How Can You Teach Your Dog to Swim?
Updated: Jul 30
Whether you have a pool, like taking trips to the ocean or lakes, it's so important for dogs to know how to swim and be comfortable in the water. Even if you don't have plans on them willingly going swimming, in the case of an emergency such as them falling in the water, they need to know how to get out without panicking and possibly drowning. Some dogs are natural swimmers but others are more natural sinkers. If you don't know where to get started, here are some steps to take.
1. Use a life jacket
Whether they are a natural born swimmer or sinker, all dogs should wear a life jacket when first learning how to swim. The life jacket should have a handle on top so you can easily guide them along with a D ring to attach a leash to. Start with getting them comfortable in the life jacket by giving them treats and possibly even dinner while wearing it.
2. Have fresh water readily available
Dogs are more likely to drink the water that they are in even if it's a chlorine pool or saltwater. Both are extremely dehydrating and you should have fresh water readily available for them to drink after getting out of the water to avoid illness.
3. Get them comfortable in the water
Start by slowly going inch by inch. If in a pool, take them down the steps but don't force them if they are scared. You can lure them with treats or their favorite toy while giving them praise for each step they take. You don't want to completely traumatize them!
4. Go slow
You want to be able to stand next to your dog while guiding them. As they start paddling, walk alongside them with a light hand holding up the life jacket by the handle or use your arm to hold them up from underneath. This can help them learn to use their back legs as well as their front legs.
5. Teach an exit
Teach your dog how to properly exit the water so they don't panic when trying to get out. Walk them back towards the steps of the pool and reward them as they get out on their own.
6. Reward the entire process
End the lesson with lots of priase and treats so your dog can associate the water with a fun, positive time!
7. Play fetch
As they are more comfortable in the water, toss their favorite toys in the pool for them to go after. You're creating a fun, engaging game that can also be a great source of exercise! Metro Balls® are the perfect pool toy! They float and are easy to spot!
Teaching your dog to swim should be a bonding experience and should be fun! If your dog needs to take a break or is stressed, listen to them and try again the next day.