Ready. Set. Let’s Go! Sink or Swim

Do you love the outdoors? Did you get a dog to go swimming with? Does it seem like your four-legged friend doesn’t like water? Well, fear not, it is possible to help him learn to love the water as much as you do – unless you happen to be a fish, then you’ll have to accept the fact that he doesn’t want to spend 24 hours a day underwater. If, however, you’re a human, here are some tips on introducing your dog to water. Keep in mind, though, that not all dog breeds are built to swim. Use your best judgment to determine if swimming is indeed in Fido’s future or if his build will cause him to float like a lead weight. If he is not built for swimming but seems to take to the water, consider getting him a doggy floatation device to wear for safety.

The most important thing when introducing a puppy or adult dog to water is to ensure that he is not traumatized by the water. The best way to introduce a dog to water is as a puppy, on a warm day, with a trusted adult dog that loves all things aquatic and in a shallow lake or calm beach. It’s preferable to do it without a leash so that he is able to move away from the water should he be afraid. Let him follow the adult around. If you’re so inclined, wear a swimsuit so you can get in the water with him. Your proximity can help reassure your puppy that it’s safe to venture in. Whatever you do, don’t force him into the water. Forcing him in will probably scare him and cause him to distrust you by tossing him in or pulling him. Rather, entice him to get in by having the adult dog go in first. If you’re in the water too, which is preferable, call your puppy to you and encourage him to go in a bit further every time until he has to swim a bit. For puppies motivated by toys, get some that float and play with the H2O loving adult and puppy in very shallow water. If you don’t have an adult to aid in the process, you’ll definitely be better off getting into the water yourself. Use the same method if your dog is an adult, be patient, encouraging and positive. This first step is extremely important. There’s no need to rush it.

Once your puppy or adult dog is comfortable with wading in a bit, start getting him to get in deep enough so that he has to swim. Pretty soon, he’ll be ready to transition to different bodies of water. Keep in mind that, even if your dog takes to calm bodies of water that he can walk into, he may not love all types. For example, he may enjoy going for a swim on the beach, but still be afraid of pools. Either way, he will most likely never love the weekly bath or hose-down after digging a tunnel in the vegetable garden.

Remember, teaching your dog any new behavior should not be rushed, it should be enjoyed. Keep all training sessions short and positive. If your dog is terrified by the idea of swimming, ask yourself if it really is imperative for him to learn how to swim. If not, find another outdoor sport the two of you can enjoy together.


Photos Courtesy of The Author