Swim Training For Dogs

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A golden retriever dives into the bottom of a blue-green swimming pool and examines a white seashell

Amber LaRock - Author of Swim Training for Dogs

Though we’ve always been told that all dogs know how to swim, it’s actually not the case at all. Just like humans, our dogs will often require some form of swim training to remain safe during their time in the water.

In this article, we’ll dive into the misconceptions about a dog’s swimming abilities, and how you can keep your furry friend safe around the water.


Are dogs naturally good swimmers?

Though some dogs are naturally talented swimmers, that’s not the case for all dogs. Breeds like Retrievers and Spaniels are made for a life near the water, while it seems like foreign territory for others. Some dogs are not made with athleticism in mind, making it more challenging for these dogs to learn how to swim.

Many breeds like Bulldogs or pugs are inherently not suited for a life that involves swimming. Their heavy bodies make it difficult to tread water, while their short noses make it nearly impossible to maintain stamina as they go. Though these dogs can certainly be trained to swim and stay safe around the water, it will be more of a challenge to get them comfortable.

Another thing to keep in mind is the individual stamina that your dog has for activity. While big dogs may be able to participate in a long day at the pool, smaller dogs may have ahead time keeping up. When it comes to being around water, it’s extremely important to keep your dog’s individual needs in mind!


Safe Swim Training For Your Dog

Swim training your dog is essential if you plan to enjoy time in the water with your furry friend. Animals can experience accidents in the water just like we can, so it’s important to try your best to set them up for a safe experience.

Some tips to help you swim train your dog safely include:

  • Try to start your swim training in a pool versus an open body of water like a lake or ocean. Pools allow you to keep a close eye on your pup and stay at their side, while open water can make it more challenging.
  • Life jackets are always recommended for dogs that are new to swimming. No matter the type of furry friend in your life, it's always best to offer them the extra support when they are first getting started. It’s always better to be safe!
  • Since your dog is not likely used to the feeling of a life jacket, it’s best to let them get used to it before their first time in the water. Allowing them to adjust will help them swim more naturally when it’s time to get in the water with their life jacket.
  • Be sure to use the same principles of positive reinforcement training that you use in other aspects of dog training. Offer their favorite treats, offer them plenty of praise, and experiment with ways that help to associate the correct behaviors with joy and happiness.
  • Start out in shallow water before you introduce your pup to the deep end. Allowing them to walk around in the water first will help them gain some comfort in the experience. Once you feel like they’ve mastered the shallow end, you can begin to ease them into deeper water. You can do this by using their favorite toy or favorite treat to coax them into exploring.
  • Remember that you can’t teach your dog an entirely new skill in one day. Swim safety is important, meaning you should be sure to extend the process and make sure your dog is truly comfortable.

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Tips and Tricks

Before you set out to turn your pup into a swimming champion, here are a few tips to help you introduce your dog to the water safely.

  • Bathtubs and small backyard pools are a great place to start when you are first introducing your dog to the water. Sometimes the most important step of teaching your dog how to swim is introducing them to the water itself.
  • The younger you introduce your dog to water, the easier it will be to introduce them to the activity of swimming. As long as your dog is fully vaccinated, you can set out on water-related adventures.
  • Though many believe all dogs can swim, this is simply NOT true. Please refrain from ever tossing your dog into the water before they are ready, as dogs can easily drown. Take the process slowly and be patient with your pup.

Promote Pool Safety For Your Dog

If you happen to have a pool on your property and your dog has not yet learned how to swim, let’s dive into a few tips that can keep your furry friend safe. Dogs fall victim to drowning in many situations that were preventable, making it so important to be aware of the risks.

  • First, be sure to have a gate around your pool if your untrained dog has access to the area when they are unattended. Dogs can easily slip and fall into the pool.
  • Next, be sure to always monitor your dog during their time in the water. This is the only way to stop an accident as it occurs.
  • Last, be sure to keep a close eye on any dogs that are especially at risk around your pool. This includes senior dogs, dogs with compromised vision, puppies, and any other pup that may be at more risk of drowning than others.

Any dog can participate in water activities if they are properly trained and have a patient owner on their side. Be sure to review the tips we’ve mentioned above for swim training, and you’ll have the tools you need to keep your furry friend safe!


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Meet The Author 

Amber LaRock

Amber is a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. Recently she has specialized in veterinary and animal-related content creation and social media management. When she is not working she loves spending time with her furry friends exploring the outdoors.