When teaching your dog to swim, start small (and young, if possible). Get them comfortable with smaller bodies of water, like a kiddie pool in your backyard. A big lake with rolling waves will be a lot less daunting if they’ve already learned to love splashing around and cooling off in a small pool.
If you want to teach your dog how to swim, a life jacket is a great investment. Safety first! The life jacket will not only help keep your dog above water, it will give her confidence – which is key in the beginning. Once your dog gets the hang of the doggy-paddle you can remove the life jacket. It will be a lot different without the jacket, so stick to shallow water and join her in the water while she gets used to it.
Speaking of confidence, your dog will be more likely to want to dive in if they can see their buddy doing the same. Dogs are pack animals and they instinctively like to join any pack that is nearby. A dog beach is a great place to find water dogs that will help teach your dog to swim. Make sure it’s a calm area of the beach so you don’t overwhelm your dog!
If there are no other dogs to help, you’re the next best thing. Put your swimsuit on and join your dog in the water. You can lead the way and coax her out with you. If they’ve got a life jacket then you can gently encourage them along with the handle which is usually found on the top of the jacket.
Is your dog food or ball driven? Now it a great time to bust out their favourite toy or snack! With treats you can let them know you have it and then walk out into the water, slowly coaxing them along. If they have a favourite toy that will float, play with them on the shore with the toy to get them nice and excited about it. Then you can toss the toy in, very shallow at first so they can easily grab it by just walking in to the water. Once they are comfortable with that, you can slowly start throwing the toy farther and farther until they have to swim to get it.
With every baby step, give your dog lots of positive reinforcement. You want to make this as positive of an experience as possible so that your dog will learn to love swimming.
It’s really amazing to be able to bring your dog along to cool down in the water on those hot summer days.