Some small dogs take to water quite easily, while others can be leery or even down-right petrified of water. Almost always, the trepidation comes from a fear of losing their footing. Luckily, this is an easy thing to address with proper training.
There is nothing sadder than a little dog sitting on the shore with a left-out look on their face while the family goes for a dip in the lake on a warm summer day. Giving your little dog the confidence to join in on the fun will let them get more out of family vacations, as well as teach them a quick way to cool off in the yard on a sultry day.
Since many small dogs are prone to heat stroke if they get too hot or over-exerted, making sure they have a quick way to cool off isn’t just for fun – it could be a lifesaver!
Training your small dog to play in the water starts by teaching them to confidently get in and out of the water on their own. Once they feel good about that, they will naturally play in water when the weather is right, and the opportunity presents itself.
Make sure to stay positive when working with your dog around water. The last thing you want to do is help him think water is stressful by getting frustrated during training. This should be about giving him confidence around water. Once he has that, the play will be soon to follow.
A few things to get assembled before starting these training methods:
Life Jacket: Small dogs should be equipped with safety jackets made just for the purpose of keeping your little guy afloat if you plan on going swimming. Some small dogs, such as French Bulldogs, are so dense that they have a tendency to sink. In addition, if your buddy gets tuckered out before he makes it back to shore, a doggie life vest will keep his head above water.
If you plan on taking your dog to water deep enough to swim in, start your training with the 'Life Jacket' method before adding either the 'Treat' or 'Fetch' methods to get them used to the water.
Baby Pool: One of the easiest ways to safely get your small dog to enjoy playing with water is to practice in the safety of her own backyard before trying water out in a new environment. We recommend an inexpensive baby pool. If necessary, use cinder blocks on either side of one ledge to give your pooch a safe way in and out of the pool.
Clicker: We will assume you are using a clicker to train your dog. However, if you do not have one, just say “YES!” in an excited tone instead of the click before each reward. This “marks” the exact behavior you want to reward, so the timing of the marker is more important than the timing of the treat that always follows it.