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If you live anywhere near a beach that allows dogs to swim, teaching your dog to swim at the beach is imperative. Most dogs love to swim, and beaches are a great place to learn.
Many dog owners who have dogs living at or near the beach struggle more to get their dogs out of the water than they struggle to get their dogs in the water! However, you will need to spend some time teaching your dog to swim while at the beach. You want your dog to remain safe, and you want to know whether your dog is a swimmer or not before you let him go on his own to fetch a stick you have thrown in the water. Some dogs, such as Bulldogs, are just not swimmers, so be sure you know the strengths of your dog before you expect him to swim at the beach, especially unattended. Imagine the fun days you can have on the beach with your dog once you know he's an excellent swimmer. You can play fetch together, you can swim together, and you can exercise together. So if you are near a beach, start teaching your dog to swim today!
Training your dog to swim at the beach is going to consist of a few things. You will first need to introduce him to the beach. He will need to be comfortable with the sights and smells and the feel of sand between his toes. He will also need to be a dog who will want to swim rather than a dog who will likely automatically sink. Some dogs are just not swimmers. Be very cautious if your dog is a dog who is not prone to swimming. Also, be very careful if your dog is a breed who loves water but your particular dog has not been introduced to swimming just yet. He may be very eager but could get in over his head very quickly. Stay close to your dog while he is in training so you can be his lifeguard in case he gets into any trouble.
You may want to have a few toys on hand when you start to teach your dog to swim. Once he has swimming mastered, he may want to have toys to go fetch in the water and bring back to you. Some dogs learn best starting off with a life vest. Be sure you measure your dog and fit the life jacket before he wears it at the beach, so you know he is safe. Remember, a life jacket does not necessarily mean your dog is 100% safe. It means he has a device on him that will help him float. However, if it is not fit properly it can become more of a danger and a hindrance than a help. So even if your dog is wearing a life jacket, stay close to him. Make sure you also have a yummy treat waiting for him at the beach to celebrate a job well done as he learns to swim at the beach.
The Fun Beach Day Method
Pick a beach
Be sure you pick a dog-friendly beach. But if it is your dog’s first time at the beach, you may want to find one that is not too busy with other dogs and distractions.
Start by wading in the shallow water with your dog. Visiting the beach during a low tide when the water is calmer might be better than visiting at high tides or when waves are more significant. Wade together along the shore, giving your pup a chance to sniff the water and get used to the feel of the water as well as the temperature.
Play fetch with a new or favorite toy. For the first several times you toss the toy, toss it out parallel to the shore rather than out into the water.
Before moving out into deeper waters, be sure to offer your dog a treat or two while playing in the shallow water.
Take your dog out to deeper water, giving him opportunities to get his head and back wet.
Once your pup is used to the water, take him a bit farther out until he has to paddle to stay above water. If your dog is unsure what to do, place your arm under his belly, offering support until he gets the hang of it. Make sure before you let go, he is using all four limbs to swim and not just his front legs.
Panic or tired
If your dog is tired or becomes panicked, back up into more shallow water. This will show him where to go should he get into trouble, while also giving him a break.
Before you leave if beach or at least once you are home, give your dog a good rinse with fresh water to wash away any sand and debris from the beach.
Be sure to reward your dog with lots of verbal praise and a delicious treat for learning to swim. If your dog enjoys this new activity, his reward might be heading to the beach for a swim the next time you go.
The Beach Play Method
Start your day at the beach playing in the sand with your dog. He might enjoy frisbees or tug of war with the sand under his feet. Build up lots of energy and excitement while playing.
Move to water
While you are playing and the energy is high, move your game closer to the water. Keep up the excitement.
Get your dog’s feet wet by moving your game to the water’s edge. Gauge his interest in playing in the water by his reaction to the water’s edge.
Get into the water with your dog and explore beyond the shoreline. Build his confidence by talking up swimming. Continue to play in deeper water.
As you and your dog explore further out into the water, support his belly as he learns to paddle with all four of his legs. Spend some extra time holding him up before letting him loose on his own. His body language will tell you how comfortable he is. If he struggles, keep him supported or take him back to the shallow water.
Be sure to give your dog lots of love and affection to show him how proud you are. You can also offer him a tasty treat once you are back on shore.
The Life Jacket Method
Fit your dog for a life jacket. This life jacket should fit him snugly without being too tight. It should also not pull over his head. A proper fit is important. Also, remember, a life jacket will help keep your dog afloat, but your dog should never be left unattended in the water.
Head to the beach with your dog ready to swim. Keep your dog in the life jacket and head to the water.
Take your dog out to the point where he cannot reach the bottom. His life vest will keep him above the water line, but stay close. You may even want to have your arm around his midsection, especially if your pup is a smaller breed. You’ll want him to be swimming with all four legs before letting go.
Be sure your dog is swimming well using all four limbs before removing the life jacket. You can remove it while in the water or take your dog back to the beach to remove the life jacket.
If your dog isn’t completely comfortable swimming, stay close and keep your arm around his belly. Stay close to your dog as he practices swimming on his own without the life jacket. Be sure not to tire him out.
Once you are done swimming, give him lots of verbal praise and a delicious treat back on the beach
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 11/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
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