It is a commonly held belief that most dogs are naturally good swimmers. While this is true for some breeds, such as the Irish Setters, other breeds, like the bulldogs may not be good paddlers.
The bulk of dogs can, however, be taught how to swim. With encouragement and help from you, it should be easy for you to make your dog a good swimmer. In this article, we will focus on showing you how to teach a dog to swim.
A Step by Step Guide on How to Teach Dog to Swim
1. Pick a Safe Area
Find an area featuring a gradually inclined shoreline – a shallow lake or a pond should be ideal. When choosing your spot, keep in mind things like waves and rips in the ocean, underwater plants or seaweed, and whether dogs are allowed in or not.
Avoid using rivers unless you know the spot well and it is neither deep nor fast flowing. If your dog enjoys some company, an area with other people may be ideal.
2. Pack the Essentials
When thinking of how to teach a dog to swim, the first thing you need to take care of is the gear you will need during the training session. Bring along some familiar gear – such as doggie treats and a ball – to soothe the training dog.
You should keep in mind that you will also get in the water with your dog. Hence, it is a good idea that you bring your swimming gear. Be sure to bring your swim trunks, swimming gloves, and a swim towel. If you are into music, you can pack some swimming headphones in your swim bag too – these should help you avoid getting bored while you teach a dog to swim.
Be sure to carry a portable water dispenser. Allowing your dog to drink pond, lake, or saltwater can cause intestinal parasites or distress. Also, you wouldn’t want your furry friend to get into the habit of drinking pool water.
3. Observe All Safety Precautions Before Getting the Dog in the Water
Before we show you how to teach a dog to swim, you must understand the safety precautions you need to keep in mind. With these precautions, you should be able to boost water safety for your pup.
Your Dog May Need a Life Jacket
Dog breeds like bulldogs will sink to the bottom of the water if they are not wearing a floatation device. Look for a life jacket that is easy to get on and off your dog but fits snuggly to keep your dog’s head above the water. Your dog should be able to move freely while donning the jacket – whether on land or in water.
Your Dog Should Have a Leash
During the lessons, you should keep your dog leashed at all times. The dog leash should help you ensure that the dog stays out of trouble and does not swim too far out. Avoid removing the leash until the dog can swim unassisted and is consistently returning to the shore when you call him/her.
4. Bring a Role Model
Your dog probably likes following his/her buddies wherever they go, even out into the water. Seeing another dog swimming will not just temp your furry friend in, but will also give him confidence as he braves the deeps. If you do bring a role model, be sure to watch the dogs make sure that they do not start play fighting in the water or they start climbing on one another’s back.
5. Get Your Pup Used to Water
Try tossing a dog toy or a tennis ball a short distance from the water edge. The ball should be far enough that the dog has to wade slightly, but close enough that his/her feet can touch the ground when he/she goes to retrieve it. Once the dog retrieves the toy, reward him/her with a treat.
Repeat this exercise several times. Once you see that the dog is happily familiar with the water, you can move on to the next step to learn how to teach a dog to swim.
6. Wade Out to Waist Deep Water with Your Dog
Once you are satisfied that your dog is comfortable with the water, pick him/her up and wade out to waist-deep waters. Hold the dog with one hand under his/her belly and place him/her in the water.
When you teach dog to swim, you should assume a supportive position with your hands. Ensure that the dog’s bottom is aligned with the head – you can do this by placing one hand beneath the dog’s rump. Make sure that the dog is feeling secure enough, and that you are holding him/her steady so that he/she isn’t moving anywhere yet. Speak calmly and give the dog a lot of praise.
7. Encourage the Dog to Start Stroking on Her Own
When the dog hits the water, you should wait for him/her to start stroking. However, you should keep holding him/her until he/she develops a good form, seems stead, and is sure of his/her strokes.
8. Teach the Four-Paw Drive
Most dogs will only use the front feet to paddle, with the rear feet contributing occasionally with a random kick. You can encourage the dog to kick with his rear – to do this, you should tickle or touch the rear paws. Once the dog starts kicking, keep at it. The dog will discover that he/she can go faster that way.
9. Gently Let Them Go
Point your dog to the shoreline and then let him go gently. Make sure that you are very close to support him/her as needed – hopefully, your dog will start swimming towards the shore. If you walk towards the shore yourself, the dog will follow you.
Be sure to keep a close eye on the dog at this stage to make sure that his/her bottom is still aligned with the head. If the rump is sinking, help correct his/her technic. Reward your dog with a lot of praise and treats and repeat this exercise several times.
10. Teach Water Words
If you follow our steps on how to teach a dog to swim, your dog should be able to master swimming pretty quickly. After he/she masters swimming, you should focus on teaching him/her some swimming cues.
For example, “Ashore!” means swim quickly to the shore. To teach this, you can throw a toy to the shore or have a friend place a treat on the shore and then race your dog to get the treat or toy.
“Man overboard!” means to race to where you are. If your dog is capable, you can even teach him/her how to tow you to safety.
Q: Do You Need to Teach A Dog to Swim?
While it is not mandatory that you teach your dog to swim, it is always a good idea. In the United States, an estimated 10,000 dogs drown annually. The majority of these tragedies occur when the dog finds its way into the above-ground or in-ground pool and fails to get out. If your dog knows how to swim, you should be able to reduce the risk of drowning to zero.
Besides safety, other benefits of teaching your dog to swim include:
- It is a good aerobic exercise for dogs suffering from arthritis.
- It is ideal for dogs recovering from surgery.
It is a good exercise for overweight dogs.
Q: How Do You Introduce Your Dog to Swimming?
The best way to introduce your dog to swimming is to find a shallow, calm, and warm waterbody at first. While cold water swimming does have benefits, when you are introducing your dog to swimming, you should avoid cold waters.
Put your dog in a life jacket and then get him familiar with the water by throwing a treat a short distance from the shore and encouraging him/her to get it. Once your dog is familiar with the water, take him/her and wade out into waist-deep water. Put the dog in the water and support him/her until he/she develops a good form. Once your dog has a good form, you can point him/her to the shore and encourage him/her to swim towards it.
Q: Can All Dogs Naturally Swim?
Not all dogs can swim naturally. While dog breeds like Irish Setters can paddle without any help, dog breeds like the bulldogs can’t swim. However, with proper training, any dog breed should be able to swim.
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Not all dogs are naturally good swimmers. Hence, if you do have a furry friend, it is always a good idea to teach dog to swim. Teaching your dog how to swim is not as complicated as most people assume – all you will have to do is support your dog while encouraging him/her to paddle.
The steps we have outlined above should show you how to teach a dog to swim. Keep in mind that you can always modify the steps to fit your dog’s needs.