Can all dogs swim? Does yours shy away from the water? Don’t fret - there are things you can do to get dogs safely confident in the water and have your very own water puppy!
Although many dogs are confident swimmers, there are many pooches out there scared of water – whether that be a large body of it or just the bath! This could be down to their breed, a negative past experience, a nervous temperament or simply because they’ve never seen it before.
Below, we have compiled five top tips to get your dog swimming, plus safety advice for getting your pooch to the water outside. And if you’re ready to start planning your doggy-paddling getaway, have a look at our top dog-friendly beaches here.
Start them early (if you can!)
If you have a new puppy, then try to get them used to the water as soon as possible. In dogs, 5-12 weeks is a critical socialisation period, and they are more likely to accept new experiences (including water) and not fear them during this time. So, bath your pup, have them splash around in a paddling pool in the garden or if they’ve had their vaccines and are safe to do so, take them to a dog-friendly beach or lake and familiarise them around water.
Spend time near the water to gain confidence
One of the best ways to build up your dog’s confidence in the water is to spend as much time together near it as you can. But where can dogs swim? Spend time playing by the waterline at the beach or lake to help them get used to it, or walk your dog on an extendable lead and encourage them to walk in the water, knowing you are right there to pull them back if needed. You could also throw a toy or ball into the shallow water and encourage your pooch to retrieve it. Just remember to stay at the distance your dog is comfortable with, and don’t push them too hard. With the right amount of encouragement, puppies and swimming can go together like strawberries and cream!
Teach your dog to swim
Many owners think dogs will take to the water and be able to swim straight away, but this isn’t always the case. Many dogs have the natural ability to paddle and swim around in the water, but for those who don’t, it’s important to teach them to swim. A dog’s first instinct will be to paddle with only their front legs; encourage them to kick with their back legs too, then make sure your dog is all the way in the water and hold them around the belly. You can either try this in a pool or the sea if it is safe. If your dog looks scared or is panicking, then get out and try another day. And until you know your dog can use all four legs underwater, you should consider a dog buoyancy aid (life vest) for your canine companion.
Reward your pooch’s hard work
Positive reinforcement is a great way of encouraging your dog to be safe and confident in the water. Alongside plenty of verbal praise and pats, give your dog a treat every time they face their fears and go into the water. This will help encourage them to go in time and time again, knowing there’s a tasty treat on the other side!
As always, practice makes perfect! It’s important to remember that building your dog’s confidence in the water will take time. It could take weeks, months or even years to get your dog confident in the water and it really does vary from dog to dog. Don’t push them if they are noticeably scared, and encourage and reward them as much you can. You’ll be sure to have a water baby on your hands in no time at all!
If you’re heading out with your pooch into open water, remember these crucial safety tips:
- Never take your dog swimming in a stagnant body of water, such as a canal
- Ensure your dog doesn’t get too cold in the water. Look out for key warning signs such as shaking or shivering, and don’t swim on a particularly cold day
- Avoid reservoirs, fast-flowing rivers and rough seas
- Be alert of strong currents – check warnings before swimming in open water
- Check beach flags for warnings before swimming with your dog in the sea
- Seawater can make dogs sick so bring fresh water with you to the beach
- Be wary of uneven surfaces/rocks in open water which could hurt your dog
Bringing your dog to the beach? Be sure to check out this helpful dog beach checklist for more advice on all you’ll need to pack:
Leading the way for dog-friendly holidays
Here at Canine Cottages, we are dedicated to dog-tastic holidays spanning England, Scotland, and Wales, and we feature almost 4,000 immaculate, pet-friendly places to stay where four-legged friends can rest their tails after days exploring the great outdoors.
Whether you’re taking your dog on holiday for a swim in a calming river or in the open ocean, or even if your puppy pal prefers to keep all four paws on dry land, we’ve got the self-catering holiday cottage just for you.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.