Most dogs love to swim but some need a little encouragement to get in the water in the beginning. New experiences with unfamiliar smells and sounds can make dogs wary, so it pays to make a gradual introduction. The easiest and kindest way to get your dog into the kiddie pool, whether for playtime or bathtime, is to do it in stages. Introduced in stages, your dog is comfortable with all elements of the pool, from the smell to the wetness.
Introduction to the Pool
Fill the pool, and sit next to it with a treat in your hand. Call Lucky over to you, and let him get a scent of the treat.
Move the treat so Lucky has to get close to the kiddie pool to receive it. Once he takes the treat, give him a little fuss and praise. All experiences near the pool must be positive; this helps remove any underlying fear or anxiety.
Repeat this process three or four times during the day. Eventually Lucky will begin to like being around the pool, because he loves getting his treat.
Introduction to the Water
Sit next to the pool with a treat and call Lucky over. This time, dip your free hand in the water and then pet Lucky before releasing the treat. Don’t splash him. It’s probable that the reason Lucky doesn’t want to go in the pool is because he got splashed in the past, and it startled him.
Praise Lucky when you release the treat. If Lucky wanders off when he gets his treat, that’s fine too. This process may take a long time, depending on how unwilling the dog is to go into the pool. The desensitization process you’re using is a gradual one.
Repeat this process three or four more times. Eventually, Lucky will become comfortable with being close to the pool and with getting a little wet.
Encouraging Lucky into the Water
Put a selection of Lucky’s favorite toys in the pool. Call him over and use the treat as a lure to get him close to the pool.
Take the toy from the water and give it to Lucky. Play with him a little, and get him excited. This is called counter-conditioning. You're taking a possible fear stimulus and making it positive.
Throw the toy back into the water. Lucky will probably not dive straight in, but he’ll begin to work out that the pool is where the fun is.
Repeat this process a few more times. If Lucky dives in, give him lots of fuss and praise. But don’t despair if he doesn’t.
Move the pool to a corner, and position yourself on the other side. If you don’t want to move the pool, use garden furniture block yourself in on the other side of the pool. Make it so the only way Lucky can get to you is by going through the pool.
Call him over, and hold the toys and treats near to the water on your side of the pool. It may take a while, but with sufficient repetition, even the most reluctant dog will eventually get in the water.
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Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.