How To Teach Dogs To Swim

Does your dog eagerly run to any body of water it sees? Maybe your dog has to jump into every creek or pond you pass. Perhaps your dog views water as the enemy and would do anything to avoid getting wet. Every dog is unique, and not every dog is born to adore getting wet. But do all canines swim?

Your dog might be an expert swimmer or find swimming difficult depending on the breed. But regardless of whether your dog adores diving in or chooses to stay on dry land, it’s crucial for safety that your dog become accustomed to being around water. You might want to visit the beach, go boating, or take a cottage getaway. You might even visit someone who has a pool in their backyard. Continue reading for advice on teaching your dog to swim as well as water safety advice.

Not Every Breed Is a Natural Swimmer

It is evident that some breeds will be drawn to the water if you consider their traditional use. Because they were created for aquatic jobs, several breeds were born with the ability to swim. The Labrador Retriever and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever are two examples. These dogs were developed to help hunters retrieve waterfowl. Some breeds even have the word “water” in their name, such as the Portuguese Water Dog, which was created to work in the water as a fisherman’s assistant, and the Irish Water Spaniel, which has a recognizable curly coat that repels water. These dogs are built to swim well, and the majority of them will like nothing more than splashing around in the water.

Some breeds appear to know how to swim the moment they see a body of water, while others simply don’t see the point, according to Michele Godlevski, NADD Dock Diving Judge, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Certified Canine Behavior Consultant, and owner of Teamworks Dog Training in Raleigh, NC. “There are also some breeds who have a weight distribution (Bulldogs, for example) that would not make it possible for them to swim very well without a life vest. Breeds with large bodies and short legs, like dachshunds, may have difficulty swimming. As a result, can dogs swim? It’s a fallacy that all dogs can swim, but with a life jacket and little instruction from you, any breed should be able to navigate the water.

The Importance of a Dog Life Jacket

Godlevski advises wearing a life jacket at all times. The first step in her dog swimming instruction is to buy and fit a canine flotation device. “Buy a pet life vest that suits your dog comfortably,” she suggests. Whatever breed you have, you always want that first experience to be enjoyable rather than frightening.

Which implies you should never abandon your dog to fend for himself in the water. Godlevski says that “throwing a puppy or young dog into the water is not only a horrible idea, but it may really harm the dog’s courage about swimming for its life. Godlevski has trained numerous dogs to swim over the years, and she is adamant that courage is the key to canine swimming. And for that purpose as well, the life jacket. A novice swimmer who is wearing a life vest will feel more courageous than one who is not.

Even confident dogs can get into trouble, such as those that run into the water to chase a toy or another dog. They frequently just chase the dog into the water without recognizing that the surface has altered, according to Godlevski. You don’t want your dog to freak out when he realizes the ground is gone.

According to Godlevski, “In my experience, dogs that initially run into the water do so like a cartoon character running from a cliff. In other words, the drop-off comes as a total shock. In a life jacket, dogs will simply float until they understand they can paddle with their feet and regain their bearings. But in the few seconds it takes for the paddling response to activate, the dog without a flotation device can freak out, gulp water, and drown.

Another justification for the dog’s life jacket is what Godlevski refers to as “front wheel drive.” To put it another way, puppies who are learning to swim only paddle with their front legs while usually dangling their back legs to reach the bottom. On the other hand, a dog wearing a life jacket keeps its back level with the water. The dog realizes that they genuinely have “four-wheel drive and all four paws paddle” when their back is straight. Your dog will soon be confidently and smoothly navigating the water.

Choosing a Dog Flotation Device

Whether your dog is a breed that is just learning to swim or a breed that need more buoyancy, be careful to get the best sort of life jacket. And even the most seasoned swimmer needs a life vest that fits properly. The increased buoyancy will aid in safety and confidence because your dog can grow fatigued or lose his bearings. Last but not least, a dog flotation device is necessary for boating. There might be choppy water or strong currents when your dog slips overboard, and that life jacket could save his or her life.

Choose a life jacket that is sturdy and constructed of water-resistant materials. Additionally, it must to be adjustable so you can make sure your dog can fit snugly. If you intend to engage in any evening water-based activities, think about reflective trim. In a similar vein, brightly colored clothing improves visibility. If additional assistance is required to keep your dog’s head above water, you might also search for a flotation device under the chin.

Make sure the tool has a handle as well. As your dog learns to swim, you can use this to help you hoist him out of the water, grasp him if he’s struggling, and direct him. The handle, however, should be strong enough to actually bring the dog out of the water, according to Godlevski. You might also search for a D-ring so you can attach a leash to it. For instance, public beaches could benefit from this.

Teaching Your Dog to Swim

It’s crucial to get your dog wearing a flotation device into the water when you start dog swimming training. Create an environment where your dog feels comfortable going into the water by playing with him with a toy. Godlevski recommends, “Bring a ball or a toy. If your dog will approach you from the shore or the water’s edge, you can paddle your dog while gripping the life jacket’s handle. Avoid dragging your dog into the water, and make sure you’re wearing your own life jacket. When a dog panics, he may try to escape by climbing on you. This can be dangerous, especially if the dog is huge.

Godlevski suggests another approach: “Plan a time for your dog to watch the other dog swim. Find a friend with a dog that is an experienced swimmer. Allow your dog to accompany the other dog around while wearing a life jacket if the two dogs are amicable. Your dog will be able to observe, learn, and, more importantly, experience the enjoyment that the water may bring.

Start in shallow water if at all feasible, and stay near to your dog. Let your dog grow acclimated to walking on wet ground. Wait until your dog seems content where he is before leaving the shallows. Encourage a slow transition into deeper water, and give lots of praise and encouragement. Your dog will want to get back in the water if you praise him for being there. When your dog appears overexcited, relocate him to shallower water or dry land, let him settle down, and then try again.

Teaching your dog to get out of the water is also crucial. While you and your dog are swimming together, Godlevski advises pointing your dog toward the shore or the pool ramp. She advises staying close to the exit in order to aid your dog in finding its way if you are unable to enter the water with them. Repeat these instructions until your dog learns how to exit the water.

Godlevski says that it absolutely helps to have a steady slope into the water. There are various venues to train your dog to swim, from the lake to the pool. Additionally, she claims that the vivid blue water in a pool can appear odd to dogs, making them hesitant to enter. (Yet more justification to enter with them!) She emphasizes, “But water is water. Usually a pond or lake looks a bit more natural for the dog. No matter what color the water is, if they don’t like being wet, it doesn’t matter!

Water Safety Tips for Dogs

Every time your dog is in or near water, there are a variety of safety measures to follow. Temperature comes first. Before letting your dog swim, Godlevski advises making sure the combined temperature of the air and the water is at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You run the risk of your dog developing cold tail, also known as limber tail or swimmer’s tail, when the water is excessively cold. The tail will droop and no longer wag or raise up in this situation. Even more harmful hypothermia could even strike your dog. Puppies are particularly susceptible, according to Godlevski, who advises, “Please take your dog to the vet right away if he jumps into water that is too cold and starts to shiver or stops using his tail.

Another problem Godlevski warns against is water poisoning. This occurs when a dog swims too far and drinks too much water. Throwing up after swimming is a typical symptom. Godlevski advises keeping swimming sessions brief—no more than 10 minutes—to avoid water poisoning. Moreover, she adds “Don’t let your dog play with a big toy in the water. The greatest toy is a small, flat object like a soft flying disc. You can feed your dog some dehydrated or freeze-dried food after it exits the pool to help it absorb the extra water in its stomach.

Godlevski also advises being wary of other animals like water snakes or snapping turtles if your dog is swimming in a natural body of water. Even saltwater or inland coastal waterways in the south can harbor alligators. Additionally, the ocean may provide additional risks. Godlevski adds that another danger in natural bodies of water is fish hooks with bait on them. “Fish baithook, line, and sinker will be devoured by dogs before you even realize what has happened. Get to the emergency vet as quickly as you can if this occurs. Keep an eye out for dangers and never leave your dog unattended in or near the water.

Additionally, while your dog is outside in the heat, make sure to give him access to a place with shade and clean, fresh water. Otherwise, your dog can be lured to drink from the lake, ocean, or pool, which isn’t the healthiest option. Also, remember to use sun protection. Even dogs with light coats or hairless varieties like Chinese Cresteds can develop severe sunburns. Godlevski also advises covering any dog’s pink nose with sunscreen.

What if your dog never learns to swim despite all of your encouragement and lessons? He might still take pleasure in activities near the water or a scaled-down version of swimming, especially on a hot summer day. Godlevski offers a plastic kiddie pool or a cooling jacket “Although some dogs adore baby pools, many canines are frightened of the slick surface. Put kennel decking or a rubber drainage mat (the kind with circular holes in it) on the bottom to provide your dog traction, and that surface will become less intimidating.