How to Train Your Dog to Swim in a Lake

Easy
2-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Ahhh, there is nothing like heading out to the lake on a hot summer day. The water is fine, not a cloud in the sky. What could possibly be wrong with this picture? Not much, you have a cooler of your favorite beverages, your grill, food, and of course, your pup along for the ride. However, when you get to the lake, your pup won't go anywhere near the water, let alone go swimming in it.

So instead he spends every moment hiding in the shade. Not much fun for him or anyone else. Just remember, you can't teach him to swim by tossing him in the deepest part of the lake, this will only scare the daylights out of him and make him hate the water. Start out slow and let your pup work his way to being comfortable with the water. 

Defining Tasks

While there are a few breeds who seem to take naturally to water, most others can easily be taught not only to swim, but to play games and have fun in your local lake. The one thing you need to know is that you can't rush the training. Your pup needs to be allowed to get used to the water at his own pace, if you try to push him too hard, he may end up being afraid of the water instead.

The most important part of this training is to make it fun. The more fun your pup has, the less he is going to worry about being in the water. Since swimming takes far more energy than almost anything else he is likely to do, go slow and take plenty of breaks until he becomes an accomplished swimmer. 

Getting Started

Beyond having a nearby lake or swimming hole for your pup to use while he learns to swim, there are a few other items you might find will come in handy. Among these are:

  • Treats: No training ever seems to go well without an endless supply.
  • Leash: You may need one in the early stages (but never use a leash to drag your dog into the water).
  • Toys: You can use floating toys to help encourage your pup to play in shallower water before swimming in deeper water.
  • Paddling pool: This can be used to help your dog learn to get wet.
  • Doggy life vest: One can be used to help your pup get used to not being able to touch the ground.

Along with all of this, you will need a bottomless barrel of patience and several trips to the lake as you teach him to swim and then build his skills. 

The Kiddie Pool Method

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Step
1
No water
Place the pool on the ground without any water in it. Let your dog walk up to it, sniff it, and if he wants to, climb in it. If he looks like he might get in, give him a command such as 'in'.
Step
2
Just add water
Fill the kiddie pool with an inch or two of cool, clean water. Try not to make it too cold or, if you can, give it a day in the sun to warm up. Add a few floating toys or treats and see if your dog will go in on his own. If he does, be sure to treat him.
Step
3
Keep adding water
Each day, add more water to the pool and let your dog get used to playing in it. Once you feel he is quite comfortable in the pool, you can take him out to the lake and start working on getting him used to the water there.
Step
4
Time to swim
Using floating treats or toys, coax your pup to go further out into water, slowly allowing him to get used the increasing depth. Be sure to give him tons of praise and treats to encourage him to keep going once his feet leave the lake bed. If he has become comfortable playing in the shallower water, this step should follow naturally.
Step
5
Out in the deep
Once he has become comfortable playing in the shallower water, slowly work your way out into deeper water, where he has no choice but to swim. Soon, you won't be able to keep your pup out of the water.
Recommend training method?

The Buddy Method

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Step
1
Bring along a water-loving pal
Have one of your friends who has a dog that already knows how to swim (and that your pup likes) come out to the lake with you.
Step
2
Shallow zone first
Start out with both of them playing in the shallow water, where there is plenty of room for them to run. Let your pup get used to this, having a buddy along will speed up the process.
Step
3
Play fetch
Using a floating toy, play fetch with both dogs. This will give your pup more time to get used to being in the water.
Step
4
Deeper all the time
Once your pup is comfortable playing in the water, start tossing the toy a little further out into the water for your pup to fetch.
Step
5
Go deep
Have a couple of family members or friends hang out in deeper water and start tossing the toy out to them. Have them call your dog and act like they are having fun. This should encourage your pup to try to reach them, it will also encourage him to swim out there. Practice this every chance you get and your pup will soon be a champion swimmer.
Recommend training method?

The Swim Together Method

Effective
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Step
1
Overcome his fear
Your dog probably already hates a bath and to him, the lake looks like nothing more than a huge bath. You can use a paddling pool and a few toys to help him get over his fear of water. Of course, if you 're lucky, your dog will simply jump right in the water.
Step
2
Make it fun
Head out to your favorite lake, slip your pup into his doggy life vest, and encourage him to follow you into the water. Using a few of his favorite treats, engage in some gentle play, this will help him get used to being in the water. Knowing that he will float if he goes out too deep adds the right level of security to the game.
Step
3
Going for a dip
Now that your pup is cool with playing around in the water, it's time to take the plunge. Standing by his side, encourage him to come out to the lake with you. Give him plenty of treats when he does. Repeat this for the first few visits.
Step
4
Paddling time
Now it's time to teach your pup to "doggy paddle". Have him come into the water to the point where he can no longer touch bottom. Have an assistant stand with him while you back away a few feet. Call your pup to you, he should start trying to paddle towards you (most dogs will do this automatically).
Step
5
On your own
Now it's time to take his life vest off and work his way slowly back up to the point at which he can swim all by himself. You have just created your very own canine mer-pup.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ralph
Mix: lab, Chao chao, unknown
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ralph
Mix: lab, Chao chao, unknown
4 Years

I live on the lake. Today, Ralph jump into the and swam after geese. He swam too far! I could barely see him! I was so scared that something might happen to him! I kept on calling his name, but he did not turn around for a while. Finally he did! Ralph is safe, exhausted and napping right now.
It was the first time that he swam so far out! How do I teach him to turn around when I call him to come back? It is ok with me, if he swims by the shore, but not far out.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jules, Check out the Reel In method from the article linked below. Training come in water usually involves a long, floating training leash or teaching an e-collar come with a waterproof e-collar. While teaching this stay out of the water yourself to avoid the danger of being wrapped in the leash, only use leashes that float, like poly check cords, make sure the e-collar you purchase if a water proof one used for hunting dog training, like Sportdog or Dogtra - if you go that route, and work on his Come around lots of distractions on land on a long leash as well - such as in areas near other animals like birds and other dogs, always keeping safety in mind. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Floating long leashes (be careful while training to avoid entanglement in the leash for you or him): https://www.amazon.com/Coastal-Pet-R3850-YEL50-50-Feet/dp/B000HTPIQU E-collar come info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs&t=331s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Little Bee
Mixed breed
7 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Little Bee
Mixed breed
7 Years

My dog is very afraid of the water and she won't jump in. What should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, Put off expecting her to jump, right now just try to get her used to the feeling of water. Stick on a bathing suit, grab some of her favorite treats and toys that float, and go to a location where you can very gradually wade into the water and there is not a drop off. Spend time playing with her in the shallows of the water, praising and rewarding her with fun toys and treats for any attempt to go near the water, step in it, or play in it. Set your expectations low at first - this should be fun for her. Go to the water location often and play there frequently - this will take several trips. As she gets more used to the water, then play a bit deeper in the water as she improves. When you have gotten her used to a depth that she almost can't touch in, then encourage her to briefly swim around you after a toy, and when she does, place your hand under her abdomen to help support her mid-section while she swims (most dogs' bottoms sink at first while learning to swim - before they learn to swim with their back-legs too instead of just front legs). Praise and reward enthusiastically for swimming around you. Make this a game, play in the shallows several times, then one time around you. In the shallows for a while, then one time around you. Don't push her to swim around you too many times in a row unless she decides she wants too. If she has a doggie buddie that likes to swim, have them join you with their owner for the outings when you can. Her seeing another dog having fun in the water will make it look like more fun for her. Be patient. Almost all dogs can learn to swim and most can learn to get over their fear of water - but not all dogs will like swimming. Work on making water fun and when she is ready supporting her abdomen while she practices learning to swim with her back-legs too and keep her bottom up - after that point it's up to her whether or not she is a dog who likes to swim for fun or just when necessary. I have a retriever who was taught to swim correctly and get over her fear of water as a puppy - she now will jump in off a dock and swim around just for the fun of it (retrievers often love water due to breeding). My Border Collie was taught how and got over his fear of water, but he never chose to swim unless he needed to to stay with our group - he simply didn't enjoy the cold water and feeling of it even though he could swim, and that was okay. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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