Whether you want your pup to take a swim in the lake with you or you'd rather him not face a bath nervously, helping him enjoy water starts in puppyhood. You'll need handfuls of positivity, a pinch of patience and a good understanding of your pup's comfort level.
If they could talk, every pint-sized furball would tell you treats are the best thing ever. Pair the best thing ever with something you want your puppy to think of as positive and you can see how treats and other forms of positive reinforcement play a vital role in molding a youngster's response to water. Anytime he reacts positively to water, he gets a treat. If he sticks his inquisitive nose into a creek, he gets a treat. If he curiously touches a ripple, he gets a treat. You can start phasing out treats and constant praise when his behavior starts becoming more typical, but always positively reinforce any new positive encounters he has with water. Don't positively reinforce negative reactions.
Water can be a frightening thing for puppies. It feels weird, sounds strange and looks peculiar when compared to solid ground. Start off slow. Don't turn on your faucets at full blast and expect him to be overjoyed with stepping into the tub, or react positively to a lake where jet skis are making all sorts noise. Let him first experience water dripping slowly out of the faucets, a calm, shallow creek he can investigate or a corner of the lake that has no traffic. Just don't overwhelm him.
Socialization is a window of time where the curtains draw quickly, and it's exceptionally difficult to open them back up. Your puppy's perception of situations, people and things mostly will be decided by 18 weeks of age, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If he hasn't learned that water is awesome and exciting by that time, your job just got a whole lot more difficult. Put him in situations where he encounters water daily. You don't have to bathe him -- and you shouldn't -- every day, but turning on your faucets, walking him by the creek or taking a short trek in the rain each day, or multiple times a day, helps tremendously. Don't settle for a once weekly water indoctrination, because you don't have time to take it that slow.
Helping your pal realize that baths are enjoyable is good, but that won't make him less weary of stepping into a stream. Waltzing through a stream doesn't prepare him for the different look and depth of a lake. Introduce your puppy to as many different bodies of water as you can, providing they're safe for him to check out.
One of the fastest ways to make your pup terrified of water is by forcing him into it. If he's hesitant to step into a creek, give him time, don't yank him in. If he clearly doesn't want to go in the bath, go back a step and take it slower. Making him do something he doesn't want to will reinforce his fear.
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