Dogs and swimming
Enjoying the water and swimming with your dog in the hot summer months can be a lot of fun, but if your dog has never experienced it then make sure you take the time to introduce them properly so you don’t dampen their enthusiasm for it. As with any new experience for a young dog, the best way to approach swimming is gradually. This means that throwing your dog into the deep end, or forcing them off the end of the pier may create an animal that has a permanent relationship with solid land.
Almost all dogs instinctively know how to dog paddle but this does not mean they are enjoying the experience, nor does it mean they can keep it up for any length of time. Many breeds are not built for the water and will just sink (think bulldog!), while others will need to have a decent level of fitness in order to stay afloat. Swimming should only be taught once the pup has developed basic obedience skills and there is a definite level of trust between you. If your dog understands basic commands and remains in control when off the leash then you can start the process of introducing your dog to swimming at the beach, lake, or river.
You will need to find a dog friendly location near where you live. Pick a day when it’s not too windy and if starting at the beach use a time during low tide. Don’t force your dog into the water, just let them hang around so they become acquainted with the smells, sights, and sounds. Take a few steps closer to the shoreline while talking to your dog in reassuring tones so he gets the sense that he is safe. Try sitting in the shallow water to see if your dog will follow you. Over several visits your dog will hopefully show signs of being comfortable around water, and ready for the next step.
Start by tossing in a favourite ball or toy close to the edge of the water for a game of fetch (great for Groodles and Labradoodles!). This will give them some more time to acclimatize to the water and associate it with a fun activity. Once you can see that the dog is comfortable it’s time for you to get into the water with their favourite toy or even a treat and see if you can coax them in with you.
After a few visits your dog should be comfortable enough to follow you into the water, which tells you it’s time for them to try a little doggy paddling in the deeper water. Gradually move out a little deeper, but make sure you are never too far from your dog so they don’t lose that feeling of being safe and you can help them if needs be.
Another great idea you can try is to take a dog you both know and trust who is already accustomed to the water. Once your puppy sees another dog frolicking in the water and having a great time then they may be more inclined to jump in after them, just to see what all the fuss is about.