Teaching Your Dog How to Swim

Photo: Jim Whimpey

Contrary to popular belief, dogs aren't born knowing how to swim. However, the task comes pretty naturally to dogs (especially if your dog is already curious about water and likes being around it) and is actually easier to teach than training your dog how to roll over! Check out our steps below on how to effectively teach your dog how to swim.

Choose a Small, Calm Body of Water
Salt-water swimming pools are best (but how rare are those, right?), but if you don't have access to this, small, shallow swimming holes or small streams with grassy or sandy banks are also fine. The key is to pick a body of water that has no currents or waves, and is shallow enough and surrounded by enough easily accessible land so that your pup feels safe.

Bring the Correct Gear
A life jacket is a must! Put a life jacket on your dog just like you would on a baby when you teach her to swim for the first time. Bring along your dog's highest-value treat or toy. If your dog is more food motivated, bring along her favorite small treats (pieces of chicken and liver work really well). If you have a dog who's not that interested in food, bring her favorite toy along with you.

Dog, Meet Water
Without introducing the treat or toy just yet, slowly back into the body of water. Call your dog toward the water and allow him to approach the water slowly, sniffing it and slowly getting acquainted if he needs to. Give him ample time to do this and restrain any urge you feel to hurry him into the water!

Slowly Lure Him In
Stand about 2-3 steps away from the edge in the water and offer the treat or toy to your dog, encouraging him to get his front paws wet. Keep repeating this step slowly until all of his paws are in the water. Once he's comfortable in the water (if he keeps running back, just repeat the steps until he can stand comfortably in the water without retreating), take several big steps away from him and then call him toward you, offering him the treat or toy.

Lift Those Legs!
Once your dog has walked all the way to you in the water, lower yourself to your dog's level and gently guide her deeper into the water, guiding her with treats or the toy if necessary. When the water reaches your dog's chest level, place your hand on her belly at the base of her ribcage and gently lift her a little bit so she'll naturally start kicking (swimming!) with her hind legs. Use your other hand to help keep her head and neck lifted above water, and walk alongside her as she progresses. Keep supporting her until her body relaxes and she's no longer stiff. When this happens, you can slowly let go of her and encourage her to swim toward you with treats or toys.

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Published on by Beatrix Chan.

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