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How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

How to teach your dog to swim - Metropawlitan Dog Training Inc.

Summertime is upon us and one of our favourite activities to do with our dogs is to take them out for a swim.

While not all dogs love the water, if you're keen on having your dog enjoy the water with you, here are a few tips you can use to learn how to teach your dog to swim.

Use Their Favourite Toy Or Treats

how to teach your dog to swim - favourite toy

Teaching your dog or puppy to associate the water with something they already find pleasant, like food or their favourite toy can be a great way to teach them to be comfortable here. While the common advice is to use the food to lure your pup to the water, I've found that while it may teach your pup to eat in the water, it doesn't always mean that it will teach him to love being in it.

Instead, feed him near the water without having him go in. Teach him some food chasing games near it first. When we play with our dogs, we activate a dopamine release in their brain. They learn to associate that being near the body of water is a good and fun place to be. The same can be done if your dog loves toys. Teach your pup to play near (but not in) the water) in the beginning.

As your pup gets comfortable and really gets into the play, gradually play closer and closer to the water's edge. If he's unsure, reward him at his closest comfortable distance with brief play before moving back to drier land. Remember that his biggest motivator when he's uncomfortable is to create physical distance between himself and the source of his discomfort - not necessarily your food or toy. Give him the mental break he needs in between his approaches in the water.

Patience is key here. It's often better to take a few sessions to build their confidence rather than trying to rush the entire process all in one day. Over time, you'll notice that he'll learn to be more comfortable in staying in or closer to the water on his own.

Take Advantage of the Beach To Teach Your Dog To Swim

how to teach your dog to swim - use the beach

Pushing your dog off the deck to teach him to swim, it would be like yelling at me not to be afraid of a bee and then throwing one right in my face. Not only would that not help my fear of bees - it would make it worse. The same can be said of your dog as well. Instead, try a more gradual approach where he can dip his toe into it (literally) before diving right in.

Start at the shallowest end where it might be just enough to get the pads of his feet wet. As he gains more confidence out here, you can gradually have him come with you into deeper and deeper water. If your dog sees you go into the deeper water, it can be a source of comfort for him to learn that it's something you're doing together. When you lead him into it, you teach him that nothing bad is happening when you're in the water, and therefore nothing bad will happen to him either.

Support Your Dog As They Get Out Deeper

how to teach your dog to swim - support their undercarriage

Once your dog gets to the point where he can no longer touch the ground, he will need to learn to doggie paddle. But for many dogs, this isn't as common sense as it looks. Some of them may flail and panic at first. To help them past this panic, stand beside them and support their weight with just a hand under their undercarriage to help them float. You can use your other hand to guide them (with food or by holding the collar) and showing them where to go.

When your dog is paddling in a calm rhythm, you can slowly lessen the pressure supporting his undercarriage and allow him to float more and more on his own.

But take all this as a gradual process. This may be a series of sessions in the water before you get to this point. Not all dogs are natural swimmers so please take all the time you need to teach him to swim comfortably here before you have him off swimming fully on his own.

Don't forget that you can also invest in a doggy life jacket to help your dog get comfortable with the concept of floating and swimming too.

Enjoy the Process

how to tech your dog to swim - enjoy the process

Most of all, enjoy the process of sharing this fun experience with your dog! Don't be in a rush to push them in before they're ready. It will be well worth the time you put in to teach your dog to love swimming with you!

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