Many people assume all dogs know how to swim, but unfortunately, an estimated 5,000 family pets drown annually. Before going on a boating adventure, enjoying a day at the lake, or kicking back by the pool, teaching your dog to swim is vital.
Teaching your canine companion to swim increases their safety around the water and opens the door to more fun activities you can share with your pooch. The most important thing to remember is to stay patient and progress gradually. In other words, don’t toss your pup into the pool and assume instincts will take over.
Some dog breeds love swimming more than others, like Portuguese Water Dogs and Labradors. But it’s best not to assume anything when it comes to water safety. Instead, take the process a step at a time, beginning with a slow and steady introduction to the water.
Tips And Tricks for Teaching Your Dog to Swim
If you dream of spending a day out by the lake with your best furry friend or splashing around in the pool, it’s time for some doggy swimming lessons. Use these tips to ensure your experience goes swimmingly.
1. Use a Dog Life Vest
Wearing a dog life vest can help your pup feel more confident and comfortable in the water. It’s also a must when participating in activities like boating or spending the day at the lake. Find a vest that fits your pup snugly, and look for one with a handle that lets you hold onto your dog. A vest with bright reflective colors also makes it easier to spot your pup in case of an accident.
If you have a large dog, don’t forget to wear a life vest yourself. If your dog gets spooked or panics, they could potentially drag you underwater.
2. Introduce Your Dog to Swimming in the Bathtub or a Kiddie Pool
When starting out, small is best. Introduce your dog to the water in a small setting, like the bathtub. Entice your pup to get in the water using their favorite toy, like the Rolly Cannoli. It floats and features a bright color, so your dog can spot it quickly and won’t lose sight of it in the water.
As soon as your pup puts a paw in the water, praise and reward them with a treat. After your dog is comfortable with the tub, progress to the backyard and try a kiddie pool. Gradually work up to larger bodies of water.
3. Swim in Shallow Water First
When your dog is ready for the pool, start in the shallow water near the steps. Once again, use a ball or toy to guide your dog into the pool. When your pup gets in the water, reward them with a treat. It’s important to keep the whole experience positive.
4. Gradually Expand Your Swimming Environment
As your dog becomes more adept at swimming and splashing in the shallows, you can gradually work your way to deeper water. Hold the life vest as your dog gets used to paddling with all four legs. Once they consistently do it, you can release the jacket so they can swim independently.
5. Don’t Force Your Dog to Swim
If you’ve ever observed a children’s swimming lesson, you may have witnessed what happens if kids don’t want to get into the water. It often includes lots of tears, screaming, kicking, and flailing. Sometimes, parents stop the lesson, and other times, they continue to try and pull their kids into the water. It’s not a pretty picture.
If your pup hesitates to get in the water, that’s one thing. But if they have no interest, physically resist, or don’t want to swim, don’t force them. After all, if it’s not fun for them, it won’t be fun for you.
Some dogs simply aren’t cut out for swimming. They might have trouble staying afloat, issues with breathing, or short legs that wear out after a few seconds of treading water. If this sounds like your pet, consider other summer activities to do with your dog.
Make Sure Your Dog Stays Safe When Swimming
Once your pooch knows how to swim, ensuring your dog swims safely is critical. Remember these essential points anytime you plan to enjoy some water fun with your dog.
Always Watch Your Dog and the Surroundings
- Always Supervise Your Dog Around Water — Even if your pup proves to be a champion swimmer, never leave them unattended around water.
- Stay Aware of Weather Conditions and Water Temperature — Don’t assume because your dog has a built-in fur coat that they can handle freezing cold water. If you aren’t comfortable in the water, your dog won’t be either. Stay aware of the temperature, and if it’s cooler outside, make sure to dry your dog as soon as possible after getting out of the water. Know the signs of dog hypothermia and be ready to act immediately if necessary.
- Scan the Swim Area — Before allowing your dog in any water, scan the area. Make sure nothing dangerous is nearby. Be alert to other people and dogs that are also swimming. If swimming at the beach or a lake, be aware of the water current and keep your dog close and in a life vest. Avoid throwing balls or other toys too far out into the water.
- Show Your Dog the Exit — Make sure your dog knows where and how to exit the swim area. It might be the pool steps, the shallow slope of the lake, etc., but ensure they can get out on their own. Have them practice a few times (keep treats on hand for positive reinforcement).
Keep Your Dog Healthy During and After a Swim
- Provide Plenty of Fresh Drinking Water — Keep a large water bowl nearby so your dog can drink their fill of fresh water. Therefore, they’ll be less tempted to ingest pool water, lake water, etc.
- Keep Swim Time Short — Avoid overly long swim sessions. The longer your dog stays in the water, the more likely they will experience issues. Shorter swims decrease the chances of your pup swallowing too much water, vomiting, or becoming exhausted in the water.
- Protect Your Pup from the Sun — Dogs get sunburn too. Apply a dog-friendly sunscreen to your pup according to the product’s directions anytime you plan to be in the sun. All dogs are prone to sunburn, but pups with light coats, pink noses, or hairless breeds are especially susceptible.
- Rinse Your Dog After a Swim — Following a swim is a perfect time to give your dog a bath. It gets rid of any pool chemicals or other substances that end up on your dog’s coat and skin. Some chemicals also tend to dry out your dog’s skin, so using a hydrating shampoo can help.
It’s Time to Practice Your Doggy Paddle
Taking the time to teach your dog to swim gives you peace of mind, keeps your pal safe, and makes swimming a lot more fun for both of you. Always watch your dog anytime you’re near the water, and use the right products to keep them safe and sound. If your pup isn’t into swimming, don’t force them to do it. Instead, find alternate ways to enjoy each other’s company and soak in the summer sun.
For more exciting ways to spend time with your pet and tips on caring for them, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. Will you take your pup to the pool this summer? Tell us — is your dog an avid swimmer, or do they prefer to lounge by the pool with some doggy ice cream? Both sound like fun to us!