Over time, many dogs become excellent swimmers… But that doesn't happen overnight (and not automatically)! You need to help your pet get used to water bodies from a young age, in addition to using only positive reinforcement techniques, which make them more comfortable, and taking all the safety measures that this process requires. Following the tips in this article, get started as soon as possible and you'll soon have a real dolphin at home!
Part 1 of 3: Preparing your puppy
Step 1. Train the dog to come to you when called upon
Before you take your dog for a swim, it's very important that he responds to your commands. As the animal is not able to discern the dangers or problems it may face in the water, it is better to be prepared to avoid risky situations caused by disobedience. In the end, the whole experience will be much more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone.
Even if your dog is on a leash or lead when he goes swimming (ideally the first few times), he needs to be obedient and come to you when called. Never try to force your pet out of a body of water through the collar, as this is very dangerous
Step 2. Start getting the dog used to water as soon as possible
You have to do basic obedience training with your dog before you start swimming lessons, but it's also essential to get him used to the water in general from an early age - around eight weeks of age, to be precise, which is the average age dogs are when they are bought or adopted.
- It will be much easier for your dog to get used to swimming if he has had contact with water before.
- Start by placing your dog in a shallow place where there is a 2, 5, or 5 cm volume of water, such as a large bowl.
- If you have an adult dog and a puppy, bring the older one to the water while the younger one watches. This will show him that swimming is a natural thing.
Step 3. Show how much fun swimming is
Give your dog a shallower bowl of water to play with, or turn the hose jet towards him. In general, do what you can to generate a positive association of the animal with the liquid.
Some dogs don't like to swim because they have a negative association with water bodies. So, one of the best strategies for you to get your pet used to it is to make the place interesting and fight this fear from an early age
Step 4. Know what to expect from the process
Some dogs are practically innate swimmers - and look like real dolphins when they see a body of water. This is the case, for example, of the Labrador and the golden retriever. But not everyone has this predisposition. This is the case, above all, with dogs of breeds with short legs: pugs, chihuahuas, and so on. You need to have a good idea of what to expect from your pet.
Even though you know your dog is probably not going to be as efficient a swimmer, it's still important to get him used to the water and at least teach him how to float. This is a safety issue (which, with luck, can pave the way for fun)
Part 2 of 3: Getting your dog used to swimming
Step 1. Start in a warm, shallow body of water
You can start teaching your dog to swim when he is between two and five months old. In this age group, the animal already has the strength and endurance necessary for the first swimming lessons. Never force your pet into any cold, deep body of water at once: the right thing is to do a gradual process, just like when a person is learning.
- Let your puppy play and explore the shallow, warm water before thinking about taking him deeper. This is how he will create those positive associations with the experience.
- Play with your dog in this shallow water. Even activities like running from one place to another or throwing a ball help a lot.
- Remember that some dogs swim better than others. Again, it all depends on the conditions and the animal's own breed.
Step 2. Use a flotation device
If you have any concerns for your dog's safety, buy him a life jacket or other flotation device. There are several models on the market, all of which can make the animal's experience much more pleasant. In case of doubt, talk to a seller of the material.
- As with people going swimming, you will need to purchase a vest or other device that is the right size for your dog.
- Many flotation devices for dogs have a strap on their back. It is for you to pull your pet out of the water if it has any difficulty or despair.
- The flotation device is also great for older puppies who have mobility issues! If this is the case for your pet, he will be able to enjoy the water without getting tired or afraid.
Step 3. Enter the water with the dog
It's no use just sending your dog into the water alone: he needs encouragement and support, especially if he's shy. Take it in your arms and enter slowly, wetting its body and holding the animal while it takes a few kicks to paddle and try to float. Don't let go of him until he feels comfortable.
- You may need to get your dog in the water several times before he gets comfortable.
- Hold your dog tight, especially if he's scared. Don't force him to do anything.
- Try holding the dog around the waist. That way he'll be able to paddle with his front and back legs.
- Prepare for the dog to resist a bit. Hold him tight - if possible with the guide and flotation device - so he doesn't pull away or have a panic attack.
Step 4. Let the dog swim to the water's edge
Don't force your puppy into the water against his will. He's only going to get even more scared in the future. On the other hand, maybe he can get an exercise and swim a little to the edge (which counts for something).
- Swimming these shorter distances is good exercise for the dog. In the meantime, keep an eye out to see if he doesn't need rescue.
- If possible, have someone stand at the water's edge and call the dog. This person can even use a treat to get your pet's attention and make it swim to her.
Step 5. Train the puppy for shorter periods
Learning to swim can be a tiring experience, as your dog will have to get used to using different muscles (and, of course, burning a lot of calories) to float and move. When he starts to show signs of tiredness, get him out of the water as soon as possible and take a break for a few minutes or even a day.
The ideal training time varies depending on the dog and some specific factors. In any case, keep an eye on your pet and be very careful whenever he is in the water
Part 3 of 3: Developing Your Dog's Skills
Step 1. Start taking the dog to larger bodies of water
Any dog that is learning to swim is frightened when faced with a very large body of water, even if it is shallow. So, only start taking your pet to larger and deeper spaces as it gets used to smaller ones, where there is less movement and less risk.
In general, your dog will be much safer if it's a little deeper, but stay close to the edge - after all, you'll end up getting closer to it all the time (in case you have to rescue it. lo)
Step 2. Make swimming a part of your dog's life
Just like any other skill, swimming requires training and repetition. Your dog will be much more efficient and used to water if he enters it frequently. This is even more important if your intention is to practice water activities frequently, such as when traveling camping with friends and taking the dog.
- As you teach your dog to swim, make it a habit to take him to a dam, a river, or even a stream every week. He will become more and more trained and even excited about the idea of getting into the water.
- On the other hand, remember not to have your dog swim in very cold or icy bodies of water. He can develop hypothermia and even drown from thermal shock.
Step 3. Keep an eye on the dog
Don't think you don't need to supervise your dog just because he seems to be doing well in the water. Every dog needs care and attention when swimming, even after getting used to the activity.
- Dogs who have learned to swim a little earlier tire faster, as they have to use muscles they are not used to. Therefore, it can happen that your pet gets desperate all of a sudden.
- It is very important that you do not lose control of your dog while he is learning to swim. In other words: hold him by the collar or lead, put a flotation device on his body and keep your eyes open.