6 min read

5 Fun Training Sessions to Get Your Dog in the Water


By Tim Falk

Published: 06/17/2022, edited: 06/17/2022

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When the weather warms up and the sun is shining, it’s the "pawfect" time of year to escape the summer heat and cool off in the water. But if your dog isn’t comfortable getting wet, a trip to the beach, lake, pool, or swimming hole might not be the most enjoyable experience.

The good news is that there are plenty of simple ways you can boost your dog’s confidence in and around the water. If you can find fun and rewarding training sessions that involve water-based activities, your dog will soon grow to love making a splash.

Check out these 5 fun training sessions to get your dog in the water.

brown dog swimming in the water with a tennis ball in their mouth

Play fetch in the water

Difficulty level: Medium

Time to master: 2–14 days

What better way to introduce your pup to some water-based fun than by putting a twist on the classic canine game of fetch? 

Teaching your dog to play fetch in the water is a great way to give your dog a workout while increasing their water confidence at the same time. Even better, you don’t need much in the way of special equipment to play fetch in the water. All you need is:

  • Your dog’s favorite ball or toy (make sure it floats!) 
  • Treats to use as rewards
  • Access to an off-leash beach/swimming area

If you don’t have a strong arm, you may also need a ball launcher to get some extra distance in your throws.

Your pooch will also need to be able to swim, so this is something you can test out in a safe environment before you launch their ball out into deep water. Not all dogs are natural swimmers, however, so take care with this step.

You’ll also need to work on ensuring your pup has a reliable recall while off-leash, and teach the basics of fetch on dry land so you can trust them to bring the ball back after you throw it.

Introduce them to the water slowly, don’t force them to get wet if they don’t want to, and keep a close eye on the conditions at all times. Once they’re comfortable in water that’s just lapping at their paws, you can encourage them to venture out a little further.

Some dogs will happily retrieve anything you throw, but use your pup’s favorite toy if they need a little extra motivation to get moving. If your dog is reluctant to relinquish the ball for you to throw again, giving them a reward for dropping the ball at your feet should speed things up.

When you’re ready to try fetch in the water, find a calm and safe swimming spot with minimal distractions. Throw the ball, say, “Fetch!” and watch your dog gallop into the water. Then repeat again and again until your dog is tired, dripping wet, and grinning from ear to ear!

black dog standing on a paddleboard in front of person holding a paddle

Learn to sit on a paddleboard

Difficulty level: Medium

Time to master: 1–2 weeks

Stand-up paddleboarding isn’t just a fun and relaxing form of exercise for humans — it’s also a "woofderful" activity to share with your fur-baby. And when you train your dog to sit on a paddleboard, you’re opening up a whole new world of aquatic adventures you and your dog can enjoy together.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • A stand-up paddleboard (with enough room for you and your dog) and paddle
  • Your bathing suit
  • A doggy life jacket (you might need to teach your dog how to wear a life jacket)
  • Treats

Before inviting your dog to join you on the paddleboard, work on your own skills first. You don’t want to overbalance and send your timid dog headfirst into the water on their first attempt, so have a few solo practice sessions to perfect your paddleboarding skills.

The best way to teach your dog to sit on a paddleboard will vary depending on how comfortable they are in the water. Some water-loving dogs will happily be coaxed onto the board in shallow water with a treat, then you can ask them to sit before giving a reward. 

Other dogs will be much more cautious, so you may need to get them used to the board on dry land first. Let them sniff out the paddleboard and investigate at their own pace, and reward them with praise and treats. Once they’re feeling more confident, try moving the board into the shallows and encouraging them to sit on it with you.

You will, of course, want to stick to shallow water and short paddles while your dog gets the hang of paddleboarding with you. But once they’re cruising across the water with ease, the two of you will have a "pawsome" time exploring your local waterways.

And who knows where this skill might lead? If your dog takes to stand-up paddleboarding like a Labrador to dinner, you might want to raise the difficulty level even further and teach your dog to surf!

golden retriever dog standing in ocean water with a mountainside village in the background

Swim in the ocean

Difficulty level: Medium

Time to master: 2–14 days

Dogs love going to the beach. Whether they’re racing across the sand, splashing in the shallows, or just checking out all the different smells, there’s so much for your fur-baby to enjoy.

But if you and your pupper are beach-bound, teaching your dog to swim in the ocean is an important safety step. (Of course, if the ocean is hundreds or thousands of miles away from where you live, you can check out our guide to teaching your pup to swim in a lake instead.)

To teach your dog the basics of saltwater swimming, you’ll need:

  • Your bathing suit
  • Treats
  • Your dog’s favorite toy

Just remember that the ocean can be a dangerous place, with crashing waves and unseen currents posing a real risk to 2- and 4-legged swimmers. If your pup has never been to the beach before, it’s best to choose a calm day with small waves. 

There are multiple training methods you can try, such as playing a game of fetch in the water or leading by example and going for a swim so your dog will follow. But if they’re not much of a water baby, you might want to start their training in a lake or pool before heading to the beach.

Take baby steps, and use praise and a few treats to reward your dog for venturing into the water. Once they get used to ocean swimming, the beach might just become their favorite place to be.

brown dog swimming underwater with their mouth open to catch a tennis ball

Swim underwater

Difficulty level: Medium 

Time to master: 5–14 days

Next on our list of fun training sessions to get your dog in the water is training your dog to swim underwater. Graduating from doggy paddling on the surface to diving underwater might seem like a big step, but training this trick is actually easier than you might think. 

Your dog will obviously need to be comfortable in the water before you start training, while you’ll also need a few basic supplies: 

  • A body of water (a pool is preferred due to its calm conditions and easy underwater visibility)
  • Brightly colored toys
  • Treats
  • Your bathing suit

The best way to train your dog to swim underwater depends on what motivates them the most. Some dogs will happily dive underwater to wrap their teeth around a toy — you may need to gradually lower the toy deeper underwater, increasing the depth a little at a time, or you could always choose a toy that sinks to the bottom. Other dogs respond best to food, so guiding them underwater with a tasty treat is the best way to get them fully submerged.

With a patient approach, and if you gradually increase the depth as you go, your pup will be happily swimming underwater before you know it. 

light brown dog diving into the water from a dock

Teach your dog to dock dive

Difficulty level: Easy

Time to master: 2–4 weeks 

Last but not least, if your dog enjoys making a splash, they’ll love it if you introduce them to the sport of dock jumping. The name of this sport pretty much tells you everything you need to know about what’s involved: your dog jumping off a dock into the water. 

The aim is to teach them to jump as far as possible — this is a highly competitive canine sport and the best dock jumpers leap well over 30 feet — but it’s also just a whole lot of fun for a water-loving dog. It’s very entertaining for spectators too, provided you don’t mind getting splashed. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A lake with a sloping shore and a dock, or a special dock jumping pool
  • Your dog’s favorite toys
  • Treats

If you’ve already trained your dog to fetch in the water, they might jump in off the dock straight away as soon as you throw their ball or toy into the water. Then, you can gradually start tossing the object a little further out into the water, leading your dog to jump as far as possible.

However, if your dog is hesitant about leaping into the water, you might need to start on the beach or the shore of the lake before moving your training sessions out onto the dock. Either way, it’s sure to be a lot of fun for you and your pup.

Whichever water training session you choose, remember to keep it fun. This will make your dog (and you) look forward to each session even more and set them up for success.

Need some help getting your dog into the water? Book a personalized, in-home training session with a 5-star dog trainer with Wag! today.

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