Teaching a Golden Retriever to Swim

What do you mean, "Come?"

Our recent vacation was a perfect chance for Honey to release her inner water dog–to swim far and free. Did she do it? Not so much.

On our first walk to the seaside I feared Honey would find the crashing breakers overwhelming. Nope, the smell of shellfish buried in the sand overcame any notice of the water. Honey didn’t fuss about getting her feet wet but water wasn’t what fascinated her.

For our next attempt, we found a secluded beach off the harbor with very still (and warm) water. Honey walked into the water with us until her chest got wet but showed no interest in following us (or her favorite toy) any deeper.

We tried to keep our time at the water low key. We played catch and fetch, splashed in the water, and gave lots of yummy treats.

We made several trips to quiet, sandy beaches but no swimming. We hoped a big, friendly dog might come by to show her how it’s done but no luck. I think that will be the key.

In conversations with other dog guardians, we heard of Cairn terriers that loved the water and labs that hated it. It became quickly obvious that each dog is unique (imagine that!) and swims (or doesn’t) in her own time.

Hmmmm! Tastes like chicken.

While looking for inspiration, I found two very different videos: a 7 week old golden that appeared to be born to the water and a 5 month golden that needed a life jacket and spa treatment to take the plunge.

We’ll keep looking for a friendly dog to coax Honey into the water. And we’ll try not to feel too jealous that we aren’t interesting enough to compel her to follow us into the water.

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  1. The buddy system has worked for me occasionally. If they are pals and play together before they get to the beach then the reluctant one will sometimes follow the other one in. I actually have an English Bulldog who likes to swim and they are notorious for sinking. I keep a very close eye on him.