The Do’s And Don’ts of Teaching Your Dogs to Swim
During the hot summer months having your dog swim is a great form of exercise and can be a lot of fun for you and your dog. This article is intended to teach you the proper way to introduce your dog to the pool and to make you aware of things that can cause your dog to become fearful of the pool.
Imagine walking along this body of water on a warm sunny day and all of the sudden someone grabs you and throws you in the water. Having never experienced the pool, this would put you in a panic and fearful state. It is not any different for your dog. The best way to introduce the pool is in steps this process may take some time with some dogs or you may move through these steps quickly, it all depends on your dog. Remember this is a process of building trust and confidence.
Step 1- While on leash, walk your dog around the pool moving closer to the edge with each passing.
Step 2- When the dog is comfortably walking close to the edge sit down at the edge of the pool with your feet in the water and lightly splash water on the dog’s feet, making sure not to splash the face. If the dog is still nervous, give it some of his favorite treats and a lot of praise while splashing the water on the feet. If your dog is still a little nervous then you need to practice step 1&2 a few more times until the dog is comfortable sitting at the edge.
Step 3 – if you have steps in your pool lure your dog with treats to the first step and let them stand there until he is calm. Depending on the pool, you may have to put the dogs front paws on the second step, dogs have a problem with depth perception so they need to feel where that next step is. Once the front feet are on second step, reward with treat and praise. Put the back feet on the step and reward and praise. Let the dog out of the pool and repeat until the dog comfortably goes on the first & second step. If you have, a tanning bed or a beach entrance pool, lure the dog into the area, treat and praise. When the dog is comfortable, walk the dog around the area on leash, praising as you go. When dog is relaxed, step out of the pool and repeat the step until dog goes in without a lure just praise.
Step 4 – Now it’s time to put the dog in the pool. If you have a bulldog breed or a short muzzled dog it’s a good idea to have your dog wear a life jacket while teaching them to swim. Let the dog wear the life jacket at different times before using it to swim to get the dog accustom to it, introducing something new and teaching to swim at the same time could make the dog very uncomfortable. (The next move for all breeds), while introducing the dog to swimming, is to cradle the dog first like you would a child. Put one arm around the front of your dog’s chest and the other under the chest closer to the abdomen so the legs are free to paddle. Hold the dog close to your body, be aware with large breeds, as they are kicking they may scratch you, wearing a shirt in the pool is always a good idea. Then glide around the pool keeping the dog’s head above water at all times. When the dog is relaxed take them a couple feet from the steps and let them swim to steps helping them keep their hind end up. Stop them from getting out of the pool, keep them on the step or in the tanning bed end give them lots of praise and a couple treats. When dog is relaxed again repeat the step letting the dog swim farther and farther away from the step. This does not have to be done in one session. Never let the dog go while in a panicking state.
Step 5 – Now you will put all the steps together having the dog walk into the pool and swim. You will want to put the leash on the dog so you can glide it through all the steps and into the water. You will need to praise and encourage the dog a lot to motivate because during this process you will not give a treat until the dog returns to the step and again do not let the dog out of the pool until it is relaxed, then repeat.
Always be upbeat to keep dog motivated! Remember; never, ever throw your dog into a pool cold turkey! Don’t be cross with the dog or nervous. Never force the dog in the pool, take your time and work the steps. Never end a session on a bad note. Always let the dog finish the session successfully. This way the last memory of the pool is positive. Don’t skip steps or rush through steps, go at the dogs pace.
If you have a dog that has had a bad experience with the pool or you are having difficulties teaching these steps, call a professional dog trainer to help you. When giving your dog treats make sure they are very small pieces, do not use milk bones for treats they are too large and you will cause the dog to be too full for treats to motivate. We also want to watch calories. It helps to play or walk with the dog for a few minutes prior to the lessons to relieve anxiety. The pool will be more refreshing to a hot dog and a hot you! So relax, and take a dip, together!
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