Summer Swimmers

Dog Days of Summer are here and it’s extremely important to be mindful of the safety and comfort of our canine companions.

Did you know that most dogs DON’T instinctively know how to swim?

We love to watch videos of dogs having a blast while playing in all types of water, i.e. pools, lakes, streams, etc. They’re having the time of their lives while swimming around to cool off or playing with other dogs and people. What most people don’t realize is that most dogs don’t know how to swim, regardless of their breed, and it’s a learned skill that can save their lives.

Like children, puppies can be fearless when exploring new places and many times will hop into a pool without realizing the potential danger that lies ahead. I’ve heard many people say, “they’re dogs, let them figure it out as they’re born swimmers! Not on my watch!!!

Why not take advantage of a teaching opportunity and help guide the puppy to the steps so it can get out safely? That way the puppy will learn how to get out of the pool safely on their own after a few “training sessions.” Otherwise, you could end up with a puppy/dog that becomes panicked and frantically splashes around without knowing what to do. That negative experience can become a last memory that makes them fearful of water!

If your dog is unsure or fearful of the water, try taking baby steps to help them learn to become comfortable and confident swimmers. We suggest getting in the water with them which encourages them to trust you. Attach a long leash to your dog’s collar as in “insurance policy,” making sure the leash does not get tangled with their legs. When your dog feels comfortable enough to follow you in shallow water, reward profusely with praise and a few yummy treats.

Let them get out of the water at any time as the goal is to make this learning process a positive experience so they’ll want to get back into the water for longer periods of time. Once the dog builds its confidence, they will eventually venture out into deeper water, but their back end may look like it’s sinking. It is, as the dog doesn’t quite know how to use their back legs to swim and maintain a level body profile. The proficiency of that skill improves, along with your dog’s confidence, through your positive leadership.

It may take a few outings for your dog to become an expert swimmer, or it may take months. Every dog is different and learns at their own pace and some dogs will decide swimming is not for them, which is absolutely fine! We love them for who they are and how they enrich our lives. I have had many Labs during my lifetime and only ONE truly loved to swim. Just like people, one size does not fit all, so please be patient and help your puppy/dog become the best they can be!