'Underwater Puppies': Dive into these photos of canine cuteness

Underwater puppy

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By Scott Stump

They're puppies, they're playfully swimming around underwater, and they are irresistibly cute because.. puppies! 

While award-winning photographer Seth Casteel knows that just that is more than enough to capture people's attention, he also hopes to pass along a message with the newly-released "Underwater Puppies," his follow-up to the best-selling book "Underwater Dogs." While Casteel admitted that he decided to use puppies in this book because "puppies are the most amazing creatures on the face of the earth," he also wanted to bring awareness to water safety for pets. 

Dive into photographer Seth Casteel’s images of cute pups taking the plunge.

"Each year, thousands of pets drown in backyard swimming pools in the United States because proper safety measures have not been taken by their human companions,'' Casteel told TODAY.com in an email. "These terrible tragedies can be prevented. Many people assume that their pets 'won't go into the pool,' or they deny their dog the right to go in and learn. This mentality is directly putting your dog in danger because at some point, your dog will be in that pool, and it is absolutely critical that he or she is prepared.''

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Casteel also wants to bring attention to dogs in need of adoption from shelters. Many of the dogs in the book are rescue dogs. 

"I worked with hundreds of adoptable puppies from animal rescue groups all over the United States,'' Casteel said. "The goal was to feature some amazing rescue puppy ambassadors to remind people that adoption is a wonderful option. There are so many awesome pets that need loving families, and I hope you'll consider bringing a shelter pet into your life." 

Shooting the new 115-page book, which is out in stores on Tuesday, required plenty of time in a wet suit with toys and treats, trying to get the puppies in the cutest poses possible. 

"While 'Underwater Dogs' was based on the classic game of fetch, this project was based on water safety,'' Casteel said. "To create this series of photos, I taught swimming lessons to over 1,500 puppies, helping them build confidence and safety skills in the water. Many of the puppies only swam for a few minutes and learned about buoyancy, their physicality in the water and most importantly, how to get out of a pool. But some of the puppies immediately thrived and began playing, jumping in and chasing toys. These are the puppies you will see in the book." 

The puppies used in the book have since been adopted, according to Casteel, but he hopes the book brings awareness that so many others need homes. 

"It's still shocking to me how many people buy their pets. You can find any type of dog, puppy or adult, pure bred or mixed breed, through shelters and rescue organizations. You just have to make the effort. My dog, Nala, is a beautiful and loving mini-labradoodle with an incredible personality (and fantastic hair style!), and I adopted her from the shelter." 

The whole project began randomly as just something fun on the side for Casteel when he put out "Underwater Dogs" in October 2012, but the photos quickly went viral and made the book a best-seller, leading to "Underwater Puppies." 

"I am just a guy who loves dogs — who could have thought something like this could become so popular?" Casteel said. "Dogs are my heroes!" 

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