One of the biggest things dog owners dread is the day they find out their dog hates water. Aside from dogs hating water, dog owners sometimes have a harder time accepting the fact their dog isn’t going to be the water-dog they were hoping for.
Of course, you have those dogs that take to the water like seasoned swimmers. (I’ve seen small 10lbs dogs straight out of the shelter cut through water like no ones business.) But beware, just because you own a water loving breed, be prepared to be disappointed.
But don’t worry. With some training and coaxing, you can turn any dog into an aquatic loving one with these know hows.
In my lifetime of owning dogs, I’ve had them all – the water loving ones and water hating ones. Deep down, dogs just love to have fun! Dogs who are scared and confused about water don’t know any better, yet, but water is FUN. Knowing how to make a dog feel secure and confident in the water is the biggest secret to making them beg for their next swim.
Below is a list of things that can easily traumatize a dog and should be avoided. You almost have to put yourself in the dogs place – you wouldn’t want any of these things happening to you as an introduction to water, would you?
What NOT to do:
- Never toss your dog into a large body of water expecting them to swim.
Tossing your dog into a pond or lake will only traumatize your dog. Not only will the impact stun your dog, there is a great chance of them inhaling water and or loosing air due to the impact.
- Never drag your dog into a large body of water expecting them to think it’s OK.
Forcefully dragging your dog into a large body of water will not make your dog confident in the long run. Dogs learn to adapt to things at their own pace, like humans. Using excess force to push or pull your dog into the water will leave a lingering thought of struggle and distress the next time your dog sees a body of water.
- Never give your dog a bath with cold water using high powered nozzles (hose water).
Avoid bathing your dog with a high powered hose and or cold hose water. If your dog is shivering, that’s probably a good sign the water is too cold. Not all dogs are crazy for hose water, so for beginners, don’t introduce pressured water to dogs in the introductory stage.
- Never expect your dog to swim in cold water or in cold weather.
Some of the best times for dogs to learn to swim is in the warmer seasons of the year like spring and summer. (I’ve yet to come across any good swimming spots in the winter, well, except for a heated pool I know about locally.) If you’re not down to take a dip in 40 degree weather then your dog definitely isn’t either. Use good judgement when playing in Mother Natures harsh weather conditions.
- Never use rough or fast moving water (creeks and streams) as a place for swimming lessons.
If you’re taking your dog out for their first real encounter with water, then avoid moving water at all costs. Swimming in a creek or stream requires lots of confidence and conditioning. The pull of underwater currents can scare your dog, even you, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Swimming in moving water also requires a great deal of conditioning. Just because you own an aquatic loving breed, respect the fact that dogs are individuals because I’ve seen the best of them sink. Always use a dog life jacket when swimming in moving water.
- Never expect your dog to be a natural born swimmer.
People sometimes think dogs can perform the impossible like leap over walls, chase down rabbits, and swim on their first try… because they’re a sporting dog? Be prepared with the precautionary thought that your dog will sink. Though some dogs are natural born swimmers–Labradors and Newfoundlands–I’ve met some that never learned, mainly because they’re introduction to water scared the fur off them. Aquatic loving breeds are equipped with the tools to powerboat through water (big webbed feet and powerful shoulders) but can and may need some tuning if they don’t float right away.
If you own a dog who is having a hard time accepting water, there are a few things (training methods) that can be implemented. The reason I say, “training methods,” is because they require patience. Lots of patience. You should never expect your dog to love water the first day of implementing these methods. Dogs are individuals so you need to be willing to work with them until they are 100% confident and comfortable.
What to do:
- Always make bath time fun and memorable.
When your dog has a hard time accepting water, it’s important to make bath time fun and memorable. This is an instance where water and dog must meet, almost mandatory, so be sure bath time becomes a happy pastime for you and your dog. Use warm water on a low pressure setting if bathing indoors. If bathing outdoors you may want to check out the booster dog bath tub. Use treats and lots of praise so your dog knows they are doing a fantastic job and that water leads to lots of extra praise and treats.
- Always make jumping and splashing in a body of water fun.
If you don’t have the luxury of owning a swimming pool, one of the best ways to get in the water with your dog is with a kiddie pool. Kiddie pools are inexpensive (around $9 bucks) and perfect for coaxing dogs into water. You can start off by filling these small pools ankle high, tossing in a few toys, and starting a good ol’ game of fetch. You can also place your dog in the pool and then sit with them–be sure to give them lots of praise and treats. With time, increase the water level until your dog isn’t afraid to make a splash in the kiddie pool.
- Use a buddy system to help build confidence.
One of the best ways for dogs to feel confident and comfortable around water is by using a seasoned water-loving dog. What I mean by that is a dog or dogs that have no problem with swimming or splashing around in some water. Allowing your dog to observe their body language will help your dog engage in the water activity without thinking too much. They’ll see there is nothing to fear because all they see are tails wagging and dogs having a fur-load of fun!
Safety for your dog should always be first priority when out for swim. Us humanoids, sometimes think our dogs have superhero powers because they’re the descendants of wolves. We must understand that they too can get bloat, muscle cramps, and fatigue. So, with that being said, always use a dog life jacket when out for a swim. Experienced or not. Also, always keep in mind that there is no better alternative for safety than adult supervision.