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.
Swimming Tip #1 – Start Early
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. We worked hard to socialize Honey to a lot of experiences while she was young. Along with car rides, crowds, and loud noises, I wish I could have exposed her to swimming. When you’re training a puppy, it’s never too early to have new fun adventures.
Swimming Tip #2 – But Not Too Early
Unfortunately, our favorite swimming holes in Ithaca were freaking cold. All. Year. Long. The state parks used to post the water temperatures near swimming areas. I remember temps in the low 50s (around 10 celsius) in the middle of August! I hate the cold. So I really had to steel myself to get into the water with Honey.
I wonder today how much of Honey’s reluctance to swim comes from her seeing my own hesitation to get into the cold water? If I had waited for a warmer setting, perhaps Honey would be a swimming fool.
Swimming Tip #3 – Start Out Easy
Honey and I visit the beach every chance we get. We see plenty of dogs who live to swim. Their person tosses a ball into the surf and the dog goes leaping over the breakers and swims out to retrieve it.
But we also see plenty of dogs who look startled by the crazy moving water. And unfortunately, many of them get pulled by their people into the rolling surf that is totally freaking them out.
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).
Swimming Tip #4 – 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.
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.
Yep, you’ll find links below where I’ll earn a few cents if you buy something after clicking them. Your item won’t cost you more. But you will be supporting this blog. So thank you.
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. But another excellent choice is the Ruffwear – K-9 Float Coat.
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.
Swimming Tip #5 – Keep It Fun
I’ve met a few humans who hate swimming. Nearly all of them “learned” to swim when someone tossed them unexpectedly into the deep end of the swimming pool. Not cool. It’s even worse to do it to a dog or puppy who can’t spend years in therapy getting over the trauma of having someone they trusted trying to drown them.
Include your dog’s favorite toy in the swimming lesson. 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.
You want to 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.
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.
Positive Pet Training Blog Hop
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.