How to Train Your Dog for the Water

by Naomi Millburn
    Akitas are usually proficient canine swimmers.

    Akitas are usually proficient canine swimmers.

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    Many canines enjoy swimming, and the aquatic activity is sometimes an innate skill for them. That isn't the case with all canines, however. If you're an outdoorsy type and want your dog's company for your lakeside excursions, training your dog to be comfy in the water is a terrific idea. Play it safe and make sure your pet is always sporting a canine life vest.

    Walk to a shallow part of the water where you can stand comfortably alongside your dog. Once you start moving into a part of the water with more depth, carefully prop up your pooch's belly to help him understand that paddling can encourage flotation. You can also prop up his rear end as you do this. It is crucial to never, ever put your dog in the water on his own. Always closely monitor your dog's water activities, period.
    Remember to always scout out a calm, quiet swimming area without too much traffic or noise. You don't want to terrify your poor pooch amidst all of the newness, after all.

    Pay close attention to your pet's paddling technique. If it seems like he's relying solely on his front limbs, elevate his back legs using your hands. Doing this might help the furry guy realize that he needs to use all of his legs in order to paddle properly. This usually "clicks" in dogs pretty swiftly.

    Don't expect too much from your doggie on his first swimming effort. He might get exhausted quickly, as swimming calls for moving a lot of different muscles around. Keep his swimming lessons brief, and always help him find his way out of the water. If you're in a swimming pool with him, demonstrate for him how to exit via the ladder. Upon your dog's exit, clean him down with water. Make sure to diligently eliminate algae, chlorine or anything else that might be lingering on his body. Also make sure there isn't any water in his ears. Wetness in the ears often leads to canine ear infections.
    Congratulate your pet for a successful first swimming lesson by offering him a yummy doggie snack, stroking his back gently and giving him plentiful happy vocal praise.

    If you're uncertain about starting your doggie off with actual swimming lessons, think about getting him acquainted with water first. Lightly misting your dog's body down using water might just do the trick. Allowing him to stand in a small kiddie pool for a few minutes might also be helpful.

    Stop your thirsty doggie from trying to drink water from inside of a pool or body of water by making sure he's well hydrated beforehand. Keep lots of fresh and clean drinking water easily accessible to your pet.

    Swimming is not necessarily suitable for all dogs. English water spaniels, as their breed name indicates, are usually masters in the water, but that just isn't so for all canines. Pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers, for example, often are totally unable to swim. Also note that some dogs might be able to learn to swim fine, but still be susceptible to potentially harmful chilling, such as Maltese cuties. Certain dogs, regardless of breed, also can be extremely apprehensive about the water. Do not make your dog swim if he has an aversion to it, and always talk to a veterinarian before determining whether to train your pet to be in the water.

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    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

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