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How to Introduce Your Dog to Water?

Posted by Claudia Bensimoun on

Photo: @nikkiriddy

Introducing dogs to water may take time, especially if it’s a young and inexperienced hunting or sporting dog. You’ll need to so progressively via desensitization starting in warm, shallow waters after you’ve developed a trusting relationship with your new furry best friend. First things first, though: Never toss your pup off a dock into deep water or force your dog into the water.

Start with shallow, warm water after your pup understands the basic commands and he trusts you. If your pup’s introduction to water is relaxed and he feels comfortable and safe, you’ll end up with a dog that feels relaxed in the water and enjoys swimming. 
The American Kennel Club (AKC) adds that you should “Start by showing your dog how to enter and exit. Use a small children’s pool to introduce your dog to the water. While on leash toss a special toy into the water. If she is still reluctant you can take a high-value treat and lure her in, placing the treat by her nose and praising and rewarding for any attempt to step into the water. If it is a small dog who can’t step over the sidewall, provide a way for the dog to get out of the pool.”
They also explain that you should find a quiet, clean water pool without currents with a gentle slope for entry and exit without a steep drop. It’s a good idea to join your pup in the water and bring along a favorite toy. If you’re using a swimming pool, then the AKC adds that there must be steps leading into the water and that you should enter the water first and then face your dog.
You then need to encourage your dog to enter the water and spend some time in the shallow water, all the while praising and giving her treats. This may take time, and you’ll need to possibly consider a lifejacket with reluctant swimmers because this adds buoyancy and creates a bridge as they get used to the water. You can also bring along another dog that enjoys water to encourage your dog to venture further into the water.


Dog in boat

Photo: @mywildswiss

Swimming & Boating with Dogs 

Dogs generally love water, but some breeds may be reluctant to enter the water even with a high-value treat. There are many types of ways that dogs can enjoy the water with their pet parents. There is frolicking in the small ocean waves at the beach, playing in the pool at home, dock diving, boating, and outdoor adventures where your pup will be exposed to lakes and rivers. Here are a few tips on enjoying the outdoors and swimming with your dog.
Swimming can become one of your dog’s most favorite activities, but if your pup is not prepared, it can turn deadly. Although it seems that dogs are born to swim naturally, the truth is that they’re not born knowing how to swim. Your pup will first need to explore the water in the shallow end or wade at the shallowest part of a creek or lake.
As he gains confidence and learns to trust both you and the “water,” he’ll venture out further. You can encourage him by bringing along a few favorite toys and treats. If you have a pool at home, start off at the shallow end and show your pup where the steps are. It’s always a good idea to add on a Skamper-Ramp at home or on your boat to make it easy for your dog to get in or out of the water. This ramp angles down into the water and makes it easy for a dog to see his way out of the water.
Before going out boating with an inexperienced dog, you’ll need to be familiar with the water conditions. Dogs cannot handle strong currents, and just like humans may have issues staying above water in fast-moving rivers or heavy ocean currents. 
That said, you should never allow your pup to swim in rough waters with heavy currents, even if they’re wearing a lifejacket. If you’re out for the first time with your dog, keep in mind that water is deceiving, and what may seem like a gentle-looking river may be deadly. That said, before going out hiking with your dog, you’ll need to consult with the locals about riptides and powerful currents in the area. Dogs shouldn’t drink seawater and should avoid wave–riding in the ocean because they could damage ligaments.

Dog playing on the beach


Steps for Teaching Your Dog How to Swim

Like almost any other sporting activity, teaching your dogs to swim should be done in baby steps. Your pup may be unsure and uneasy around water, but if you take it slow and make it fun with plenty of dog toys and treats, your dog will soon become accustomed to the water. Here’s the take on how to teach your dog how to swim:
  • Show your pup how to get in and out of the water so that they can get out quickly when they get anxious. By doing this, you’ll be teaching your pup how to get out of the water easily when he wants to.
  • Teach your dog how to play in the shallow area of the water and have fun. This allows for a gradual introduction to the feel of water without stressing him out. Keep in mind that you should also take breaks from the water so that your pup can relax and calm down.
  • Praise and play with your pup while in the water so that he learns that this activity is a fun one that he can enjoy.
  • As your dog feels more confident in the water, you can go out a little further and then loop back into shallow water.
  • If your dog is fearful of water, play with him in the shallow waters and onshore until he feels more comfortable. With some dogs, this takes time but is worth it in the end. This is one activity that is tons of fun for you and your dog.
  • If your pup is comfortable paddling in the water, you can also help him by supporting him under his belly while he swims and until he gets used to the water.
The most crucial tip when teaching your dog to swim is to take each step slowly while keeping your dog safe and happy. Dogs can also become tired when swimming, so be careful in case your pup becomes tired.

Blue-Green Algae 

Going out hiking on an outdoor adventure with your furry best friend means looking out for blue-green algae that can cause nausea, convulsions, and even skin irritations. If it’s your first time going down to the lake with your pup, here’s the take:
  • Stay away from swampy water or water that looks like pea soup or that has a shiny sheen on the surface.
  • Blue-green algae are deadly (liver failure) and toxic when consumed in large amounts.
  • Pups are more vulnerable to blue-green algae because they will most likely want to play with it.
  • Blue-green algae are often found in non-flowing freshwater and slow-moving water during the hot summer months.
  • Toxic algae can be found in pools and ponds if they’re not regularly cleaned.
All in all, to accustom your dog to boating, you’ll need to start off with short boating trips in pleasant weather. Avoid using small sailboats, kayaks, rowboats, and canoes if you have a large dog breed that’s hyperactive. 
Jet skis should be avoided as well as Lasers and Sunfish. Your pup may be reluctant about walking on the gangplank or jumping from the dock into the boat, but you’ll need to gently encourage him without the use of force. 
Keep in mind that all the new sounds and vibrations may scare him initially, but if you bring along another boat-experienced pup, he’ll learn much faster. Always use a canine personal floatation device (PFD) when boating to help keep your dog afloat if he falls off the boat. This should fit snugly, but you’ll also need to supervise consistently to keep your dog safe while boating. 
You should also consider using dog goggles to protect your dog’s eyes from dryness, flying debris, and UV light. Look for ones that feature shatterproof lenses with wraparound frames and adjustable elastic straps. As a pet parent, you want to give your pup the best life possible, and swimming together can allow for that.
Training your pup to swim should not be a difficult task. If you’re a hiking and outdoor enthusiast and want to swim with your dog, always take the same precautions as you would with a child. Most dogs love water, so if you have a pool at home and some warm weather, now’s the time to enjoy it. Don’t forget to apply doggy sunscreen any time your pup spends time outdoors, especially if he’s out in the water.