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If you have an older dog and he has never seen a pool before, he may instinctively avoid it, especially if he doesn't like water. However, an older dog that likes water may see a great opportunity to go for a dip. There are several problems with this. First off, you may not want dog hair and dirt in your pristine swimming pool, and secondly, chemicals like chlorine in a pool can hurt your dog if he ingests them, cause skin reactions or result in a very smelly dog, and thirdly, swimming pools can be dangerous, even for proficient, water-loving doggies.
Because pool sides are steep and dogs cannot use ladders to get out of the pool, a dog can become trapped in the pool if he can not find an exit he can use, such as stairs. This can result in your older dog drowning. If you have an older dog that is used to having the run of his yard and doesn't understand that the swimming pool is not a good, safe place for him to take a dip, than you will need to teach your older dog to stay out of the pool.
If your older dog has never seen a swimming pool before, let's say you have just installed one or moved to a house with a pool, than you will need to establish the boundaries of the pool with your dog. This will mean supervising him and introducing him to the pool boundaries. Do not give your dog free access to the unfamiliar pool, in case your dog slips in or takes a dive on purpose!
You will then need to teach your dog not to approach pool boundaries, either by redirecting your dog, providing an alternative, or creating a negative association with the pool edge. Many pool owners keep their pool covered when not in use. Pool covers can also be dangerous, so you will want to train your older dog to stay away from the boundaries, both when water is open, and when the cover is on. You can use verbal commands, such as sit-stay to prevent access to the pool, or the leave it command if your older dog has an established response to this command. You can also direct your dog away from the pool with treats, or make the pool edge unpleasant, and even a little scary, to get your dog to move away from the pool edge.
You will need to supervise your dog while training him to stay away from, and out of the pool. If you and your family are using the pool, this may involve putting your dog in a separate location, like a crate, when the pool is in use. Make separation more a reward than banishment! Give your dog a rawhide bone or puzzle feeder to play with, so he doesn't feel he is missing out. Use treats to reward avoiding the pool boundaries, and “leave it” or “sit stay” commands. Barriers and noise makers can also create a negative association with the pool boundaries, which will cause your older dog to avoid the pool edge.
The Away From Pool Method
Teach 'sit-stay' or 'leave it'
Teach your older dog to 'sit-stay'. Use a clicker and treats to establish the behavior. Or, teach your older dog the 'leave it' command using treats.
Do not allow unsupervised access
Supervise your dog, contain him when the pool is in use, in a fenced area crate or in the house. Give him a chew toy or puzzle feeder so he does not feel punished.
Direct away from pool
When your dog approaches the pool, say “sit-stay” or “leave it”.
Reward away from pool
Then call your dog away from the pool and reward him with play or a treat.
Reinforce away from pool
Continue supervising and repeating 'sit-stay' or 'leave it', whenever your older dog approaches the pool boundaries, and then moving to another part of the yard repeatedly for play, so that your older dog learns that good stuff happens away from the pool.
The Distract From Pool Method
Toss a treat
Supervise your older dog around the pool. When your dog approaches the pool's boundary, call his name, or make a noise to get his attention. Say, ”away” and toss a treat away from the pool.
Provide a favorite toy, rawhide bone or puzzle feeder to distract your dog when away from the pool area.
Repeat distracting from pool
Repeat; whenever your dog approaches the pool uninvited, say, ‘away’ and toss a treat away from the pool, and give your dog something else to do.
Delay providing treats
When your older dog has learned to move away from the pool for a treat, provide the 'away' command, without tossing a treat.
Replace treats with praise
When your dog moves away, give him a treat out of your hand, alternate providing treats with just giving praise. Continue to distract your dog with another choice when your dog moves away from the pool, like a chew toy, or play.
The Negative Association Method
Set up a boundary
Create a boundary around your pool, with a small spiky garden fence that is unpleasant if your dog touches it, and he will avoid stepping over. This provides a clear barrier for your dog.
Set up alarm
Install a pool alarm that will sound if your older dog, or anyone, or anything crosses the fence and approaches the pool edge, or supervise your dog and have a loud noise maker that you can engage if your dog goes over your barrier.
Make noise for boundary breach
When your dog reaches, jumps or steps over the barrier, allow the alarm to be triggered or trigger a loud noise yourself.
Direct away from pool
Run out and say “no” or “away”. Call your older dog back from the pool.
When your dog moves away from the pool, immediately stop the alarm. This is very important to reinforce moving away from the pool.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 05/18/2018, edited: 01/08/2021