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FionasSwim2Teaching a dog to swim is similar to giving swimming lessons to a child.

Swimming is an excellent exercise for your dog. It works the heart and the lungs as well as stimulates the entire musculature system. Unlike heavy running and darting through hard ground, swimming will not be hard on the hips and  shoulders. This makes swimming perfect for puppies whom are just developing and adult dogs that have any sort of structural defects.


Introducing a young, inexperienced dog to water, is a matter of desensitization. We accomplish it just as we would any new situation progressively.



  • Dogs can become frightened and confused, if there’s a lot of noise and activity around them. The object is to keep them calm and focused on the swimming lesson. Keep your voice upbeat and positive, using treats and toys to encourage your dog to enter the water.
    Just as you shouldn’t throw a child in the water and expect it to swim to safety, you shouldn’t do that with a dog, Don’t force the dog. If they don’t want to do it, don’t force them to do it. Slowly put them in the water and get their paws used to it.


  • Even if the dog is wearing a life vest, until is is confident, support its midsection and hindquarters in the water, until they start paddling and feel comfortable.  Getting a dog in the pool is only half the battle. You  also need to  show them where the steps are in the pool so they can easily get out. It has been recommended that you place potted plants near the steps to make them easier to identify.


  • Even in the water, dogs can wander off. Dogs that swim naturally and well, can jump in the ocean and keep swimming until they’re lost, Make sure, like children, that you watch where they’re going,


  • Dog life jackets, are great for keeping your pets safe in and around the water. There are now several companies making them. Prices vary and come in several sizes. They come made with high visibility materials, reflective strips, leash attachment loops.  Look for those that have quick pickup handles to make easier to pull your dog out of the water.  An added advantage is the dog will not have to swim, she can just float if she wants to.


  • Another way to introduce your dog to water that we have not mentioned is;  try putting your Boston in an empty bathtub, let the water trickle in slowly, allowing to slowly fill up. Take your time to let her adjust to it. Make sure there is a nonslip bathmat under her feet.


  • Be also aware, the noise of running water into a tub is loud. Introduce those sounds before trying to put the dog in a tub.  Make a game of it. If she has a favorite rubber toy. Play with her and the toy in the tub. Just about and inch or two of water to start. Nothing but praise. The fun part prepared to get wet.




  • Find a controlled area where you can take her to (like the edge of a pond, or a kiddie pool, etc), and let her explore it. Reward her for going in and out. Maybe toss some treats towards the middle of the pond/pool. Do not rush her.  Just allow her to be near the pool. If she wants to get in, she will. We had a Boston mix that was afraid of the water his whole life because my friend threw him in the lake as a puppy.


  • Puppies: Start off in shallow, warm water, where the pup can easily stand. You should introduce your pup to water only after he understands basic obedience skills and the two of you have developed a trusting relationship.


  • Take him some place where it VERY gradually gets deeper and deeper and carry him in. Take him far enough out where he has to swim, but make sure you keep your arms under him on his chest, so he feels safe. That way he can learn how to swim but you both know you are right there if anything happens,


  • The best way to ensure that your dog goes in the water at the first introduction is to get into the water with the pup. Most dogs don’t like being left on shore and will follow their handler right in. Begin with several sessions of heel work in the shallows, with no expectations for swimming. Once he’s relaxed, we start to play with  favorite toy. Make sure there are no drop-offs or other spots where your novice pup could lose his footing and get dunked. Usually, after a few quick retrieves in elbow-deep water, the dog forgets about the water altogether.


  • Walk into the pool with your dog on leash - make it sound like a lot of fun  "let's go swim" in a high pitch voice sort of thing. Take a ball in and push it towards him if he likes to play with balls. Offer a treat, clap your hands and call him to come play.


  • Start by making bath time an enjoyable experience. lots of encouragement and always watch your tone, they don't know words but they do know tone. Making bath time enjoyable will lead to wet=good when the pup is older, introduce her to water that she can't stand in.


Q & A


Q: Whats a good temperature for the dogs in the water?

A:Water that is between 70 and 80 degree is perfect. It should feel “room temperature” to you.


Q: How could you learn to associate a wading pool with good things?

A: Get something impossible to resist such as cheese, lunch meat, hot dog, etc. keep it in your hand and sit on the first step in the pool. Coax your dog over to you and treat him. Then put him on the first step and treat, treat, treat. He will come to associate the pool with good things and may learn to like it, but some dogs just never do.


Q: Why does my dog love lakes and ponds but hates the pool?

A: They may prefer a gradual entry like the sand at the beach or lake is, but if you keep treating him for being around the pool, and you go in with him at first, he may like it! Unless there are some steps that your pup can climb out of, you may need to construct some kind of ramp.


Q: My dog won't get into the water. A friend said to quit coddling him and just throw him in and he will quickly learn to swim. Should I try that?

A: Some dogs just plain hate the water and it usually is because of not being properly introduced to swimming. The absolute worst thing you can do is just throw your dog into water.


Q How does one introduce a dog to swimming in a pool or lake properly?  My dog seems afraid of our swimming pool. She tried to stay as far away from it as much as possible, and when she went near the pool, she ran as quick as she could to minimize the time near the pool.

 A. They may prefer beaches where it is obvious to them how they are going to get out. If the dog has the option to easily exit each time than it is likely to have a better experience. A ramp for getting in and out of a pool will ease a lot of anxiety a dog may otherwise experience.


Q. Are there different places to start this water introduction when at the Beach?

A.  Definitely start off slow, a bad experience early on, even for typical water loving breeds can "scar" them. The beach is a good place to start, or get a kiddie pool. Something where your dog can touch the bottom and explore without fear. And let your dog go in and out by itself. Don't force it.


Q. How would you introduce a dog to a kiddie pool?

A. Ice cubes come to mind. You filling a ice tray with water and a small treat in the center freeze and put into zip bags . The idea would be that the dog would be so eager  to get the treat floating on the water that it jumps in the shallow water to retrieve it.  First, introduce the treat cubes by throwing them around the pool. Once the dog learns what wonderful goodies are inside, throw some cubes into an empty pool. Next time a little water and slowly adding more water each time.


Q. I am looking for a fun way to introduce my dog to the water. Are there other methods to also consider?

A. Start with a kiddie pool, with just a little bit of water, you jump in,  and start splashing around. They soon got curious and may think it looks like fun so they may in the excitement of the moment just decide to join you.


A. You can buy or make toys that float on the top of the water. Just like the treat ice cubes mentioned above, play around the kiddie pool first. As your dog becomes use to the pool being there, then toss the toy a little ways (just so they get their feet wet and gradually take them up from there as their

Definitely start with the pool, Slowly introduce him to it. Don't force it. Have fun... And bring a couple of towels!


Continued from part 1 of 2