There are a lot of dog breeds that are natural swimmers; in fact, some of these dogs have webbed feet (such as Portuguese Waterdog, Otterhound, Labrador Retriever) to help them navigate the waters. However, some dogs aren’t as lucky. Like humans, you need to teach your dog to swim and to make them feel comfortable in the water.
As a dog parent, it is your responsibility to teach your dog to swim or at least facilitate its learning, if you don’t know how to swim yourself.
So how do you teach your dog to swim? Here are a few easy ways to do it.
- Let your dog play in the water first.
What is the best way to get your dog accustomed to water? Simple, associate water with an enjoyable experience through play. Before you start teaching your dog to swim, it is important that the dog does not see the water as a threat. Take your dog to a small pond, or start with a shallow kiddie pool and play catch. Throw the ball into the water and let your dog retrieve it. Do this a few times until you think your dog is ready to see the big ocean.
- Take your dog to a nearby beach.
Take your dog for a quick drive to the sea. The pool or even the lake looks different from the sea, so it is common for dogs to resist stepping on the waters, so don’t force them. Just play Frisbee with your dog on the seashore, get them off the lead and let them run free, feeling the sea breeze on its. Going to the beach will now become a fun experience, which is a step closer to your goal.
- Bring other water-loving dogs to play.
The next time you go to the lake or even to the beach, invite some of your neighbours’ water-loving dogs. Seeing other dogs jumping into the water and enjoying themselves will help your dog realise that the activity is fun and not frightening.
- Buy a life jacket for safety.
Before you formally start the swimming lesson, make sure you are equipped with the single, most important things – dog life jacket. Using a life jacket will not only ensure the safety of your dog but also give your dog confidence. Get your dog accustomed to wearing it at home – while eating dinner, playing or sleeping.
- Train your dog using treats.
When you think your dog is ready for its first lesson, take him to the beach, do not remove the collar and leash, put the life jacket on your dog, and head on to the waters. Urge your dog to follow you into the water using treats, even getting its feet wet is deserving of a treat and praise. Once the dog gets its feet wet, go back to the shore and again urge the dog to follow you with another treat. Praise your dog every time it follows you. Repeat this while you go further and further into the water.
- Show how easy it is to get out.
You can try going into the water while carrying your dog. Once you and your dog are in the water, turn and let your dog face the shore, so it can clearly see the exit. Slowly let go of your dog, while holding the leash. Go back to the shore and urge your dog to follow you out with treats. Once the dog knows how easy it is to go back to shore, it will boost its confidence and will feel less fear.
If you’re lucky, your dog may need not need swimming lessons. Some dogs will run head on to the beach and start swimming, even minus the webbed feet. But if your dog shows even a bit of hesitation, then make time to teach the dog how to swim.
It may take you a couple of tries and trips to the beach but it is all worth your time if it means you don’t have to worry about your dog drowning. Also, the time spent will help you bond more with your dog.
Does your dog know how to swim? How did you manage to teach your dog to swim? Share your story in the comments below so other dog owners can also learn from you.