Splish, Splash! Six Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Your Dog to Swim

by | Dog Health

For many of us, watching our dogs play in the water is nothing short of wonderful! Splashing, wading, leaping, retrieving, diving–it’s just all good fun. Spending a warm afternoon at the beach, lake, stream or pool is a perfect day for many owners and dogs. In addition, water is a healer. Older dogs, those with injuries, and dogs suffering from arthritis can benefit from hydrotherapy, including swimming or underwater treadmills. But none of this is possible if your dog hates or refuses to swim. So let’s get started teaching your dog to swim!

Every dog can learn to swim enough to stay afloat for a short time, even if he never loves it. I’ve taught hundreds of dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds to swim. After working with hundreds of owners and dogs, here are the SIX biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make trying to get their dog to swim.

Keep reading to get for our FREE ebook Splish, Splash! How to Teach Your Dog to Swim and let’s get started teaching your dog to swim!

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Six Biggest Mistakes When Teaching Your Dog To Swim

6. Getting emotionally embedded in their dog’s swimming.

We cannot hide our emotions from dogs so our dogs know if they have disappointed or frustrated us. Even if a dog has “retriever” or “water dog” in its breed, he may not like the water. Our negative emotions put pressure on the dog, making things worse and causing the dog to be even more uncomfortable around the water. And if we get angry, our dogs become even slower and hesitant. So stay upbeat, while you teach your dog!

5. Giving the teaching process too little time.

Some people expect their dog will swim the first or second time out but just as with people, most dogs require a while to get comfortable around water before they start swimming. Get in the water and walk parallel to shore so your dog enjoys playing, paddling and wading before you ask him to swim.

4. Staying on the shore or dock while trying to convince the dog to swim.

If the owner won’t even wade, it is unlikely the dog will feel safe enough to swim because it means leaving his owner. I have no doubt that as we stand on dry land doing crazy antics to get them into the water, our dogs are wondering that if swimming is such a good deal, why are we staying on shore?


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3. Picking an unsafe place to let their dog swim.

Swimming with your dog is fun but only if the water and environment is safe for both of you. Polluted or scummy water and unsafe bottoms with glass or fishhooks can ruin your day and your dog’s enjoyment swimming. Blue-green algae is a risk whenever you see pond scum. Pick clean, running water that you know isn’t polluted with a clear bottom and shoreline. For more on blue-green algae, go here.

2. Yelling at, screaming or scolding their dog when he shakes or jumps on them after he came out of the water.

Dogs are often overly excited when they finally swim. They rush to their people to share their excitement and get yelled at or worse yet, punished. Although we want our dogs to be polite when wet, there is a time to teach a dog how to behave around water and it is not the first few time he swims.

And the Number 1 mistake to avoid when teaching your dog to swim is:

1. Throwing, shoving, dragging or pushing him into the water.

This is nothing but a dirty trick that can terrify dogs AND make them distrustful of their owner and water. This is particularly important where the dog cannot easily get out of the water, such as most pools, docks and boats. Only bullies push dogs into the water!


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