While it may seem like second nature to humans, it is important to remember that not all dogs can swim. You might think that, with all of that hair, water would seem very inviting to a dog, but the truth is, many canines dislike water altogether!
The popular swimming technique called dog paddling is actually your dog’s survival instincts kicking in. While some dogs might enjoy the water and exercise, other dogs would prefer to stay poolside or on the beach. |
When it comes to water and swimming in general, it is likely that your dog will fall into one of three categories. There are dogs that are natural swimmers, dogs that cannot swim, and dogs that can be taught to swim.
Is Your Dog a Good Swimmer?
Some dogs love the water and are known to be great swimmer. Some of the more agile swimmers include such breeds as the Newfoundland, Standard Poodle, Irish Poodle, English Setter and Golden Retriever, to name a few. These medium to large sized breeds have coats that are almost entirely water-resistant and have very strong limbs, which means their swimming ability comes from their genetic make-up.
Each of these dog breeds come from a long line of capable swimmers, and seems to enjoy being in the water. Just as you might expect, dogs with “water” in their breed names are exceptionally good swimmers. Among these breeds are the Irish Water Spaniels, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Spanish Water Dogs. Even in these breeds mentioned, you may find a dog that is afraid of water, or doesn’t know how to swim, due to the fact that dogs have unique personalities, and have their own likes and dislikes.
When Your Dog Cannot Swim
There are some dog breeds that are not natural swimmers and will likely never learn how to swim well due to their physical characteristics. For example, dogs with short legs and large bodies such as bulldogs, boxers and dachshunds find it difficult to stay afloat in the water and are unable to properly maneuver in the water. Breeds with short faces and short snouts who suffer from shortness of breath often lack the stamina needed to be a good swimmer. A good example of a breed with this type of physical issues is the Pug.
Many small dogs, such as Chihuahuas, might learn to be exceptional swimmers but because of their genetic make-up, they easily get chilled or frightened in the water. This can lead to drowning as well as several health risks. If your dog is a good swimming breed, it is important to remember that elderly, sick, and overweight or out of shape dogs also might have trouble in the water.
Depending on the location you choose to take your dog swimming, there are sometimes overwhelming waves, currents and undertows that can easily overtake your dog, even if he is a strong swimmer. Responsible dog owners would be wise to consider the purchase of a life vest and provide constant supervision for your dog while he is in the water.
Teaching Your Dog to Swim
If you feel that your dog’s physical condition is suitable for swimming and you would like for him to learn how to swim, there are some important steps to take. You should expect to teach your dog how to swim very slowly, giving him a few basic lessons first, especially if your dog has never been swimming before.
Preparing for Dog Swimming Lessons
First you will need to choose an area of water that you trust and know to be safe for your pet. You will want to avoid extremely deep, turbulent or murky waters where your dog could easily down. You will also need to choose a place where dogs are allowed in the water and on the beach or poolside. If your dog enjoys being around people, a busy place might raise his motivation levels, but if your dog is shy and easy distracted, you should look for a more quiet place to swim.
To ensure the safety of your canine companion, you should purchase a dog life vest or dog life jacket that offers a proper fit and will keep your pet afloat. You should also bring a dog leash to help keep your dog under control as he may be nervous or excited. Last but not least, bring some water toys and tasty treats which can assist you in your task of teaching your dog to swim.
Your Dog’s Swimming Lesson
At first, you should focus on getting your dog used to the water before going very far into the water. Allow your dog to gain confidence in the water by choosing a shallow area where you can walk beside your dog. If your dog seems to enjoy the water, you can suit him up in a well-fitting water safety vest or jacket and attach the leash. You will need to hold the leash securely to make sure it doesn’t get caught on anything under the water.
There are many ways to coax your dog into deeper water, but be sure to go slow and allow your dog to have fun in the process. Consider bringing one of his favorite balls or discs and tossing it into the shallow water, allowing your dog to try playing fetch in the water. When he brings the toy back to you, reward him with a tasty dog treat.
Gradually, you should be able to take your dog into deeper water until he cannot stand and will need to paddle to stay afloat. Support your dog in the water with one hand under his stomach as he learns to paddle and swim. If your dog uses only his front legs while paddling, continue to hold him as he will quickly become tired. When your dog develops a good form, using all four limbs to swim, you can go to next step.
After you are completely sure that he is ready to swim independently, you can remove the leash from the life jacket or vest and walk a few feet away. Your dog will likely attempt to follow you and in no time, he will be confident enough to swim independently and have great fun splashing around with you!
After Dog Swimming Lessons
When you and your dog have had a day of fun in the sun and are ready to head toward home, clean your canine with fresh water to get rid of any algae or residual chemicals which may cling to his coat. Remember to give your dog lots of verbal praise, physical touching and delicious treats for his efforts and bravery, after the swimming training is complete. This will help your dog to associate rewards such as praise and treats with the swimming experience so that, next time, he will be happy to swim again.
As we all know, swimming is not only a fun recreational activity for both owners and their dogs, but it can strengthen his muscles and promote good physical health. The resistance of water causes your dog to work harder in order to move about in the water. In addition, swimming can also help dogs relax by providing an outlet for them to release any extra energy. So, why not teach your dog to swim?