5 Tips for Teaching Your Dog How To Swim

Published: June 24, 2024
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Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs can swim. In fact, many breeds are not built for water sports or activities. That said, many owners want to teach their dogs to swim so they can enjoy the water during the hotter seasons. Discover the five steps for training your dog to swim.

1. Prioritize Safety

When teaching your dog to swim, safety should be your absolute top priority. A fun experience can quickly turn dangerous without proper precautions. A canine life vest is essential, even for dogs that appear to be strong and confident swimmers. The vest provides buoyancy and a sense of security. Consider the Kurgo Surf n Turf Dog Lifejacketthat has a sturdy handle for additional support during training.

Training should begin in a controlled environment like a backyard pool or calm lake. Avoid areas with currents, unpredictable waves, or hidden dangers, like underwater drop-offs. Never start your dog's swimming journey in the ocean.

2. Introduce Your Dog to Water

With the proper gear and location, you can start teaching your dog to swim, creating a positive association with water. Your dog might initially be reluctant to touch the water's surface, and that's OK. Sometimes, the best introduction to water is a sprinkler or hose. You want to start with a gentle stream, something that won't intimidate your dog.

Once your dog is comfortable getting wet, move on to a shallow pet pool, such as the Trixie Portable Splash Dog Pool. Let them play with toys at the water's edge and investigate at their own pace. Offer lots of praise and treats when they show interest in the water, reinforcing positive connections.

Don't force your dog into the water. Let it decide when it's comfortable. You can encourage them to enter the pool by using their favorite toys or getting into the water yourself, but be patient.

Keep in mind that some dogs have a genuine dislike or fear of water. Whether that dislike or fear stems from a negative experience, breed predisposition, or individual personality doesn't matter. It is essential to respect your dog's feelings. Trying to force a dog to swim can create tension in your relationship.

3. Encourage Your Dog to Enter the Water

Once your dog feels comfortable getting its paws wet, it's time to help it transition to swimming. Ensure its life vest is secure, and stay by its side the entire lesson.

Begin by gradually walking your pet into deeper water. Hold its belly, gently providing support and reassurance. Your dog should instinctually start paddling. Do not let go. While your dog likely can swim, releasing it too early will force it into a panic paddle, which is dangerous and traumatizing.

You can use floating dog toys, like the KONG Wild Shieldz Training Dummy Dog Toy, to encourage your dog to continue paddling and moving forward. Toss the toy a short distance away, encouraging your dog to reach for it and paddle. Eventually, it will make the connection between paddling and staying afloat.

Offer enthusiastic praise for every attempt your dog makes to swim, even if it's only a few kicks. Your energy is addictive and will help motivate your pet, making them eager to try again.

4. Help Your Pet Develop Swimming Skills

As your dog gains confidence, focus on refining its swimming technique and building stamina. You want to keep training sessions short and fun to prevent fatigue. Many dogs, especially nervous or anxious dogs, initially panic paddle in the water, mainly moving their front legs. You can help correct this behavior by supporting the dog's back end and motivating it to use all four legs.

Some dogs benefit from owners modeling the motion with their hands, helping them visualize what the owner wants. Help the animal to relax because relaxed paddling helps it move efficiently and conserve energy.

Begin with short sessions, just a few minutes at a time. Gradually build endurance by increasing the duration. Watch for signs of fatigue, like heavy panting, trembling, or trying to climb on you. It's better to end sessions early on a positive note than when exhaustion or panic sets in.

Make sure your dog understands where the exit is. Guide it toward pool steps, a ramp, or a sloped shore. If necessary, you can invest in the Trixie Bi-Fold Pet Ramp so you always have a safe entry and exit ramp for your furry friend. Practice entering and exiting the water several times each session. Being able to find the exit is a crucial safety skill that can give your dog a sense of control.

5. Consider Breed and Safety

While most dogs can learn to enjoy swimming, there are some additional factors you must consider before trying to teach your canine companion to swim. First, breed matters. Short-legged dogs (like corgis), heavy-bodied dogs (like English Bulldogs), and brachycephalic breeds (like pugs) may have a more challenging time swimming because of their body structure. If you must train these dogs to swim, give them extra support and watch them closely.

Second, remember that swimming is exercise and can dehydrate dogs, which seems counterintuitive, but it's not when you think about it. Bring a water bottle and bowl for your dog to ensure they get enough water during training. The Messy Mutts Stainless Steel Water Bottle Bowl is an excellent travel option.

Many dogs can learn to love swimming, but not all dogs are made for it. If your dog is capable, remember to take your time with training and make it as enjoyable as possible.

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