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Peaches’ family have decided to install a pool! How exciting for the 9-year-old Golden Retriever who loves to swim. The problem is Peaches does not understand that she can not jump in the pool when the cover is on! While some safety pool covers are designed to be safe for a dog to walk on, most are not. This could be very dangerous if Peaches slips underneath the pool cover and cannot get out. She could drown. Also, pool covers are expensive, and if not designed for a dog to walk on they can easily become damaged and require replacing.
Peaches' pet parents are going to put a fence around their pool, but that is no guarantee that Peaches will never get access to the pool. The family needs to come up with a plan “B” to keep Peaches safe, and their pool cover intact! Teaching their older dog Peaches to stay off the pool cover is going to be necessary, and there are several ways to do that, although all will require some time commitment and ingenuity to be successful.
If you have a floating pool cover or a pool cover that could be dangerous or damaged if your dog ventured out on it, you are going to have to teach your dog that the pool cover is off limits. If you have an older dog that has never been exposed to a pool cover before, or given limits in his yard, this is going to be a bit of a challenge to get your dog to understand that he now has restrictions on where he can and cannot go. You will need to clearly communicate to your dog with consequences, verbal commands or signals where his off-limit area begins. Several options, including teaching your dog a verbal “no go” command, using deterrents, and distracting, can be used to establish the pool cover is off limits. Remember when using deterrents and negative consequences to work with your dog to give him a chance to “get it right” before he triggers an unpleasant consequence. This will help keep things fair for your dog and avoid upsetting and frustrating an older dog who is not familiar with having restrictions in his yard.
Make sure you closely supervise your older dog during training so that he is not put in danger of slipping under the cover into the pool or damaging your pool cover if he accidentally ventures out on the pool cover. Use treats to establish boundaries and distractions or deterrents such as alarms, or loud noises and barriers to mark out “no-go” zones.
The Sit-Stay Boundary Method
Teach your older dog to sit and stay when commanded. Use a clicker and treats to establish the behavior.
Use 'sit-stay' when dog approaches pool
When your dog approaches the pool uninvited, or when the pool cover is on, command him to 'sit-stay'.
Direct away for play
Wait a moment, then call your dog away from the pool and reward him with play.
If your older dog continues onto the pool cover, call him off and repeat 'sit-stay', provide guidance until he complies.
Only allow to pool when invited
Continue repeating 'sit-stay' and then moving to another part of the yard repeatedly for play so that your older dog learns that the pool is off limits unless invited.
The Distraction Method
If your older dog is allowed in the pool, but not on the pool cover, make sure you teach your dog to only go in the pool when he is invited in to avoid confusion when the pool cover is on. Be consistent and ensure everyone in family is engaged.
When the pool cover is on, watch your older dog carefully. When he approaches the pool cover say, ”away”, and toss a treat away from the cover.
Engage your dog in another activity such as play.
Whenever the dog approaches the pool uninvited or when the pool cover is on, say "away" and toss a treat away from the pool.
When your older dog has learned to move away from the pool cover for a treat, provide the 'away' command without tossing a treat. When your dog moves away, give him a treat out of your hand. Alternate providing treats with just giving praise. Continue to distract with another choice when your dog moves away from the pool, like a chew toy or play.
The Negative Association Method
Create a boundary
Create a boundary around your pool with a small garden fence. Try to use a fence with a pointy top that is unpleasant if your dog touches it. This provides a clear barrier for your dog.
Have an alarm
Install a pool alarm that will sound if your older dog crosses the fence and goes out into the pool or onto the cover when not invited or supervised and have a loud noise maker that you can engage if your dog goes over your barrier.
When your dog jumps or steps over the barrier, allow the alarm to be triggered or trigger a loud noise yourself.
Direct your dog
Run out and say “no” or “away”. Call your older dog back off the pool cover.
Reinforce 'off pool'
When the dog jumps off the pool cover, stop the alarm immediately. This is very important to reinforce getting off the pool cover with the noise ceasing.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 01/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021