Teaching your dog how to swim is a fun and rewarding experience. Not only will they be able to participate in your water related activities, but the process will foster a closer relationship between both of you.
The first step is to get your dog acclimated to water as soon as possible. This can be as simple as using a hard plastic, child’s swimming pool with a few inches of water. A shallow, slow moving brook will also work. The important thing is for your dog to take to the water naturally. This should never be a forced action, as they may become frightened. Incorporating your dog’s usual outdoor fun, like fetching a ball or frisbee, will help out.
Make sure the pool or brook is nearby to the fun, and begin playing as normal. As your dog begins to become tired or thirsty, kneel down beside the water and coax them over. Your dog will want a drink, and will probably take a step into the water at the same time. After several rounds of this, your dog will get used to how the water feels, and may even begin to splash around, to cool off.
After a few sessions, when they are used to standing in the water, you can move onto the next step of the tossing some of their balls or a frisbee into the water, and see if you can get them to retrieve it, which they probably will. This step will get them used to submerging their snout underwater to grab the toy.
When it comes to actually swimming, remember, your dog has never done this before, so they may be a bit intimidated. So, taking things slowly is key. Swimming is a very exhausting activity, so a good fitting dog life jacket is always recommended, to help keep them afloat when they tire. You’ll want to purchase this several weeks before the first swim. Have them wear it during play time and walks so they can get used to the feel. Before long, they won’t mind wearing it at all.
For the first swim, you need to find a lake or pond that has a shallow area, where your dog will feel at home wading and splashing around. Make sure their life jacket is securely fastened. The next part will involve you getting wet as well, so your dog won’t feel alone in the water, and you can retrieve floating toys that they may not be ready to swim into the deeper water to fetch.
While your dog is already wading in the water, start out by throwing a toy into a slightly deeper area a few feet away. When they are comfortable fetching it at that depth, throw the toy out a bit further. Do this until your dog is actually swimming. The life jacket will keep them floating when they get tired. This will be a time of great excitement as you watch your dog paddle around the water.
If you’ll be spending any time on a boat, make sure your dog is always wearing the life jacket. While they are standing on the deck, climb into the water, and try calling them. They may just jump right in, or it may take more time. Taking it slowly at each step is the important thing.
Before you know it, your dog will love the water, and you won’t be able to mention the word, without them jumping around in anticipation.