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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.
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.
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
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Buddy Method
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.
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.
Using a floating toy, play fetch with both dogs. This will give your pup more time to get used to being in the water.
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.
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.
The Swim Together Method
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
By PB Getz
Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021