While running and long walks provide great exercise for your dog, swimming is a fantastic activity that is often overlooked by many pet owners. It has a number of key benefits including:

  • All round body conditioning
  • Supports weight loss
  • A gentle form of exercise for older pets or those suffering with joint-related mobility problems
  • Reduces the number of parasites they attract
  • Keeps your dog clean
  • An effective way to cool him down on a hot day

Even if your dog has a fear of water now, it is possible for almost all dogs to learn to love swimming. However, their safety is just as important as ours and so teaching them to swim safely is crucial. Once your dog is confident in the water, hours of fun-filled exercise lies in store!

Before we get to grips with what to do in order to teach your canine companion to swim, it is vital to understand what not to do.

Do not – force your dog into the water if he really doesn’t want to. Do not drag, pull, shove, push or try and trick your dog into the water. This represents a serious breach of the trust you have built between you and may have a negative impact on your entire relationship.

Do not – start your dog off in water that is too deep, or put him in a position where he might fall in accidentally and panic.

So what should you do to help your dog learn to swim?

Do – lead by example. If you stand on the beach/riverbank to avoid getting wet, then your dog will too! You should be prepared to get into the water with your pet to show them that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Do – choose a warm, dry day. This will make the water a more pleasant temperature and help your dog to dry off quickly after.

Do – select a suitable location. You need to find still water (no current or waves) that is relatively warm and has a gradual slope on entering so that your pet can immerse themselves at their own pace and begin to swim when their paws can no longer reach the ground.

Do – ask a friend with a water-confident dog to join you. Again, this helps to lead by example.

Do – reinforce and reward positive behaviour by offering treats and games with his favorite toy.

Swimming Lessons

One of the easiest ways to get your dog to begin swimming is to play a lure game in the water. Enter with him and stand out in the water, just a few feet further than his comfortable standing depth, and then lure him with a treat. This will encourage him to come to you and to do this he will need to swim a few short strokes. Once he has received his treat he can then retrace the couple of strokes back to where he can touch the ground again. How often you need to do this in order for him to gain confidence will vary from dog to dog, and it could take a matter of minutes or months. But once your dog reaches this point you can begin to go deeper into the water to encourage him to swim slightly further each time.

While most dogs do come to enjoy swimming, if it becomes apparent that your four-legged friend really doesn’t take any pleasure in being in the water, then it may be time to give up on swimming and find a new activity for him to enjoy!