How To Teach Your Dog To Swim

Most dogs enjoy playing in water and their enjoyment, and yours, can be increased by making sure your dog knows how to swim and is safe in the water. Besides, it’s great exercise and a good way for your dog to cool off on a hot day.

Of course, some breeds just natrually take to water and usually become excellent swimmers. The water loving breeds include the retrievers and spaniels as well as poodles, who were originally bred as hunting and retrieving dogs.

Other breeds are just not built for the water or for swimming. These breeds include the bulldog, pug, Dachshund, Basset hound, boxer and Pekingese among others. Due to these dogs’ body type and facial structure, they are just not able to efficiently keep their faces above the water and may drown. If you allow them to play in shallow water they should always be supervised and should always wear a dog life jacket. 

If your dog is one of the breeds that can safely learn to swim, here’s how to go about introducing them to the water.

Ideally you want to introduce your dog when he is young to the water. A child’s plastic pool or the bathtub with a couple of inches of water makes a great place for your pup to spash and have fun. Again, never leave a dog unsupervised in the water, even if it’s shallow.

It’s best to start with an empty tub or pool and reward your pup for getting in. Then introduce the water and reward again for getting in. Soon, your dog will be happily getting wet.

When a dog is first learning to swim, he should always wear a life jacket, preferably one that has a D-ring attached to the back. Be sure to make your dog comfortable wearing the life jacket at home before you introduce him to the water.

You will begin by wading with your dog on a leash into some shallow water by encouraging him to follow you with treats. He may only get his paws wet at first and that’s ok. Over several days he can be encouraged to accompany you further into the water until he has to swim to reach you.

You can also use a floating ball or toy tossed into the water, not far at first, then at a greater distance until he is swimming to get the toy.

Remember never to allow your dog to swim unattended. Safety first!!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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