recued survivors of the Turkey Earthquake
Credit: @asaadHannaa/Twitter
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