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Teaching a Dog to Swim

 Teaching a Dog to Swim

teaching a dog to swim in a pool

While all dogs can swim as a natural instinct, some are better swimmers than others are.  Then, you have some dogs that for one reason or another, or have a fear of the water.  For example, one woman had a Labrador puppy, a breed notorious for loving the water.  One day, this puppy followed a couple of grown Labs into a large pond, one built with a gradual slope for launching a jet ski.  The puppy was fine when touching the ground of the ramp but when it dropped off and the puppy went underwater, he no longer liked water at all.  For his entire life, he was traumatized, hating water and never learning how to swim.

In this and other similar cases, start by exposing your dog to water.  For instance, you could have him stand with you in the shower, becoming comfortable with the feeling of water on his body.  You could play outdoors with him in the summer, spraying him with the water hose.  The goal is to expose him while not having him in a large pool of water.  In time, he will become so comfortable that his fear level decreases.

If you have a dog that loves to retrieve but is afraid to jump in water to fetch, find a favorite toy and then take your dog to a shallow pool or pond.  Toss the item into the water so it is no more than one foot from the shore.  You may need to gently ease him into the water, allowing him to grab onto the item but be back on land quickly.  Do this for several days and then gradually, toss the item a little further out, no more than one-foot increments.

The goal in this case is to keep your dog’s interest and drive peaked.  For dogs such as the Golden Retriever and Labrador retriever, you know the instinct is there, you just need to bring it out.  You could take the item being retrieved and play with him on land for a few minutes before tossing it into the water.  If you can get him excited about retrieving, his natural abilities will kick in.

You can also teach your dog to swim by swimming with him.  Just as you would do with a small child, hold onto your dog, taking him just a little way into the water.  Talk soothingly to him, helping him become comfortable being in the water with you.  Again, work slowly, staying in shallow water initially and then slowly moving out further.  You will also need to start by holding the dog close, then gradually moving him further and further from the body.  Eventually, he will be swimming on his own and in the water by himself.

Teaching a dog to swim is not difficult but it requires a lot of patience and building trust with your dog.  As he sees that nothing bad is happening to him, he will learn to love the water.  Finally, make sure you choose water that is warm.  As with humans, dogs do not care much for cold water.  The only exception would be a diehard Lab or other type of retriever that has a strong drive to the water and could care less.