What kind of crazy person would move onto a boat with a golden retriever who doesn’t swim?
You’ve been asking yourself that, right?
Hopefully yesterday’s brief, shaky video evidence has reassured you that we’re not planning to drown Honey.
Do All Golden Retrievers Swim
Since we’ve lived with Honey, I’ve discovered many golden retrievers don’t like to swim.
For every two or three we see leaping into the waves to chase a ball, we find at least one (besides Honey) who just likes wading close to shore.
Ever since discovering Honey’s reluctance to swim, I’ve questioned every person with a golden retriever about their dog’s swimming habits. My totally unscientific poll finds that probably three-quarters of golden retrievers enjoy swimming while the remainder can swim but choose not to.
Usually they prefer to not get any fur wet above their bellies.
The most encouraging thing I’ve learned, however, has been that some golden retrievers come to swimming later in life.
I’ve heard more than one person tell me about their dog who would not swim as a puppy. But amazingly, at four, five, or six years old, they suddenly decided to swim.
That was my hope for Honey.
Honey Doesn’t Know She’s A Golden Retriever
I’d joke with people that Honey didn’t swim because she didn’t know she was a golden retriever.
In truth, she probably thinks she’s human. Or one particular human: me.
I love swimming. If I could, I’d live in the water.
But I get cold very easily.
Even in the warm Caribbean Sea, I’d have to keep moving or come out shivering.
So I was a terrible person to teach Honey how to swim in the frigid waters of our home in New York’s Finger Lakes.
Even at the height of summer, I’ve swam in waters in the low 50s F (12-13 C). As you can imagine, it was pretty tough for me to sell Honey on how much fun it is to swim.
The other problem was the bottom surface of our local swimming area.
We’d take Honey to the foot of the Ithaca Falls where the bottom was covered with large, unsteady rocks covered in slippery slime. Feeling the movement of rocks under her feet made Honey even less sure about swimming.
We knew she could swim because occasionally a rock would shift under her feet and send her scrambling into a dog paddle. But she’d only swim far enough to return to dry land where she’d turn around and give me a look that I swear said, “You think you’ll get me to swim but I have other ideas.”
I held out hope that someday we’d find the perfect conditions to teach Honey to enjoy swimming. And farther south we seem to have found them.
The Perfect Place To Swim
Last Sunday we took the day off from boat shopping to have some fun. We took Honey to Fenwick Island State Park in Delaware where dogs are allowed on beaches without life guards.
Conditions were perfect.
Our beach was on the Assawoman Bay, which was very shallow. On a hot summer day, the water was warm. Bath water warm.
And the bottom was a sandy mud.
When Mike and I waded out into the warm water, Honey had no problem following us. And when it got too deep for her to walk, she’d swim a few strokes.
No big deal. It was exactly what I’ve always wanted to see.
The Right Amount Of Swimming
I would never move Honey aboard a boat if she couldn’t swim.
I’ve always known that when she needs to, Honey will swim.
But I’m also glad she’s not one of those crazy, water-loving dogs. Because those are the dogs jumping off boats at mooring balls and getting lost.
My hope for Honey is that swimming can be a way for us all to get exercise together. And that she’ll have the skills she needs in an emergency to keep herself a float. But that she doesn’t love swimming more than she loves being with us so that she’s always jumping off the boat and swimming away.
We all have a lot to learn to transition to life afloat. I’m relieved that Honey has taken steps toward swimming.
And if my five-year old golden retriever can start swimming, maybe I don’t have to worry so much about all the things I need to learn myself.
Your Turn: Are your dogs swimmers? And did you have to teach them or did they teach themselves?