Some dogs take to water naturally. The very first time they see a pond or a pool, they’ll dive right in and navigate their way around as though they’ve been doing it their entire lives.
However, not all dogs have the ability to instantly swim. After all, some breeds were developed to be good swimmers, while others, such as bulldogs or dachshunds, tend to struggle at first. This doesn’t mean that they can’t swim, it just means that they’ll need a little extra help.
Some may tell you to simply throw your dog in and they’ll figure things out, but this is far from the truth. Do this with a breed that isn’t built for swimming and they’ll start to sink. Likewise, do this with a dog that’s nervous of water, no matter their breed, and you’ll establish a lifelong fear.
Fortunately, teaching a dog to swim isn’t difficult. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Consider a Life Vest
It’s important that your dog’s first few experiences with water are positive. A life vest will help with this by ensuring that they float rather than sink. This will give them time to get used to the water before they need to start paddling their legs. It will also give them better balance, which will make it much easier for them to learn how to swim.
When choosing a life vest, make sure that it fits your dog perfectly. It should be snug but not too tight. It should also have a handle, so that you can lift your dog out of the water if needed. Some life vests even have an extra flotation piece just underneath the chin, to keep the dog’s head above water at all times.
Encourage Your Dog Into the Water
As mentioned, throwing your dog into the water is a big no-no. Instead, you’ll want to encourage them to explore it on their own. They should be comfortable with walking in shallow water before you attempt to teach them how to swim.
How do you do this? Start by getting into the water yourself. Have some treats with you, or your dog’s favorite toy. Once you’ve taken a few steps in the water, call your dog over and reward them. It may take a few tries before your dog feels brave enough to follow you in.
Something else that can help with this is having another, more confident, dog with you. If your friends have a dog that’s a good swimmer, allow your dog to see how it’s done.
Moving Into Deeper Water
Once your dog is 100% comfortable with splashing around in shallow water, it’s time to take things deeper. Do this in the same way, by encouraging them to follow you.
You may need to hold onto them slightly to help them to balance. Keep your arm around their stomach as you make your way deeper into the water. Your dog should soon start to instinctively paddle their legs. Once they have the hang of this, let go and allow them to swim!
Extra Tips When Teaching a Dog to Swim
The best place to teach a dog to swim is in a natural body of water, such as the sea or a lake. This way, you’ll also have a natural incline to help you get in and out of the water. That said, don’t worry if a swimming pool is your only option. The main difference here is that you’ll also need to teach your dog to exit the pool using the available steps.
Wherever you take your dog to swim, make sure that the water isn’t so deep that you can’t stand in it. Once your dog is a proficient swimmer, you can swim in deep water together. However, until then, keep it shallow enough so that you can stand. This way, if your dog has any trouble, you’ll be able to quickly help them.
Not only is swimming a great form of exercise for a dog, but it’s also so much fun! Teaching your dog how to swim will open up so many possibilities for the two of you, especially during the summer months. That said, if your dog just doesn’t seem to like swimming, don’t push it. Some dogs never have fun in the water, while others do but take more time to get used to it. Take things at your dog’s pace and always read what their body language is telling you – this is key when teaching your dog anything new.