How to Teach a Dog to Swim?

How to Teach a Dog to Swim?

Author WDF Staff


Some dogs love water and can’t resist taking a dip anytime they are close to a pond. Breeds like Golden Retrievers or Labradors are natural swimmers. Still, some dogs will do anything they can to stay dry and away from water. If you have a non-swimmer dog, you might have wondered, “How to teach a dog to swim?” The good news is - it is possible. Here is how you teach a dog to swim.

Why do dogs need to learn to swim?

Learning how to swim might not be necessary for all dogs. Still, it is something dogs should know for their safety, especially if they live close to large bodies of water. We have to be honest; the first time we started exploring this topic, we thought all dogs naturally know how to swim. However, that is not entirely true. Some dogs are naturals, and some breeds will have trouble staying afloat.

Some dog breeds are built for swimming. Portuguese Water Dogs, Irish Water Spaniel, Poodles, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers have excellent swimming skills. They have water-resistant coats that help with their buoyancy and keep them warm in cold waters. Breeds like Bulldogs or Dachshunds are simply not built for swimming. They will struggle with it, and if we don’t help them, they can quickly get hurt or drown.

dog learning to swim

The key reason dogs need to learn to be comfortable in or around water is for their safety. You will probably take your dog with you on holiday, or you might have a pool in your backyard. If your dog isn’t comfortable around water, they can get into a lot of trouble, fast.

Dog swimming lessons

The first thing you need to establish is if your dog is built for swimming. If you have a brachycephalic dog breed like the Boxer, French Bulldog, or Affenpinscher, you might have to come to terms that your dog will never be able to swim on their own. These dogs have heavy bodies, shorter legs, and are simply not natural swimmers. If you have a natural swimmer, like the Golden Retriever or Newfoundland, you will have to make them feel comfortable around water. Here is how to deal with both problems;

Teaching a natural swimmer

The key to teaching a natural swimmer to swim is to make them feel comfortable around water. These breeds can swim, but they simply don’t feel too good in or around water. We learned that the best way to get your dog in a good mood around water is to organize a playdate with a dog that loves swimming. If your dog is friendly, they will most likely feel comfortable with the other dog and follow them into the water.

dog swimming

If that doesn’t work, you can always get involved and play with your dog. Take their favorite toy with you in the water and lure them in. You can help them feel secure in the beginning and help keep them afloat. Eventually, your dog will feel comfortable and start swimming without your help.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: It is best to wear a life jacket if you are teaching your dog to swim somewhere deep. Dogs can start panicking and will try to get on top of you. If you have a large dog, you can quickly get into a risky situation.

Teaching a non-swimming dog to swim

If you have a breed that is not a natural swimmer or one of the breeds we mentioned earlier, you should repeat the process mentioned above. However, there is one key difference - a doggy life jacket.

Some dogs will never be able to swim on their own because of their constitution. They will need help, and the best thing you can provide them is a flotation device that will keep their head above the water. You have to make sure the life jacket fits your dog snuggly and won’t slip off of your dog. Make sure it is buoyant enough to fully support your dog. Take things slow and allow your dog to take their time when determining that swimming is fun. Allow them to fully relax before luring them into water.

dog swimming in pool

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You should never throw a dog into the water. Not only can they react poorly and hurt themselves, but they can also get scarred for life. It will deter them from swimming for the rest of their lives.

In conclusion

Teaching a dog to swim is possible. In fact, it can be really fun, especially if you have friends whose dogs love swimming. Make sure to take it slow and allow your dog to relax near water before you start getting them in it. Getting a dog life jacket is an excellent idea, and if you have one of the breeds that are not natural swimmers, you should never allow them to swim without one.

World Dog Finder team

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