How to Introduce Dogs to Swimming


Dog swimming
Naql / Flickr

What’s great for humans can be great for dogs too. And that goes for swimming. Dogs also reap health benefits from swimming. Studies show that letting dogs swim improves their mobility. The ISRN Veterinarian Science reports that it even helps manage lameness and joint problems in osteoarthritic dogs.

So if you’re thinking of how to introduce your dog to swimming, then read on. Here we give some suggestions to help you awaken your dog to the joys of swimming.

Give Your Dog a Slow and Safe Start

They say that dogs are born with an innate talent for swimming. But don’t just take it at face value and drop your dog in the middle of the ocean!

Start slowly. For a dog’s first exposure to water, it’d be best to begin in shallow water. Choose a pool with current-free conditions. Consider putting a ramp by the exit or entrance. It might be more helpful for a beginner to use than steps.

Take the lead then give the invitation. Guide your dog to the entrance, and go in first. Motion for your pet to come to you. And you may have a small treat on hand to entice. But do not hurry the dog.

Puppy swimming
Chevysmom / Flickr

Wait patiently for your dog, and let it approach the water at its own pace. Encourage with rewards and praise. And once in, make sure your dog can easily find and go out the exit. Mark the exit with a big object to help the dog find it with ease.

And for the owner with a more hesitant pet. You have to let its introduction to water be as simple and normal as can be. Go take a walk by the beachside, or play near the pool.

Make sure that the dog’s experience with water is very calm and positive. Having another dog there that’s more experienced in swimming could also help ease your fearful beginner.

Keep Your Dog Safe

Remain with your dog at all times. Do not leave it alone in the pool, especially when you eventually start going into deeper waters.

Support the dog under with a hand as it learns how to swim until it gets the hang of it. And even then, keep yourself close by. So you can quickly hold your dog up if it starts having trouble paddling its feet.

Dog in the pool
Amber Wilkie / Flickr

Be alert to any bad signs. Keep an eye on your dog’s health while in the pool. Keep your sessions short, and give your dog a rinse after.

Invest in a vest. A vest is particularly useful for the uncertain owners who are taking their dogs somewhere with deep waters. A vest could be easy to get a hold on and grab when in an emergency.

And even if you’re very confident in your dog’s swimming abilities, it would still be very useful to have a buoy vest or life jacket for your dog.

Final Thoughts

While dogs do have a natural instinct to paddle their feet in the water, that does not mean they all would be suited for swimming. Certain types of dogs have natural anatomical traits that would make it difficult for them to swim. Like some have short stubby legs and heavy large heads. Pugs and bulldogs are two of these breeds.

And if your dog does not enjoy being in the water, do not attempt forcing it into a pool. Even if your dog’s breed is well suited for swimming. It could seriously injure and traumatize the dog. Don’t forget that a lot of dogs love the water, but not all do.


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