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How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

 by danielle on 24 Jul 2014 |
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The doggy paddle comes instinctually to dogs, but that doesn’t mean that a bit of canine swim school isn’t helpful for pooches interacting with water for the first time.
 
 
Some breeds such as the golden retriever and Portuguese water dog take to water like ducks, but for many dogs, just as with children learning to swim, a pool or the surf can seem a frightening prospect at first. But with a bit of help from their loving owners, most dogs will learn to love water and how to swim like champions.
 
The first step to creating an aqua dog is getting them to find the prospect of getting their paws wet exciting rather than horrifying. Some pups are keen from the start, which makes things easier, but others aren’t so sure. 

 

We recommend finding a small kiddy pool or using your bathtub and filling it with a little water. Place your dog gently in and praise and treat them copiously so they come to realise wonderful things happen when they are near water. Gradually increase the water level over time so you dog becomes confident even when submersed.
 
Once your dog is happy with water, swim training can begin. A dog life vest is a great idea which not only will keep your dog safe even when they are skilled swimmers, but will also help them keep buoyant – just like kids with floaties – so they can focus their energies on mastering the paddling movement without the fear of sinking beneath the water. Basset hounds, bulldogs, dachshunds, pugs and corgis are some breeds that really struggle with water sports and really require additional support out of necessity on all their swims.

 
 
Depending on the size of your dog, the kiddy pool might be sufficiently deep once filled to be your training zone. All you need to make sure is that your dog’s paws can’t touch the bottom. For larger dogs, you may need to go on a scouting mission to find a small pond or shallow lake. The beach, while exciting, is probably not the best choice as waves can unnerve and unbalance dogs learning swim skills.
 
To start training, gently coax your dog into the water. Be prepared for them to get a bit of a fright when their feet don’t touch the bottom. Stay calm and praise them for being brave. They may go forwards of their own volition, but if not try getting a treat to place in front of their nose to encourage them to start moving around the water.

 
 
Keep training sessions short at first to keep your dog from feeling exhausted or overwhelmed by the new experience. As your dog’s confidence builds, try progressively deeper water and longer swim times – and then even the challenge of waves.
 
Practice makes perfect – with time, you’ll have a super confident and expert swimmer on your hands! Then it might be time to try doggie surfing

 

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