Dock Jumping BuddiesWhether your plans entail time on the beach or lounging poolside, hitting the water often means a tail-wagging good time for dogs and their owners. However, keep in mind that many dogs need practice before swimming confidently. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an innate skill; teaching dogs to swim requires training, patience, and practice.

Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Training your dog to swim not only encourages fun in the water, it’s also a critical first step to swimming safety.

To begin, start in the shallow area of a familiar pool, pond, or lake. For young dogs or puppies, you may wish to acclimate your pet by purchasing a kiddie pool for backyard fun.

If your dog is reluctant to enter the water, use a ball or other toy to entice him or her to join you. Toss the item across the shallow water, and reward your dog with a small treat and verbal praise to retrieve it. Continue this process as your dog becomes more comfortable entering the water and moving around.

Once your pet is confident in the shallow end, start moving to deeper water. If your pet is small, pick him or her up and wade out into the water. Keep your hands on the sides of the body to support initial dog-paddling attempts. Provide reassurance and support if you sense your pet is anxious.

As your dog paddles around, begin moving to the shore or shallow end of the pool, calling him or her back with you. Repeat this process several times until your four-legged friend becomes confident in both swimming and returning to you when called.

More About Swimming Safety

Some breeds are not well suited for swimming due to respiratory challenges (e.g., bulldogs, pugs, Shih Tzus, etc.). Senior pets, puppies, and those with health issues may also not be able to enjoy the water.

In addition, there are dogs who simply don’t like swimming at all. Remember, pushing a reluctant pet into the water can result in unnecessary stress and anxiety, so be sure to gauge ability and interest beforehand.

Other tips include:

  • Be aware of the dangers of heatstroke or stress in pets.
  • Always provide lots of cool, fresh drinking water and shade.
  • Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Even if your pet is a natural swimmer, constant supervision is critical to avoid a pet emergency.
  • If your dog appears tired or uncomfortable, get him or her out of the water for some rest and rehydration.
  • Many pet drownings occur in swimming pools because animals have difficulty climbing out of the water. Consider investing in a fence around the perimeter and installing a floating, paw-friendly ramp.
  • Beaches and lakes harbor additional dangers, including hot sand, broken glass, fishing lures, and other debris.
  • After swimming, rinse your pet off, inspect the paws and skin, and thoroughly dry the ears with a soft towel.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to put your pet on a preventive to protect against fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. For more recommendations on teaching your dog to swim, please ask The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center.

    Happy splashing!