Most dogs become overly-nervous at the sight of large bodies of water, including pools, lakes, and the ocean. While it is a popular belief that dogs know how to swim by instinct, some dogs, such as the bulldog, aren’t born as natural swimmers due to their body structures. If you happen to live near a lake or an ocean, it would be a good idea to teach your dog how to swim from a young age to encourage him to enjoy the water with you whenever you go.
Before teaching your dog how to swim, you should be aware of the things you should never do: mainly, never try to throw your dog into the water and expect him to simply begin swimming. This will not only lead to your dog distrusting you, but it will most likely scar him for life or a long time, discouraging him to ever swim again and become fearful of water. Secondly, don’t assume you can just leave your dog unattended while swimming even if he seems to be a natural at it – you never know what could happen.
Begin teaching your dog how to swim in a shallow area. whether that is at the shallow end of the pool or near the shore at the ocean. If there is too much noise and activity going on from fellow swimmers, look for a quieter area as this could be nerve-wrecking for your unexperienced pet. Also, attempt to keep your dog leashed in the beginning stages of swimming in case he goes out too far and panics. Do not unleash your dog until you feel confident he can swim by himself and keeps returning to you rather than experiencing out waters by himself.
Put on a flotation device on your dog, attach his leach, and begin walking slowly into the way until his paws and legs get wet. Let him get used to the wet feeling on his legs before walking any further. If he seems to be reluctant or nervous, try bringing in his favorite treats or toys as an encouragement to follow you. Try to praise him as he gets in a bit further in and use positive tones of voice to reassure your dog what he is doing is a good thing.
Gradually step in further to deeper water levels until your pet begins using his legs to paddle. If your dog only uses his front legs to paddle, rest your arm under his belly to keep him afloat and encourage him to use all four legs to paddle. Using only his front legs to paddle will lead to becoming tiresome a lot quicker than if he gets used to swimming on all fours. If at any point throughout the swimming lesson your dog seems heavily uncomfortable or nervous, get him back in the shallow end and attempt again only when he seems comfortable once again. Do not pressure him into it if your dog doesn’t seem at ease – this will only lead to him becoming averse to the water.
Take your time to show your dog how to safely exit, whether that is the pool stairs or through the ocean’s shore. Lastly, wash your dog’s coat with fresh water to wash out all chemicals or toxic residuals from chlorine. Praise your dog after the swimming lesson and give him his favorite treat to help him associate swimming with fun times with his owner.