10 tips for teaching your dog to swim

Whew! Hot summer weather beckons all of us to cool off in refreshing water. Dogs often love it too, splashing and frolicking and swimming in the drink.

How can you teach your dog to swim?

Some dogs seem to be natural swimmers. Certain breeds (such as Aussies, Newfoundlands, Poodles, various Retrievers take to the water easily. Others (like Bassets, Boxers, Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Pekingeses, and Pugs) may never seem comfortable with the prospect.

1. Pick a safe swimming spot. Plenty of pet owners begin with a kiddy pool or even the bathtub. Once the pup grows accustomed to being in the water, he or she can advance to a calm, current-free pond or pool with a gradual sloping entry (rather than a quick drop-off) and no tangle hazards (like branches or buoys).

Be sure dogs are allowed in your selected swimming spot. Tags or licenses may be required.

2. Try a doggy life jacket for the first few swims. It’s a good idea to let the dog play on solid ground to get used to wearing the flotation vest.

Here are a few examples of canine life preservers:

3. Lead the dog gently and gradually into the water. It may help to splash a little, coaxing him to put his paws into a shallow spot. Play balls and floating toys can be pluses.

4. Keep it safe. Do not toss a dog into water to swim for the first time. And avoid throwing a ball or toy into deep water for a non-swimmer dog to fetch.

5. Leave the leash on. This will enable you to retrieve the dog quickly, if needed. If the area is enclosed, you can remove the leash, once the dog demonstrates competent independent swimming ability.

6. Try to stay in shallower parts, where you can easily stand up to help your pet. The tricky part for many dogs arises when they cannot touch bottom in deeper water. It’s important for the human to be able to help safely, as needed.

7. Watch the dog carefully for signs of unrest. If the pet seems panicky, it’s best to quit the swimming effort for now and quiet him on the shore or deck.

8. Hold the dog carefully and securely around his midsection for his first attempts to swim. As he grows confident, you can let go and stay near him, possibly supporting him under his belly until he can propel himself independently.

9. Point the dog towards the shore before letting him go on his own. Make your way there as well, and the dog will probably follow.

10. Start with short swimming sessions. Swimming is great exercise, but the dog needs time to build up his endurance, just like people do. Reward the dog for a job well done. Follow the swim with a bath or hosing off to remove algae, lake debris, sand, or pool chemicals.

Reminder: Never leave a dog unattended to swim alone. 

Swimming Dog photos
Public domain

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