Do you want to teach your dog how to swim? Swimming is a great summer activity for you and your dog to enjoy together. But not all dogs are natural-born swimmers. Teaching your dog to swim takes patience, time, and encouragement, as well as a safe and quiet environment where they can get used to the water at their own pace. Follow our guide and teach your dog to swim, so both you and your dog can have a great time splashing together!
How to Teach Your Dog to Swim in Four Steps
1. Consider using a life vest
A life vest will add buoyancy, which helps the dog feel more comfortable and safer in the water. Adapt your dog to the vest in short sessions over the course of a week, putting it on and rewarding him for wearing it. A good life vest has to fit comfortably, is brightly colored, and has a handle for you to hold onto the dog. He should be able to move easily whether he’s in the water or on land while wearing the jacket.
2. Pick a safe and quiet area
When you are teaching your dog to swim, too much noise and activity can be really distracting for him. That’s why you should begin your doggy swimming lessons in a quiet area, such as a backyard, shallow lake, or kiddie pool. Also, keep in mind things like rips and waves, water depth, underwater plants or seaweed, and whether dogs are allowed or not.
3. Start in a shallow water
It’s best to start in a shallow area where you can walk beside your pet and let your dog get used to having wet paws. If he doesn’t want to get in the water, don’t throw or push him, instead lure him in with a toy or treat. When he responds, treat him with a yummy treat and positive reinforcement. It’s important to show your dog he can get out of the water if he feels overwhelmed, by practicing walking in and out of the water.
4. Slowly Move to Deeper Water
When your dog gets comfortable encourage him to go further into the water with a treat. Make sure your dog feels secure, and that you are holding him by the handle of his life vest so that he isn’t actually moving anywhere. Place one hand beneath their rump and ensure that his bottom is aligned with his head. If you are not using a life vest, use an arm to provide a little extra support under your dog’s belly, once he starts paddling to stay afloat. Use a positive tone of voice and lots of verbal praise, so he knows he’s being a good boy. Soon he will get used to the feeling and all four of his legs will begin to paddle. Then gently let them go. If he starts to panic, back up into the shallow water and wait for him to calm down before trying again.
Some extra tips:
- Go on a swimming lesson with a partner or a friendly dog who loves the water. This can encourage your dog to relax and venture further.
- Always keep an eye on your dog in the water
- Pay attention to the water temperature! Dogs can get hypothermia from swimming for long periods in water that is too cold. If it’s too cold for you to swim without a wet suit, it’s too cold for your dog.
- Do some research into your dog’s breed, so you will be aware of any potential risks.
- Never force him into the water, because it will only increase his fear.
- Only use positive reinforcement during a swimming lesson, don’t ever yell at your dog.
- Never throw a dog into the pool or off the side of a boat and expect him to swim. Your dog could drown.
- Keep swimming sessions short, and play with small toys to restrict the amount of water entering their mouths.