Teaching your dog to swim is super fun and is an excellent way to exercise your four legged companion. When I was 12 I taught my Yellow Lab pup, Duke, to retrieve in the ocean and in my grandparents swimming pool; much to their behest. I even taught him to leap off the diving board. I would pretend he was a swim rescue dog. He enjoyed towing me through the water, pulling me toward the stairs or shore, during my mock rescue scenarios. Duke and I would swim for hours together.
Today, I still love taking my clients dogs swimming to cool off from the Summer heat. Many athletic dogs will benefit from swimming as it works the dog’s body, mind, and spirit. There is a unique feeling I get, that’s like no other, after going swimming with my dog. As you strive to teach your best friend to become a confident swimmer, it is important to keep some safety tips and training approaches in mind.
Practice swim safety by using a long line on the novice swimmer. Always keep a close eye on your dog and don’t allow the long line to become entangled on anything. Beginner and advanced swimmers alike will benefit from wearing a canine life jacket. If your dog swims in a pool or rocky swimming hole, it is critical to repeatedly teach your dog where the stairs or safe exit from the water is.
Always be ready to jump in the water yourself to assist your best friend if necessary. Avoid forcing your dog into the water. Rely on a slower approach, and grow your dogs confidence around the water. Just like people, dogs learn through experience. So be sure to keep your dog safe and enjoy every minute, allowing each trip to the water to build upon the last.
Teaching your dog to swim is always easiest as a pup, and during the yearling phase, but with practice almost all dogs can learn to swim. Begin with small shallow stream crossings and slowly progress to water that is chest deep for your dog. If your dog loves to retrieve, this energy can be of great help to encourage your dog to love the water. I prefer short and fun excursions to swimming spots at first so that it keeps your dog craving more.
I teach a swimming class during Spring, Summer, and Fall months for clients who are enrolled in my training courses. There is nothing I love more than watching a dog who confidently loves the water. -David