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All dogs swim, right? Well, maybe not.
Although many Rottweilers can and do swim, some are not so keen. Rottweilers are not naturally a water or sporting breed, they are more of a working, herding and guard dog. This does not mean that they don't like water, just that they are not one of the many breeds who necessarily take to it like ducks, due to genetic predisposition. Also, because Rottweilers tend to be heavier set, muscular dogs, they are not especially well designed for swimming. Still, most Rotties take to swimming pretty readily, but some may need a little extra encouragement and instruction to become proficient and learn to enjoy swimming as much as their sporting dog companions.
Rotties are such individual dogs, what is good for one is not necessarily good for another, and taking to the water is no different. So, you will need to see if your dog is a fish or a reluctant rock! If it is the latter, some training to swim may be necessary, especially if you live near water and enjoy water sports and want your dog to be able to safely accompany you and enjoy outings on, and around the water.
Most people think dogs swim, naturally. Thus the term “doggy paddle”. While many dogs seem to instinctively figure swimming out, some do not, and Rotties don’t come from a water dog background so your Rotti may be in the “not” group. You may need to introduce water slowly and support your dog in the water until he learns how to coordinate his legs and paddle in the water keeping his head and nose elevated. Don't rush this, a dog that goes underwater and panics while learning to swim can be traumatized and become frightened of the water, which will make subsequent swimming lessons rather difficult. Ultimately, you will want your Rottie to enjoy the water, to not be afraid of it, and to be able to swim and keep his head above water with or without a doggy life vest.
A life vest may be in order if your Rottweiler is not an avid swimmer. This will give your dog some confidence and keep him safe. Remember, Rotties are not really designed for swimming the way some dogs are. This does not mean they cannot be proficient swimmers, many are, but some need a little extra flotation for security. To train a reluctant Rottie to swim you may want to start him off getting used to water in a wading pool. Treats are always popular when encouraging your dog to swim so be sure to have a few treats that will stand up to exposure to water--soft chews or bits of hot dog may work better than hard dog biscuits that disintegrate when wet!
The Slow and Steady Method
Accustom to life vest
Put a doggie life vest on your Rottie. Make sure it is a good fit and comfortable, take your dog for walks with his life vest so he is accustomed to the feel of it.
Find a calm spot
Find a calm pond or lake, avoid water with a current or windy days where waves are present or find a pool with a shallow entry point. The body of water should have a shallow entry without steep banks. Secure your Rottie’s life vest.
Encourage into water
Approach with your dog and let him investigate the water at his own pace. Lead or encourage your Rottweiler in the water so he is standing chest high and encourage him to play in the water until your dog is relaxed. You may need to repeat this step a few times in a row if your dog is nervous or uncomfortable at first, do not rush this step.
Support into deeper water
Gradually move out to deeper water. Support your dog with both arms, one under his ribcage and one under his stomach, as he moves into deeper water and ensure that the life vest provides adequate support.
Move around with your dog, encouraging him to move his legs. When he paddles, praise him. Gradually reduce support and allow your dog to paddle and be supported by the life vest. If your Rottweiler really takes to the water you can remove the life vest as he becomes a proficient swimmer.
The Lure to Swim Method
Fill a children's pool with water
Put your Rottweiler on a leash and introduce to a small children's pool filled with water.
Toss a treat in pool
Toss a water resistant treat like a piece of hot dog, piece of carrot, or soft chewy into the pool for your dog to fetch. Reward your dog wih praise for stepping into the water to retrieve the treat. Repeat and make a game of it until your dog is comfortable with stepping into the pool.
Lure into calm water
Find a calm body of water with a shallow entrance like a pond or pool. Enter water with your Rottie on a leash. Put a life vest on your dog if you think he will have trouble swimming. Hold a water resistant treat, and as your dog steps into the water, reward and treat.
Lure to play in water
Gradually move into deeper water. Provide treats by hand or fill a floating toy with treats and let your dog play with it in the water and get treats.
Lure deeper and assist swimming
Gradually coax your dog out into deeper water, hold a treat out in front and above his nose so he gets used to angling his head up and out, to keep it out of the water. Allow him to start paddling with life vest on, or have an assistant support him as you guide, lure, and reward him for moving out into deeper water and starting to paddle. Gradually reduce support and treats as your Rottweiler learns to swim.
The Bring a Friend Method
Introduce another dog
Find a water-loving, swimming dog. Socialize the dogs prior to approaching water. Introduce them, take them for a joint walk, play with them off-leash in an enclosed area until they are comfortable with each other.
Enter the water
Enter shallow water with an easy approach, like a beach at a calm lake, with both dogs. You can fit your non swimming Rottweiler with a life vest prior to entering the water.
Play in shallow water
Play with the water-loving dog in the shallow water and encourage your dog to join you in play.
Continue play in deeper water
Gradually move to deeper water as your dog becomes comfortable. Throw sticks or floaty toys to play fetch.
Encourage to join in swimming
As your dog learns to play, and watches the other dog play and swim, encourage your dog to follow and start moving into deep water and paddling. Make it fun, play with the other dog and allow your Rottweiler to move at his own pace. It may take more than one session for your Rottweiler to move out into deeper water and start paddling.
Written by Laurie Haggart
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/08/2021