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Enjoy Teaching Your Dog To Swim
Enjoy Teaching Your Dog To Swim
by Kay Ringelstetter

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Have you ever heard of the dog paddle? Since there is a swim stroke named after a dog, many of us believe that all dogs are born knowing how to swim. But this belief is very wrong.

Not every dog instinctively knows how to swim. Many dogs do love the water and can easily be taught to swim. These breeds include water spaniels, Newfoundlands, retrievers, setters, Cocker spaniels, Kerry blue terriers, poodles, Barbets and Hungarian pulis. However, other dog breeds will only learn to swim with great difficult or possibly not at all. These dogs include bulldogs, basset hounds, pugs, dachshunds, corgis, greyhounds and Boston and Scottish terriers. If your dog belongs to the latter breed, you can still try to slowly introduce them to the water with a flotation device or you may find that they sink like submarines.

When you first introduce your dog to the water, remember to use lots of encouragement. Keep your voice soft, friendly and positive. Avoid any excessive noise in the area that you will be entering. You may find it easiest to go to a dog-friendly lake where you can slowly enter the water with your leashed dog. By walking into the water with them, you will help build their confidence in the water. Bring along a favorite toy to play with them in the water. As they gain confidence, you can toss the toy a short distance away and allow them to walk to it. As you go out deeper, they will of course gradually learn to swim rather than walk and you can continue to toss the toy so they can now swim to fetch it.

If you will be using a pool to introduce your dog to the water, then it may be a bit more work. A great way to get started is to use a plastic baby pool and then slowly encourage your dog to climb in and get wet. You may toss a favorite toy or treat into the pool for your dog to retrieve. After your dog becomes comfortable in the small pool, you will be ready to move on to the larger pool.

Sit at the edge of the pool on the stairs with your dog lying across your lap. Your dog's two front legs should be across one of your legs and his two back legs across the other. For bigger dogs, move your legs apart a bit to make it more difficult for them to move. Slowly work your way into the pool down one step at a time. Let you dog feel your calmness as you slowly pour a handful of water over his or her back. As you feel your dog relaxing and his pants become slow and even, slowly move down to the next step. Eventually, you will move far enough into the water that your dog begins to float up and slowly paddle on his own. Calmly walk along with your pet, being ready to pick them up if they should panic or start to become agitated in the water. Toss a treat or a toy to encourage them to continue to paddle on their own. After a few minutes of fun in this first introduction, slowly lead them back to the steps of the pool so that they can learn how to climb out on their own. By using the leash, you can then slowly coax them back down the steps so they learn how to enter the water on their own. This first lesson should last about 20 minutes. Never force your dog to swim if they are not interested.

If you are in an above ground pool with no steps, then simply get in the water and pick up your dog from the deck. Or you may find you need someone to place your pet into your arms as you stand in the water. Continue as above, realizing that you will have to lift your dog out of the water when they paddle back to the side of the pool intending to get out. This is a bit more work for you, lifting your dog in and out of the pool. But again, all dogs are different. Our retriever eventually learned to jump into our pool when she wanted to swim and also to climb out when she was done.

You may find it helpful to introduce your dog to the water in the presence of another dog who already knows how to swim. Simply observing another animal frolic in the water may encourage your pet to join in the fun. Another suggestion is to always have your dog training bag handy.

Rinse your pet with fresh water after swimming. It is especially important to rinse off pool chemicals, but equally important if your pet has been swimming in a lake. Algae or other pathogens present in the water could be ingested by your dog when they decide to lick their fur after being in the water. A nice clean rinse will prevent any potential problems. It may also be wise to dry out your pet's ears after playing in the water.

Not every dog will love the water, but with patience and kindness, all dogs can learn not to fear it. Make sure you are always assisted by your convenient bag for dog. Just take your time and be patient and you may discover that your dog loves to learn to paddle. Then you may find it hard to keep your dog out of the water!


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