Teaching Your Dog To Swim

Teaching Your Dog To Swim

Swimming is an excellent way to cool off your dog on a hot day, it’s great exercise, but more importantly it’s FUN!  However if your dog does not naturally like the water, it can be a very stressful experience for them.  Just like with any interaction with your dog, teaching a dog to swim all comes back to communication and training.

You want to make sure your dog has a pleasant experience with water.  If your dog seems overly nervous by nearby dogs or excessive distractions, it may be beneficial for first introductions to be done in a calm surrounding.  When first introducing a young pup or older dog to the water, there are a couple of things that you want to make sure to do:

  • Find a pond or calm lake that has a shallow gradual entry
  • Make sure the water is warm
  • If possible, get in the water with them
  • Motivate your dog (throw a toy, have them chase another dog, etc.)

As they start to get more comfortable being in the water, there are some tools that may be helpful.  A doggie life jacket helps if the dog panics or only kicks his front legs, and they usually have a handle on the back so you can help stabilize the dog.  A long leash will help guide the dog into and out of the water, and also prevent them from trying to escape from the training session.  You can use basic obedience commands like come or here to direct the dog and give them important information.

At the same time, there are several things that you want to avoid when getting your dog comfortable in the water.

  • Do not throw your dog into the water and see what happens
  • Don’t force or push them too soon
  • Don’t expect them to jump off of a ledge or dock in the beginning

Do not expect your dog to actually swim right away.  Having you dog’s feet in the water and having the water come up to your dog’s chest may be a big accomplishment in the beginning, the rest will come with time.

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  • Melissa
    Posted at 13:53h, 10 June

    thanks for this great post! I’m trying to teach my Manchester Terrier to swim and enjoy the water..I’ve got some friends that compete in DockDogs, and it looks like fun..but Simba is like a cat around water!!


  • pgsulins
    Posted at 14:01h, 10 June

    Just remember to go slow look for small signs of progress; don’t rush it! My brother has 2 Manchester Terriers, they can be a lot of fun. Dock Dogs is a great sport, some of those dogs are INCREDIBLE athletes. Good luck with Simba, please let me know if we can help in any way.

  • Justin
    Posted at 20:12h, 17 June

    How in the world did you teach your dogs to swim underwater like that? I wish my lab did that, how did you do it?