If you own a dog for whom swimming is natural, such as a Labrador Retriever or a Portuguese Water Dog, you may notice your pup’s desire to fling himself headlong into any body of water. Some dogs, especially those who were bred to swim, have no difficulties adapting to swimming in water. But what about dogs who are more hesitant, or who have never had a chance to swim? The good news is that these dogs can learn to swim too!
Swimming is one of the best exercises for your dog, and even better, it’s also fun and enjoyable for your canine companion--and for you. With some patience and the following training techniques, you can slowly and safely train your dog to like swimming.
Consistency, patience, and more patience are required to make your dog’s first few laps in the pool positive and successful ones. Natural-born swimmers, including retrievers, spaniels, poodles, and Newfoundlands, will be more likely to make a splash right away because of their breeding and heritage. Puppies may also be more receptive and eager to swim, meaning they may catch on to swimming more quickly than an older dog.
Dogs who are not natural swimmers, such as bulldogs, corgis, terriers, and pugs, will need more time to adjust to an environment that is foreign to them. But as long as you don’t get frustrated, and remain calm, confident, and consistent, you can give your dog a chance to become a real swimmer!
Although swimming can be a fun, healthy activity for your dog, safety should be first and foremost on a dog owner’s mind. Whether your dog already knows how to swim or is starting out as a complete rookie, he should wear a life jacket.
Life jackets need to be of appropriate size--not so small that your dog is stuffed in and uncomfortable, and no so large that your dog is swimming in it (pun intended). Choose a life jacket that has a handle and a D-ring to attach a leash for quick access and control of your dog.
Scout out swimming locations ahead of time to find safe, secure places for your dog to try swimming. These sites may be your own backyard swimming pool, a nearby pond or lake, or a local service providing indoor/outdoor swimming pools for canines. Work in water that you are already familiar with to prevent any unpleasant surprises, such as depth of water and strong currents. Remember to never leave your dog unattended when swimming, especially if you are in outside, unsupervised waters.
Have some treats on hand as well to encourage and reward your dog, especially if he is reluctant to enter the water at first.