How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

by Pool Builders on 05-26-2009 in Articles

Some dogs are natural swimmers, some are not. If you need to teach you dog to swim, here are 5 steps you can take to ensure that both you and you pooch make it through the learning process safely and soundly.

  1. Use a dog life jacket
  2. Be in the water with your pup
  3. Start small
  4. Keep it short
  5. Make it fun!

1. Use a dog life jacket.

Safety first! If you are teaching your dog to swim, I strongly recommend purchasing a dog life jacket. A dog life jacket will help:

- You - A dog life jacket will help you by giving you a handle to grab and lift your dog. Have you ever tried to life a panicked wet dog out of the water? Not fun - or easy for anyone involved. Most dog life vests have handles on top that help you easily capture and lift your dog out of the water. Also, many dog life jackets come with d rings to attach your dogs leash so as your dogs confidence grows you can let them swim further sway from you while keeping them safely tethered to you.

-Your Dog - A dog life jacket will help by giving her buoyancy. The buoyancy will making learning to swim easier for your pup (especially if he is a stout breed like a pug) and will also lessen fatigue and keep her warmer in the water.

2. Be in the water with your pup.

Teaching a dog to swim is like teaching a child to swim, you need to watch them at all times. Although animal instincts make the swimming process a bit more natural for puppies (usually you can just put them in the water and they start paddling away - it is called the dog paddle after all!), you should be in the water when they are learning so you can guide them, encourage them and lift them to safety if needed. (Although if you are teaching a full grown large breed to swim, please make sure you have the strength to handle them in the water or if not recruit some hired muscle!)

3. Start Small.

If you have a pool, it is the ideal place to start teaching your dog to swim. You want to make sure you start in a small confined area so your pup doesn't swim off in to the oblivion with you chasing after them!

Ease your pup into the water gently, allowing them to get their feet wet and then their bodies. NEVER toss your dog into the water and hope they catch on. It's not fair to them and they will likely be afraid of the water afterward.

4. Keep it short.

Dogs use a lot of energy and loose a lot of heat in the water. Ever notice how most "water dogs" like Newfoundlands and Portuguese water dogs are large breeds with lots of fur? So keep your lessons short until your dog develops the strength and stamina to spend longer periods of time swimming. Also make sure that after your swim, make sure your puppy isn't too cold and if they are wrap them up in a nice blanket and snuggle with them until they are warm.

5. Make it fun.

Often times, puppies will see their families frolicking in a pool or lake and naturally want to join in! Make sure you make the learning experience a positive one. Keep telling your dog what a good dog they are and imbue each foray into the water with encouragement and celebration of your pup's bravery!

Treats are highly recommended if your dog is hesitant or panicked in the water. If she knows that every time she does a lap, there is a delicious morsel waiting on the other side, you'll be surprised how quickly your dog will take to the aquatic life. Also, if your puppy is a retrieving type, purchase a few floating toys, toss them (the toys NOT your dog) into the water and ask you dog to fetch!

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