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Do you live near the seaside or in the beautiful countryside with rivers and lakes running by? Do you love where you live and love walking your dog there and enjoying the scenery with your four-legged friend? But are you fed up with always having to fetch your pooch's favorite ball or toy from the water because he doesn’t like getting his paws wet? That means that now is the time to train your pooch to fetch the ball from the water and save those muddy wet shoes and trousers from wading in. Or if it goes in too deep and you can’t fetch the toy back, this will stop you having to keep buying new toys or balls for your pooch, saving those precious dollars so that you can buy yourself something nice.
Training your dog to fetch in water is not only convenient for you in not having to fetch the ball yourself or end up losing your favorite toy, but swimming is great exercise for your pooch. If his favorite toy goes in the water and he knows how to swim and fetch, this is a great way to encourage him to swim, control the distance he swims so it’s safe for him, get him to come back, and prevent him from messing around in the water too much, as he's fetching for you.
This command can be a little tricky, as it requires a few components; you’ll need to teach your pooch how to swim and how to fetch first, before combining the two together. Your dog must also have a good recall technique so that if they get into any trouble in the water, you can call him back straight away. Based on these prerequisites, this trick will likely take a few months to teach and should only be taught to pooches over six months old, as they need to be strong enough to swim well in case they get into any trouble.
Before your pooch literally jumps in, to get ready for teaching your pup to fetch in water he’ll need to learn the 'swim' and 'fetch' commands as mentioned above. Don’t skip these steps, your pooch definitely needs to be a strong swimmer to keep him safe. Invest some time in training him to come back to you; having a solid recall will also keep your pooch safe, just in case you accidentally throw his toy somewhere you shouldn’t have. It would be best to teach your pooch to fetch in water somewhere shallow with few obstacles and little to no current to begin with. A friend or relative's swimming pool would be ideal. Remember to grab your clicker to signify good behavior if you’re clicker training and a bag of tasty treats, or even make your own, but make sure they’re safe for dogs.
The Favorite Toy Method
Choose his favorite
Start with using your dog’s favorite toy for him to fetch in the water, this will be extra encouragement, as he’s unlikely to leave it behind.
But be sensible
Make sure your pooch's favorite toy is once that will float so it’s easy for him to pick up. If not, you’ll have to buy a new toy that is buoyant and play with him with it, so that he enjoys the toy and is fond of it.
Reward your pooch with play, treats or affection if he gets it right. You can even use all three to let him know how much of a good boy he’s been.
Make sure you start shallow so it’s easy for your dog to fetch and retrieve.
Once your pooch has gotten used to fetching in shallow water, increase the distance and go a bit deeper with it. Giving him a big reward when he comes back. However, be sure that it’s still safe for him to fetch the toy in the deeper water, looking out for any obstacles and thinking about strong currents.
The Safety Method
Doggy life jacket
Kit your pooch out with an adorable flotation aid available online and from certain pet shops.
Get your pooch used to the jacket
Make sure you acclimatise him to the jacket, by putting it on him and giving him a treat, on and off over a few days, before he has to swim in it to retrieve an object for you.
Keep him on a lead
Always make sure your pooch is on an extendable lead when he’s learning to fetch in the water, so that you have a hold on him in case something goes wrong.
Make sure he knows how to 'leave it'
Practice throwing the toy in the water and then telling him to ‘leave’ or call him back before he gets to it, so that you can have peace of mind that he’ll come back to you if the toy goes somewhere unsafe.
Always give your pooch a reward when he comes back to you and when he fetches the toy from the water.
The Getting His Feet Wet Method
Set up a scenario where it’s easy for your dog to enter and exit the water to get the toy and that you’re close by for reassurance.
Practice with a swimming pool
The ideal situation would be to practice using a swimming pool.
Click when your pooch is in the water and gets the toy.
Give him another click and a reward when he brings the toy back to you.
Practice at home with a hose
If you don’t have access to a swimming pool, you can use the hose to get your pooch wet, but make sure it’s not too cold. Give him a click and a treat when he tolerates it. Then throw the ball for your pooch into shallow water such as a wading pool or a bowl and click and give him another treat when he brings it back to you.
By Catherine Lee-Smith
Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021