Teaching Your Dog to Swim

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Summertime is here, and what better way to cool off than to go swimming? Your dog can be included in this fun activity, with a little bit of safety training from you. It is a common misconception that all dogs know how to swim. Yes, there are breeds of dogs such as retrievers that are predisposed to swimming, but one should never assume that their dog is a natural born-swimmer. In fact, each year in the United States, about 10,000 dogs drown.

Is Swimming Right for Your Dog?

No doubt about it, swimming is a great way for dogs to expend energy and burn excess calories. It is great for dogs who have arthritis, and for dogs that need to lose weight. However, not every dog wants to swim. Some dogs think swimming is lots of fun, while others don’t even like it when their paws get wet. Pay attention to your dog’s body language when he or she gets near the water.

Safety Tips

·         Your dog should NEVER be left unattended near a body of water. To be sure your dog doesn’t accidentally get into trouble, you could buy a pool alarm, or install a fence around your pool.

·         Remain in the shallow end of the pool when teaching your dog to swim.

·         10 minutes per session is plenty.

·         If swimming in a lake, have your dog vaccinated against Giardia first.

·         Stay away from water that has a strong current.

·         Look out for underwater hazards that your dog could jump on, such as rocks or stumps.

·         Don’t swim in water that is over your own head.

·         Wait 2 hours after your dog has eaten before taking him swimming.

Importance of a Life Jacket

According to the AKC, regardless of the breed, your dog should always wear a life jacket when going swimming. There are dog life jackets available for every size of dog. Ideally, choose one that has a handle attached at the back so you can use it to guide your dog in and out of the water. It should also have a D-ring so you can attach your dog’s leash to it.

To make your dog more comfortable wearing the life jacket, you can put it on him around the house, like when he is eating dinner perhaps. You may also choose to feed him treats while he wears it, for further reinforcement.

Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Begin by putting your dog on a leash and going into shallow water, where you can go in with him. Reward him with a yummy snack. Now take him in a bit further and further, until he has to swim out to get to you.

Another option is to throw his favorite ball into the water, starting out by throwing it not too far away, then further out the next time. The best thing you can do is spend several days with this process so that your dog does not feel overwhelmed.

Swimming Tips

·         Your dog may feel overwhelmed if the body of water is too large. To remedy his fear of water, you can do the following. Pick up a baby pool at your local discount store. Let your dog get in while the baby pool is empty, then slowly fill it up with water. Before you know it, he will be playfully running and jumping into it, with no encouragement needed from you!

·         It is a good idea to introduce your dog to playing in water at a young age. Let your puppy swim around in your bathtub or baby pool when they are young and when they grow up, they are likely to still be fond of it.

·         If your dog doesn’t feel comfortable stepping onto pool steps, you may want to try taking them to a lake or pond where there is more of a gradual decline.

Last but not least, have fun! Pay close attention to your dog’s reaction. If he is having a good time, chances are you are as well. 

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