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Buddy System: How to Teach Your Dog to Swim



One of the best things about summer is cooling off in your local swimming hole, especially if you can have a swimming buddy! If you live near a dog friendly lake or beach, or you have a backyard pool, you should definitely encourage your dog to join you for a swim. But you may want to teach her a few basic lessons first, especially if she has never been swimming before. 


Safety First


Just because you have a dog doesn’t mean she’ll be a natural swimmer. In fact, some breeds -- the bulldog, for example -- cannot swim at all and will sink right to the bottom if tossed in the water without a flotation device holding them above water.


Dogs that are lightweight, have short legs, or will be spending time out on the boat in deep waters with you should be outfitted with their own life vest or jacket. Too much noise and activity can be distracting. Begin with a quiet area of the lake, river or pool, and keep your dog leashed at all times in case she gets into trouble -- and to keep her from swimming too far out. The leash should not come off until she is able to swim unassisted and is consistently returning to you when called back.


Never (ever!) leave a dog unattended in the water, not even for a minute. And for goodness sake, don’t throw your dog into the water for her first swim. It’ll only frighten her to the point that she’ll never want to swim again.


Start Slow


When teaching your dog to swim, it’s best to start in a shallow area where you can walk beside your pet. Put on the flotation vest if needed, attach the leash, and walk slowly into the water, letting her get used to having wet feet.


If your pet is reluctant, bring a toy or a few training treats to coax her in farther. Use a positive tone of voice and lots of verbal praise when she enters the water. Gradually take her into deeper water until she must start paddling to stay afloat. At this point, you can use an arm to provide support under your dog’s belly if she appears to need the extra support. This gives her the incentive to paddle her rear legs along with the front legs.


You don’t want your dog to use only her front legs to swim, as she will tire more quickly and splash around. Keep supporting her until she seems comfortable in the water and is using all four limbs to swim. If at any point she appears to be panicking, back up into the shallow water and let her calm down before trying again.


Post-Swim Ritual


When the lesson is over, it's time to get your dog out of the pool or boat. Take your time showing her the proper and safe way to exit the boat or pool so she can find her own way out the next time. A good final rinse with fresh water will help get rid of any residual chemicals or algae that might be clinging to her haircoat. Finally, give her lots of verbal and physical praise after the lesson, and maybe an extra treat. This will help your dog to associate fun and positive times with the experience of swimming.


Image: Brendan Adkins / via Flickr


Comments  2

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  • Definitely Safety First
    03/19/2013 04:03pm

    I totally agree. If you live like I do with a giant pool and on a dock with a huge body of water, it is imperative for the dogs safely, as young and quickly as possible, to be taught to swim in a situation they may find themselves in -- like falling into the water. Unless you plan on fencing off all your areas or keeping your pets eternally with flotation devices on their legs, it is very important that they learn to manage their panic when falling in to a pool or dock and how to get out with your side by side report and love. I have great article on how I've trained 5 dogs on this and how to climb the stairs and ladder to get out. While they may not enjoy being pushed in, that's the reality if they should fall. None of have been traumatized and it's vital to ensure they know how to save their own lives. I have a long article explaining all this on my website. However, if you are doing it for stamina, I entirely agree. Kisses, Treateater.com.

  • 06/24/2013 02:24am

    Safety is an all time concern. Like a human has the concern while learning swimming. One should start such sort of training initially in a small tub or something which are not too deep and scare your furry friend. Make him just start moving his feet slowly in water and slowly let that happen with increased water depth. This would make him learn better.

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