You might think that all dogs are natural swimmers, but that’s not always the case. Some breeds pick up on swimming quickly, but others need a little time. And then some dogs hate the water and resist getting their feet wet. So how can we tell if our dogs are natural swimmers? Keep reading to find out how to teach your dog to swim and a few safety tips.
Are Dogs Born Knowing How To Swim?
One common misconception is that all dogs swim, but this isn’t always true. Some dog breeds have the genetics of good swimmers. For example, when you think of a Labrador Retriever, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, and Portuguese Water Dogs, these dogs were bred to hunt in water conditions. So they have more robust genes to make them natural swimmers.
However, some breeds aren’t built to be swimmers. For example, bulky and stocky dogs like the English Bulldog can have a hard time staying afloat. Then there are dogs like the Basset Hounds with long bodies and short legs that make swimming difficult. But it’s not impossible. With our guide on how to teach your dog to swim, any dog could pick it up.
How To Tell If Your Dog Has The Instinct
So how can you tell if your young puppy has the swimming ability from birth? There is a quick test to see how much work your dog will need to become a water dog. If your puppy is small enough, hold the puppy right above the water. If your puppy starts to “doggie paddle” with his front legs without prompting, then you have a natural swimmer. But if your dog sits there or tries to squirm away, you will have some work to do.
Swimming Safety Tips
If this is your first time swimming with your dog, there are some safety precautions to take. More than 10,000 dogs die every year in the USA alone. So before the first introduction, let’s talk about what you can do to keep you and your dog safe.
The first safety tip is that everyone wears a life jacket. A life vest for dogs should always be used, no matter how well they swim. Because dogs get tired out quickly, a dog life jacket could save their lives. And just as crucial is that dog owners wear a life vest as well.
Since your dog could wear out quickly, they will try to grab ahold of anything they can to stay afloat. And more often than not, dogs will try to use you to float. So if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to have a large dog drown you as well.
Despite what you might think, your dog can and will get cold in the water. If they swim in cold water, they can get hypothermia and something called a sprung tail. So a good rule of thumb is only to let your dog swim in temperatures that you would be comfortable as well. Warm water is always better than water colder than 70 degrees.
Another problem with your dog swimming for too long is water intake. This is when your dog swallows too much water, and the water expands the stomach. In some cases, it can cause bloat or water toxicity if your dog is drinking pool water. So it’s a good idea always to keep freshwater out and give regular breaks even for a strong swimmer. It’s also important to keep freeze-dried snacks or dehydrated treats to soak up the extra water.
Watch For Strong Currents
If your dog is learning how to swim in a river or ocean, keep a watch for currents. These sudden currents can sweep your dog away. So stay close to your dog, and stay away from strong currents.
And finally, always remember to keep a dog-safe sunscreen on hand. Hairless dogs, older dogs with thinning hair, and dogs with light-colored hair and skin are prone to getting sunburn. And don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours.
How To Teach Your Dog To Swim
And now, we can talk about the steps to teaching your dog to swim. Follow these steps, and you might even find it hard to get them out of the water.
Step #1: Find A Fitted Life Vest
The first step is to find a life jacket that fits your dog well. Preferably one with a handle on the top and safety reflection tape. You want the vest to fit snuggly enough that your dog can’t slip out. But not so tight that they can’t move freely. The best way to test this is to insert two fingers around the neck and chest areas. If you can slip only two fingers in the sides, you have the perfect fit.
Step #2: Finding The Right Location
When your dog is new to swimming, you will want a quiet area with no distractions. You might even keep extra family members to a minimum. Shallow water is another good thing to look for. If the water is too deep, your dog could get scared. It also makes it harder to help your dog if they’ve never been in the water before. And if that shallow area gradually gets deeper, it makes swimming more natural.
Natural bodies of water like lakes and rivers have a gradual incline at the beaches. But you have to be warry of pools with steep, deep end drop-offs. So choose your location well when just starting.
Step #3: Coax Your Dog Into The Water
Now that your dog is ready and you have the ideal spot, it’s time to get your dog wet in the shallow end. But you don’t want to pick your dog up and shove them in unwillingly. This would give them a negative experience and make them unwilling to learn how to swim.
So instead, introduce the new situation by heading on out yourself and calling them in. Show your dog how fun it is with a favorite toy. If it’s your dog’s choice, they will build their confidence. It might even help if you bring a close canine companion that your dog trusts. With these positive associations, your puppy will quickly get over any fears they might have of water.
Step #4: Show The Exits
Another common problem with dogs is that they get nervous if they can’t find the exit. On a beach, lake, or river, the exits are a little more noticeable. But in a swimming pool, the edge of the pool might not be as apparent. So make sure that you point out the stairs or ladders and show your dog how to use them.
Step #5: Gradually Increase The Depth
Now that your dog is comfortable, it’s time to let him determine if he’s ready for deeper water. But always stay right beside him for reassurance. You might even want to hold onto the life vest handle for support. However, you shouldn’t force your dog to go out further than he’s ready to do. You can coax him and encourage him with treats and small toys. But never force him out too far.
Step #6: Take It Slow
Some dogs don’t learn how to swim in one day, and that’s ok. Take it slow and try try again. Making your swimming sessions short at first is ideal. Your puppy shouldn’t swim for longer than 10 minutes without a break. As he gains a little muscle and better stamina, you can increase this time. It also helps if you only let them swim short distances to prevent fatigue.
Your puppy might not learn in the first lesson. And there is no guaranteed easy way to teach your pup. But remember, the more you practice, the better your puppy will be at swimming.
So What If My Dog Doesn’t Like Swimming?
You might think that all dogs love water. But not all dogs like the water, and you shouldn’t force them into it. Instead, you can try a few other tricks to keep your dog cool this summer.
Try Different Types Of Water
The first thing to try before throwing in the towel is different water sources. Some dogs don’t like your backyard pool but prefer natural bodies of water like lakes or rivers. So instead of writing off your dog as hating water, try sprinklers, a kiddie pool, and any other body of water you haven’t tried.
If your dog prefers to keep his feet dry, there is no shame in that. Products like the Chillz Cooling Mat are perfect for your dog to lounge on and cool off in the hot summer months.
A tasty and cooling treat like the pup cone is a great way to chill your dog. Your dog will love these treats and beg for more. You can even make your own pup cones from frozen yogurt and fruit.
And let’s not forget something as simple as ice cubes. These bits are fun in water dishes or to slide across the floor for play. You can even freeze treats into a block of ice for your dog to lick and play with.
With A Little Practice, Your Dog Will Be Swimming In No Time
How to teach your dog to swim isn’t as difficult as it might sound. With practice, trust, and bonding, your puppy will catch on quickly. Then your days of hot summer fun are just around the corner.
Below is a Pinterest-friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Doodle Board!