If you are into your swimming then there is no greater joy then being able to swim with your dog. Unfortunately, many dogs are not only scared of swimming but are also scared of water. In this article, we will be taking a look at how to get your dog swimming in an attempt to help our readers in this situation.
How To Teach A Dog To Like Water
Before looking at how to get your dog to like swimming you have to address any fear of water your dog may have. As your dog’s owner, you are most likely aware if your dog has any fears of water already or not. If you feel your dog is not scared of water then feel free to skip to the next section. If your dog is scared of water keep reading.
Why Is My Dog Afraid Of Water
There are two main reasons most dogs are scared of water. These are a lack of understanding of what water is so they presume the worst and having had a negative experience with water when they were younger.
In our opinion, you use the same method to help treat both of these issues. You have to teach your dog what water is and that is it safe. This is usually easier than most people think provided you are consistent in your training.
The first step is to use your bathtub. One mistake we see people make time and time again is that they will put their dogs in the bathtub as they fill it up. This is usually fine with a dog that has no fear of water but it usually sets training back and causes problems if your dog does have issues with water. The feeling of being in an enclosed bathtub that is filling with water that your dog has no understanding of usually causes your dog to panic.
A simple fix for this is to leave your dog to do its own thing as you put water in the bathtub. Once the water is around two inches deep, place your dog in the tub and see how it reacts. Most dogs will be fine with this shallow water but you can use rubber duckies that float and squeak as a bath time toy. These can help keep your dog relaxed during the training process.
Be sure to offer plenty of positive verbal and physical encouragement as well as offer your dog its favorite treats during the process. As with all forms of training, work at your dog’s pace as rushing things will often set you back.
Stepping It Up
Although it may take multiple training sessions, your dog will eventually become comfortable with the shallow water in your bath. The next step is to increase the depth of the water. This usually depends on your dog’s breed and its age, most puppies can be kept in the bath and have more water added to increase depth. Some fully grown dog breeds will require you to try and find a pool or creek to move onto to increase your dog’s confidence and teach it to actually swim.
How To Get Your Dog Swimming
The vast majority of dogs instincts will kick in when they are in water that they cant touch the bottom of. They will naturally float and kick their legs to propel themselves forward allowing them to swim around in the water. If your dog is still nervous about the deeper water, refuses to enter the water or freezes when they are unable to touch the bottom and just floats around then you can try the following.
Although not essential, if your dog is nervous of deeper water and does not naturally swim we recommend that you get your dog a swimming vest. They are comfortable and keep your dog afloat helping to increase its confidence in the water quicker. Additionally, they have multiple handles on them to allow you to quickly grip your dog and lift it out of the water if required.
How To Get Your Dog To Swim In A Pool
The main issue with getting your dog to swim in a pool is the sudden drop off from the pathway into the pool. Most pools will have a sheer drop as the edge of the pool that can have a psychological effect on your dog. This effect makes your dog nervous of the drop rather than the actual water or swimming.
There are two main ways to get your dog into the pool that have high success rates. Both work better if you have other people and dogs already in the pool. The first is to pick your dog up, talk to it in a calm relaxed voice and sit on the edge of the pool with your dog on your lap. Once your dog is calm, lower yourself into the waist-deep part of the pool if possible while carrying your dog. Make sure your dog is in the water but that it is shallow enough for you to lift your dog out if required. Expect your dog to cry and struggle initially but it will pass as confidence builds.
The next way to get your dog into the pool is to use a leash and try to lead it in. This is a slower process but it still has a high success rate. The below video is an excellent example of using this second method on a scared dog to get it into the pool.
Getting Your Dog To Swim
As you can see in the video above, once your dog is actually in the pool, its natural instincts usually kick in. Although the initial attempts at swimming will be full of panic dogs usually calm down and begin to swim normally quickly without any additional assistance.
How To Get Your Dog To Jump In The Pool
Getting your dog to jump in the pool is all about its confidence levels. As your dog’s confidence in the swimming pool increases, so do the chances of it jumping in to swim. There are a few things that you can do to offer encouragement though.
The most popular with the highest success rate is to get a dog toy that will float. Stand on the side of the pool holding the toy out so that your dog can see it and encourage your dog to run to you to get it. As your dog runs towards you throw the toy into the pool in the hope your dog will follow it in. Repeat this process a few times as required to build up your dog’s confidence of entering the pool this way.
The video below offers a good demonstration of how to apply this method with your dog.
How To Teach A Dog To Swim At The Beach
Teaching your dog to swim at the beach can be a challenge, especially if it is a busy beach with a bunch of distractions. Your dog is more likely to want to go play with other people or dogs rather than swim, especially if it is fearful of the water. An additional obstacle is also the addition of waves.
If possible, try to find a quiet section of the beach where the waves stay as small as possible. As with most water-based training we recommend you also pick up a water-based dog toy that floats.
Similar to pool training your dog, this is usually easier if you have other people or dogs already in the sea. Your goal will be to get your dog playing with the toy and then begin to throw it into the shallow water. Your hope is that your dog will follow the toy into the sea and naturally become comfortable with the water and begin to swim.
If your dog is fearful of the sea water and refuses to go into the sea, you can try the method in the video above of leashing your dog up and leading it into the water. Once in the water, your dog’s instincts will usually kick in and it will begin to swim and enjoy itself.
A very small percentage of dogs will simply freeze up and just float around when in water. This is usually due to fear, some dog owners have reported leaving their dog in the water for a few minutes helps the dog relax and realize that there is no threat. Once this period has passed, they begin to slowly swim around and build their confidence.
How To Teach A Dog To Dock Dive
In our opinion, dock diving is more of an advanced style of swimming for your dog. The water is often deeper with no quick and easy way to get your dog out if it panics. Due to this we highly recommend you ensure your dog is a confident swimmer before moving to dock diving.
Similar to teaching your dog how to jump in a pool above, teaching your dog to dock dive is best done with toys. There are a number of water-based dog dock diving toys available to choose from. Simply hold the toy at the edge of the water and throw it up for your dog to catch it. Provided your dog has no issues with water it will usually jump and catch the toy and land in the water.
Move towards your dog standing at the show while you walk down the dock and hold its toy out. Call for your dog to come and get its toy and as your dog gets to you, throw its toy up in the air. As your dog is running it will jump up to get the toy and land in the water. This helps increase your dog’s confidence as well as show it that it can have fun dock diving.
The below video shows some good examples of this process.