You just can't seem to keep some dogs out of water. They love swimming, running through puddles, and playing in sprinklers. It really is a joy though, to take your dog to the beach or lake and watch them splashing around, having the time of their lives. But then, there are some dogs who won't go near the water. There are some who despise baths, want nothing to do with the hose, and prefer to keep their feet on dry land. Sometimes, their fear may be specific. In fact, some dogs are okay with lakes, while pools or bathtubs scare the daylights out of them. So what gives? Why are some dogs born to swim, while others prefer to keep those paws on dry land?
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The Root of the Behavior
In some cases, your pooch may have had a bad experience with water when they were younger. Perhaps they accidentally fell into a deep pool. Maybe, being forced into a bath with cold water has turned them off to the idea of water. Or in some cases, being sprayed with a water bottle as punishment might have helped develop their anti-water attitudes. The point is, any number of things could have influenced your dog to fear, rather than enjoy, the water. Another reason could simply be that your dog has no idea what it is. Some dogs are more adventurous than others, so they'll just run up and investigate something unusual without giving it a second thought. Others are more cautious. It's unfamiliar to them. It smells weird. It might be cold. Your dog doesn't automatically know it's safe to jump right in, especially if they've never taken a dip before. Maybe they don't even know how. Like humans, not all dogs are natural swimmers. It takes practice, and in order to practice, it means getting your dog into the water in the first place. There's also the fact that dogs rely heavily on smell, including their own scent. Messing with that, like using soap and water on them in a bathtub, is something they consider unpleasant. It's like someone forcing you to cut or color your hair. Even if it looks nice, it's not you -- and it's not your choice. It's a big reason dogs hate baths. We may like our dogs to smell like Pina Coladas or baby powder, but they don't. This isn't to say you shouldn't bathe your dog, of course, but it's something to be aware of. Another reason dogs may not like baths is the sounds coming from the pipes, water rushing into the bathtub, in a seemingly unending stream, makes for an unpleasant sound And when the tub fills up, they may fear drowning. That's why it might be best to skip the bath and give them a shower with a hand-held nozzle instead. You still have scary noises and all that to contend with, but for some dogs, it's less fear-inducing than trying to get them into a bathtub filled with the dreaded water.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you're trying to get your dog into the lake or pool with you, some folks might tell you to just throw them in. A lot of people believe if you force your dog into the water, they'll realize it's fine and just get over their fear. But, let me ask you this, does that sound like something that would work on you? Throwing you into a pit of spiders to get over your fear? It might for some people, but for others, it would induce nightmares -- and with good reason! Forcing your dog to do something that scares him isn't the way to help him over his fear. It might work for some dogs, sure, but it can also backfire in a big way. You could make them more fearful, or worse, make them fearful of you. Your dog needs to trust you, to feel safe with you, in order to get over his fears. And forcing him into the water is not the way to do that. So how do you go about introducing your dog to the water? Take it slow. Let them look at the water, and watch you playing in it. When they come forward, reward them with some comforting words and even a treat. Make the water a fun place, not a scary one. Be calm, relaxing, and soothing. If your pup is on a leash, take your time and slowly walk over to the water. Get their feet wet. If they seem afraid, back away. Come back to it later. If you take your time, most likely, your dog will learn that water isn't something to fear.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Some dogs are more inclined to join other dogs in the water. If there's a dog beach or a dog-friendly pool, let your dog watch the other dogs play in the water. He'll see that they're safe, they're not afraid, and be more likely to join them. That's usually the easiest way to help them over their fear -- get other pooches involved who aren't afraid. They'll show your furry companion the way. There are some pups that may never learn to love the water, and that's fine. It doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself at the beach anyway. Let your dog play in the sand and enjoy their life on dry land in the warm sunshine.
Whatever you do, don't make your dog's fear any worse. Let them go at their own pace, and one day, they may surprise you by jumping into the pool or lake all on their own. But only if you take things easy and let them do it on their own, when they're ready. After all, no one wants to be forced to do something that scares them, right?