A PET dog was saved by a lifeboat crew after it got into difficulty while swimming out at sea.
The Labrador was almost 300 yards off the North Gare, at Seaton Carew, when it was picked up by the Hartlepool RNLI inshore lifeboat and returned to its frantic owners on the beach.
The owner had started to swim out to sea in a bid to rescue his dog before he turned back and called for help.
The dog had been swimming out at sea for at least 30 minutes, against the tide, before it was rescued.
It is believed the family of four were from outside of town.
A spokesman for the Coastguard said: “The dog was quite a distance out to sea and it was very lucky to have been rescued.
“The crew managed to get the dog into the lifeboat before heading back to the beach, where it was reunited with the grateful owners, a mum, dad and two children.
“The search was hampered by seals, which kept popping up and were mistaken for the dog.”
The volunteer Hartlepool RNLI crew members were called at 3.30pm on Sunday and the dog was rescued just before 4pm.