Dogs have a lot of instinctual behavior and inherent capabilities when they come into this word, but not all of them are born swimming.
Some breeds are naturally excellent swimmers, while others just kind of sink when submerged in water. If your puppy falls into the latter category, never fear, it’s never too late to teach your puppy how to swim!
KNOW YOUR BREED
The first thing to understand is whether or not swimming is a skill natural to your dog’s breed. There are particular breeds like Spaniels, Setters, and Retrievers that hit the water doggy-paddling.
Whether or not a breed takes easily to water is not just an instinctual factor, but also a consideration of genetic makeup and physical build. While some dogs may have strong limbs, they may not have the capacity (due to their build) to keep themselves afloat well.
Bulldogs are a perfect example of this. They have short little legs, big heads, and a very thick, heavy torso. They usually love to play in the water but they simply sink to the bottom of water. They should never be left unsupervised near a pool.
That said, with proper training, swimming gear, and supervision, even a bulldog can enjoy paddling around in the water. But it’s vitally important that you know your dog’s limits so you don’t accidentally put them in danger.
Some dogs love the water and you can’t keep them out of it. But other dogs are much more reluctant to step a toe in the water, so to speak. If your dog has a water aversion, take small steps and understand that your dog may have his own pace.
Start with a small pool and fill it with water until it reaches the first joint of your dog’s leg. If your do is still reluctant, try putting some of his toys in the water. Another option is to reassure him by getting in yourself. Being in there with him may also make him more interested in playing.
Once your pet gets familiar and comfortable with a small pool, try filling it deeper each time. Once he has adapted to that, you can try taking him to a larger pool or a small pond.
Whatever you do, never throw or force your dog into the water. This will only increase his fear of it.
Consider getting your pup a life vest to wear his first time in deep water. A life vest can lend a sense of safety to both you and your pup and may encourage him to swim more.
If your breed of dog doesn’t require a vest to swim safely, from time to time try to remove it and let him get a feel for swimming by himself. Of course, if he’s still too afraid of the water you can let him wear the vest.
MAKE IT SOCIAL
Another way to motivate your dog to get in the water is to have yourself and your family get into the water. He’ll be motivated not to miss out on the fun!
Another thing you might want to try is finding a friend who has a puppy that can swim and enjoys the water. You can set up a puppy swim date. Your dog might be more inclined to get in the water if he has a canine example to follow.
Figure out what rewards work best for your puppy. Perhaps your dog responds well to praise. Maybe he’ll do anything for a particular food or treat. Whatever you do, make it your goal to have fun!