Does your dog shy away from the water? Don’t fret – there are things you can do to get them safely confident in the water and have your very own water puppy!
Although many dogs are confident swimmers, there are many pooches out there scared of water – whether that be a large body of it or just the bath! This could be down to their breed, a negative past experience, a nervous temperament or simply because they’ve never seen it before.
Below, experts at Canine Cottages have compiled five top tips to get your puppy to the water, plus safety advice for swimming outside this summertime.
1. Start Them Early (If You Can!)
If you have a new puppy, then try to get them used to the water as soon as possible. In dogs, 5-12 weeks is a critical socialisation period, and they are more likely to accept new experiences (including water) and not be scared of them during this time.
So to familiarise your puppy with water we recommend a few techniques:
- Bathe your pup
- Have them splash around in a paddling pool in the garden
- Take them to a dog-friendly beach or lake (when they have their vaccines)
If you don’t live near the coast or a lake, on your walk a stream or a river is a great alternative! Just make sure it is not a deep or fast-flowing river for your pup’s safety.
2. Spend Time Near The Water To Gain Confidence
One of the best ways to build up your dog’s confidence in the water is to spend as much time together near it as you can. Spend time playing by the waterline at the beach or lake to help them get used to it, or walk your dog on an extendable lead and encourage them to walk in the water, knowing you are right there to pull them back if needed. You could also throw a toy or ball into the shallow water and encourage your pooch to retrieve it. Just remember to stay at the distance your dog is comfortable with, and don’t push them too hard.
3. Teach Your Dog To Swim
Many owners think dogs will take to water and be able to swim straight away, but this isn’t always the case.
Most dogs have the natural ability to paddle and swim around in the water, but for those who don’t, it’s important to teach them to swim.
How to teach your dog to swim
Dogs have an instinct to swim with only their front legs. Using all four legs gives them the ability to be stronger swimmers.
Here is how to teach your dog to swim:
- Purchase a harness with a handle on the back, like a K9 Harness.
- Get a swimming pool which is deep enough for them to swim in.
- Fit the harness on your dog.
- Get in the water with your dog and hold the harness.
- Encourage them to swim in a circle or back and forth with you holding the harness.
- Only allow them to swim for short bursts until they build stamina.
- If they look scared or start to panic get them out of the water and try a few days later.
- Once you see they are using all four legs underwater you can let them swim alone with supervision.
Swimming is an incredible exercise for many dogs. It can also be used for dogs with joint issues to build muscle evenly. Also, consider a dog buoyancy aid or a life vest, especially if they are swimming in the sea.
4. Reward Your Pooch’s Hard Work
Positive reinforcement is a great way of encouraging your dog to be safe and confident in the water. Alongside plenty of verbal praise and pats, give your dog a treat every time they face their fears and go into the water. This will help encourage them to go in time and time again, knowing there’s a tasty treat on the other side!
As always, practice makes perfect! It’s important to remember that building your dog’s confidence in water will take time. It could take weeks, months or even years to get your dog confident in the water and it really does vary from dog to dog. Don’t push them if they are noticeably scared and encourage and reward them as much you can. You’ll be sure to have a water baby on your hands in no time at all!
Dog Water Safety Tips
And if you’re heading out with your puppy in open water this summer, remember these crucial safety tips:
- Never take your dog swimming in a stagnant body of water, such as a canal.
- Ensure your dog doesn’t get too cold in the water. Look out for key warning signs such as shaking or shivering, and don’t swim on a particularly cold day.
- Avoid reservoirs, fast-flowing rivers and rough seas.
- Be alert of strong currents – check warnings before swimming in open water.
- Check beach flags for warnings before swimming in the sea.
- Sea water can make dogs sick so bring fresh water with you to the beach.
- Be wary of uneven surfaces/rocks in open water which could hurt your dog.
Commenting, Shannon Keary, Digital PR Manager at Canine Cottages says: “It is surprising to many dog owners that their pooch may not naturally be able to swim, and it’s important to take the appropriate steps to ensure your dog is safe and confident in any body of water before going in.
“During the summer months especially, many owners will take their dogs to a beach, lake or river, and will want their furry friend to cool off, but it’s so important to know the risks beforehand. We hope these water confidence tips will help dog owners get their pooch safe in the water for this summer and beyond!”
Bringing your dog to the beach? Be sure to check out this helpful dog beach checklist here for more advice on all you’ll need to pack.