Because we live on the water, it’s vital that our dog Honey knows how to swim. But even if you don’t live on a boat, knowing your dog can swim is important for summer safety. Here are a few tips on how to teach your dog to swim.
Teaching Our Dog To Swim
When Honey was a puppy, we couldn’t wait to get her into the water. After all, golden retrievers love to swim, right?
Apparently Honey doesn’t know she’s a golden retriever because it’s not her favorite activity. But we know she can swim, even if she chooses not to. Here are my best tips based on what we did wrong and what we did right teaching Honey how to swim.
How to Teach Your Dog to Swim
- Start Early
When you’re training a puppy, it’s never too early to have new fun adventures.
Honey was born in January. She had her first swimming lesson in May. If we had lived anywhere south of upstate New York, I would have gotten her in the water even earlier.
- But Not Too Early
You want early swimming lessons to be pleasant–for everyone.
Our favorite swimming holes in northern NY had summer temperatures in the low 50s (around 10 celsius). I wonder if Honey would have taken to swimming more if I had been less reluctant to get into the cold water with her?
- Start Out Easy
If you want to teach your dog to swim, don’t start at the ocean. Start in a placid pond or pool. With an easy way to get in or out. And that is at least 75 degrees (23 celsius – see tip #2).
Sure, we’ve all seen dogs go rushing through the breakers to chase their favorite ball. But they probably didn’t start out that way on their first lesson.
- Keep It Fun
Do everything you can to make your dog’s swimming lessons fun. And if he looks like he isn’t having fun, stop. Come back another day and take a few more baby steps.
Play tug in the shallows. Toss a ball into slightly deeper water as your dog gains confidence. See if your dog will chase a floating toy filled with treats.
- Use A Life Jacket
Some lean dogs don’t float naturally. But even an athletic dog with just the right amount of fat can get tired. That’s why, as long as you’re teaching your dog to swim, you should get him or her used to wearing a life jacket.
You’ll definitely want one if you take your dog on a kayak or a stand-up paddle board.
Get A Life Jacket For Your Dog
Unless conditions are very placid and it’s extremely hot, Honey always wears a life jacket underway.
But we’ve also found that she enjoys wading in the water wearing her life jacket. And seems more relaxed when she feels her feet start to float up in the deep water as she starts paddling.
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Finding the right life jacket for your dog can be as difficult as buying a bikini that fits and won’t fall off in the water or give you wonky tan lines.
You’ll want a jacket that is comfortable to move in has good flotation under the neck to keep your dog’s head in an upright position. Honey currently wears a Kurgo Surf N Turf Dog Life Jacket (Amazon). But another excellent choice is the Ruffwear – K-9 Float Coat (Amazon).
You’ll never appreciate a dog live jacket more until your dog falls in the drink and you’re able to scoop her out using that nifty handle on the back of her life jacket.
If you’re still not convinced, check out my 10 Reasons Every Dog Needs a Life Jacket.
How My Dog Learned To Swim
Honey resisted swimming for a long time.
When she felt her feet floating off the ground as the water got deeper, she paddled a few strokes to turn herself back to shore and felt for the bottom until she reached solid ground. Luckily, we let her choose when she wanted to swim.
Now when I go swimming, she’ll come out to me and swim around me in circles. But she’s more likely to wade up to her chest to cool off and then return to shore.
I don’t mind that she doesn’t love swimming. After all, we don’t want her leaping off the boat any old time as we’ve heard is a problem some boat cruisers face.
But we need to know that if something happened and she found herself in the water unexpectedly, Honey wouldn’t panic and that she’d be paddle until she was rescued or found safety.
And that leads to the one reason EVERYONE should teach their dog to swim.
The One Reason You Should Teach Your Dog To Swim
Maybe just reading about our life on a sailboat makes you seasick. Perhaps you find the idea of kayaking or canoeing with your dog a little less fun than tying your nose hairs to the back of a bus as it pulls away from the curb. And since you live in a landlocked state and hate water sports, there is no reason to teach your dog to swim.
Wrong! Do you ever go hiking? What would you do if your dog tumbled into a fast-moving creek or river while chasing a critter?
Will you ever stay in a dog-friendly hotel with a nearby swimming pool? And can you be sure you’ll never live somewhere affected by severe flooding? When the water is rising on the banks of the Mississippi, it’s too late to start swimming lessons.
So take a step toward summer safety by teaching your dog to swim. You can relax knowing your dog will be safer in situations near water. And who knows? Maybe you’ll both find you love the water even more than you thought.
We are pleased to be joining the Positive Pet Training blog hop hosted by Wag ‘N Woof Pets, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Travels with Barley. Thanks for hosting the hop on the topic of Summer Safety.