West Michigan born and raised since 1989!
West Michigan born and raised since 1989!
West Michigan born and raised since 1989!
West Michigan born and raised since 1989!

Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Swim

The summer heat is definitely well on its way, which means pools are opening, lakeside adventures are being planned, and the stress of having a dog that can’t swim or loves the water can be seeping in. Some dog breeds have a natural affinity for the water—they may be in the nearest puddle or pool before you can say no. Yet, not every dog breed is a natural-born swimmer, even some of those that may be attracted to water. To make sure your four-legged buddy stays safe in the water, some canine swimming lessons may be in order. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind. 

Start with water training early 

The sooner you can start with water training the better. You can actually start getting a puppy used to the water at home in just a few inches of water. Most dogs will perform the natural swimming or paddling motions when they are in what they believe to be deeper water. To mimic deeper water even in just a few inches, hold the puppy’s feet off of the ground by gently positioning your hand under their belly. The puppy will gradually get used to treading water, so you can work your way up toward deeper water.  

Invest in a life jacket for your dog 

Even if your dog is a relatively good swimmer, it should wear a life jacket when in water that will not allow the dog to reach the bottom. Dog swim vests come in different sizes and usually have adjustable straps. So be sure to pick up one that fits your dog well, is rated for its weight, and has a handle on the back, so you can easily guide your dog while in the water or attach a leash. 

Begin with a smaller body of water 

Even if you are working with a full-grown dog, begin swim training in a smaller body of water, such as a wading pool or even a creek. Larger water bodies can be a little overwhelming for some dogs, but the more water, the harder it can be to keep the dog contained to one area if they begin to swim. 

Take it slow and stay present 

If possible, step into the water with your dog to make it more comfortable, and be sure to keep a leash in place so you can keep them close to you as they begin to swim. As the dog gets more comfortable, you can use a floating toy to encourage the dog to swim to the toy and then swim back to you. Start your efforts in shallow water and gradually get a bit deeper with the dog. To offer support for a nervous dog, simply walk along with them with your hands gently placed under them for support, as they paddle back toward the shore. No matter what, stay with the dog during its swim and stay focused so you can step in if they begin to struggle. 

With a little patience, a good life vest for dogs, and some shallow water, your dog will become more comfortable, confident, and safe when they get in any body of water. If your dog is especially scared of water, it can be worth it to check with a local trainer that offers water training for dogs. And, as always, if your dog has certain medical conditions, be sure to discuss the safety of swimming with your vet.