Swimming is not only fun, but it's a great way to introduce another form of exercise for puppies. In addition to proper training, you must take precautionary measures before teaching your pup to swim in a pool. Most important of all, understand that some puppies take to swimming like a fish, while others are simply not interested.
The puppy should already obey the basic commands of come, sit and stay. This allows you to teach her not to enter the pool area without you, which would increase the potential for accidents. Additionally, restrict access to the pool with fencing or do not allow the pup alone outside. Though every puppy should be given a chance to learn to swim, be mindful of lightweight pups or breeds with short legs who may lack the ability to sustain the doggie paddle. No matter the size, purchase a doggie flotation vest for your puppy to wear when learning to swim.
Children's pools are fine to introduce a puppy to water. However, the plastic material will not last against scraping puppy nails, making it less than ideal for long-term use. The liners of above-ground pools can quickly become ruined if a panicked puppy is unable to exit. In-ground pools with steps help dogs of all sizes slowly adjust to swimming at various depths. Some will eventually learn to use the ladder, though it is best to start in shallow waters.
Never throw a puppy into a pool expecting her to take to it naturally. This is dangerous for the pup and she will learn to fear the water. It's best if you are in the pool with an enticing toy or treat and the puppy is leashed to prevent her from running away. Praise the puppy when she enters the water, but otherwise keep the area quiet and calm. Remain patient, allowing her to step in and out of the shallow water as many times as she needs to feel safe. Support the pup under her belly when exploring deeper waters to encourage her to paddle using all four legs. Some dogs will only use the front two legs, which can lead to fatigue.
Return the pup to the steps in shallow waters every once in a while so she knows where to go to stand and take a break. This is especially important if, at any time, your puppy begins to panic. Help mark the exit area with a large object, such as a potted plant, that is easy to spot from all areas of the pool. Always end lessons with praise and treats.
As a canine's ears, eyes and nose are more sensitive to chlorine than a human's, it's important to rinse your puppy off with non-chlorinated water after every swim. You may also switch to bromine, a non-chlorine chemical. Provide clean drinking water nearby and allow her to drink from only this as opposed to lapping up pool water. Towel dry your pup's ears after rinsing as dampness can cause ear infections, especially in puppies with floppy ears.
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.