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How to teach your dog to swim without driving it crazy?

Updated on March 18, 2016

All dogs love to swim and are natural swimmers. That seems to be a modern day adage, and we’re not quite sure how these sayings came into existence. The fact of the matter is that this might not indeed be the case, with many breeds being completely incapable of swimming: such as the bull dog, who would pretty much function like a ton of iron if dropped into a water body without any floatation mechanism.

Teaching a Dog Swimming
Teaching a Dog Swimming

But one of life’s greatest joys is going for a swim with your furry four legged friend, and years later, you might remember your outings with inexplicable longing and fond nostalgia. To savor those moments, though, it might be useful to teach your dog to swim first: and trust us when we say that these are the ONLY rules by which you can both teach them and NOT drive them completely crazy!

Never take adages about dogs and their affinity with water at face value

Dog learning to swim
Dog learning to swim

If you just look at the logistics, it might no longer seem that transparent that dogs = natural swimmers. You should ensure that your dog actually likes water, and if they don’t, you might have to train them first to acclimatize them to it. Lakes with gently sloped banks and pools are especially helpful in this regard.

  1. To test if your dog likes water, you might do well to provide a few of these things first:
  2. A kid sized pool as a training ground
  3. Treats that are water-resistant
  4. Your pet’s favorite chew toy or something that can withstand water
  5. Accessories: Ear-wraps, sunblock, ear-drying solutions may help prevent a lot of pain for your furry friend.

A leash so they can get used to the feel of it before learning in a larger water body.

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Safety precautions can never be taken too lightly

Small Dog Swimming Properly
Small Dog Swimming Properly

Once you’re sure they like water, you can move on to the next step of safety training. Lightweight, short-legged dogs in particular, could do with their own life jacket. While pups could probably do well with kid-sized pools, you could take your grown up pooch to a nearby lake, pond or pool where there’s not much activity or noise to startle them.

It might seem a bit harsh, but keeping them on a leash can often be the difference between your dog drifting off, and learning to swim properly. Just leave it on until he or she is able to swim back to you on his or her own, unassisted. It might be imperative, though, to never abandon your pet when in any water body as even a moment’s inattentiveness on your part can lead to them being frightened enough to never swim again!

Dog Training: The ART of Communicating with Your Dog

Steps for paving the way of how you can get your dog inside the pool

Cute Dog Swimming In Clear Water
Cute Dog Swimming In Clear Water
  • Training forms an important step in shaping up how your dog approaches any kind of pool. Most pooches would look for a particular approach to the water body, which means that gentle slopes or widely spaced steps are a must at the entry or exit points. At its approach, make sure you deliver a treat to provide support.
  • The next step of the process would be to guide the dog INTO the pool, by tossing one of the treats in the water and encouraging your pet to step in.
  • Dogs have the tendency to touch the water with their nose first, and this is a good sign. It means your pet is trying to get used to what this liquid-y substance might be. Should he drink it? Should he pee in it? Should he just dive in? You may choose to deliver a treat at this point, but it’s up to you.
  • If your dog already is hydrophilic, it won’t take long for him or her to dip a paw into the water and find extreme delight in the process. Time to toss in another treat, just to encourage him to move in further.
  • Soon, you’ll find that your efforts have come to fruition as your dog gets on all fours and jumps right into the pool. Time to deliver the goods, which means the best-loved treat of them all. Remember that at this point, a verbal cue might be effective in ensuring that he/she behaves in a similar manner the next time around.

Swimming Dog
Swimming Dog

Once your dog is safely into the water, it’s time to teach them the more advanced tricks. Moving in and out, gradually away and from the entry point, you can encourage your pooch to try swimming by himself. To facilitate the process at the very beginning, just take hold of the handle on the vest or dangle a target before him/her to encourage him to follow.

In conclusion, we can just reconfirm that teaching your dog to swim can be a fun and rewarding experience, and though it might take a lot of time, patience, and loads of treats, it is well worth the effort in the end: both for your furry friend and yourself!


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