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What You Need To Know About Dog Swimming

Who doesn't want to take their dog swimming at the pool or the beach in the summer? The majority of dogs love to swim, especially on a hot summer day. Swimming is an excellent exercise for your dog and a perfect way to burn off excess energy. Bring some toys like a frisbee, a beach ball, or a floating device, and have fun in the water with your dog. While many dogs like Labradors, Retrievers, and Waterdogs are natural swimmers, others like Chihuahuas and Basset hounds are afraid of water. You may have to spend the time teaching dogs to swim.  

Can all dogs swim naturally

Most dogs can swim or at least dog paddle. However, don't assume your fur baby is ready for dog swimming. Not every dog likes to get wet. Some dogs are natural swimmers because their bodies take to the water quickly. Retrievers and Labradors love to swim because their body weight keeps them upright, so their face doesn't dip underwater.  A Retriever's long tail can guide them through the water, and their coat dries quickly.   

Not surprisingly, dog swimming does not appeal to dogs with flat faces, such as bulldogs, pugs, or a Pekinese. These dogs are afraid of water because they tend to be heavy and muscular with short legs and tails. The dog's build makes it hard for them to stay upright or guide themselves in the water. Brachycephalic-faced dogs have difficulty breathing as a result of their short nasal passages and constricted nostrils. A floating device in a lake or the ocean or a dog swimming pool in the backyard will let them get their feet wet but keep them afloat.   


Don't try to take your toy dog swimming! Most toy dogs have long, fine hair, like the Pomeranian or Shih Tzu, requiring extensive grooming and a long time to dry after getting wet. Toy dogs, such as the Bison Friese, Corgis, or Dachshund, are tiny with short legs, so it takes many strokes through the water for them to swim. These dogs might be better off wading in a shallow dog swimming pool or running through a sprinkler.  

How do you know if your dog can swim

You don't know whether or not your dog can swim until you take your dog swimming. If your dog is fearful and anxious as you approach the water, your dog may not be able to swim. Once you take your dog swimming, if the dog panics and thrash es about with its paws trying to stay above water and stay afloat, the dog likely cannot swim. 

How to teach dogs to swim

Introduce your pup to water and take your dog swimming at a young age. When you teach dogs to swim, go into the water with them and stay by their side. Not only will this enable you to guide them in their movements, but it'll also help them to feel safer and more protected.   

Start in a shallow area where your dog can adjust to the water and get comfortable moving in it. Gradually take the dog into deeper water until the dog starts paddling to stay afloat.   

Put your hand under the dog's belly to support him, just as you would a toddler. Your hand will encourage them to paddle with both their front and back legs.   

As you teach dogs to swim, gradually remove your hand from under their belly and let them paddle independently. If they struggle and become anxious, return to the supporting hand.   

At each point in the training, be sure to give your dog lots of praise for doing a good job. Bring along some favorite treats to reward them after each training session.

Where to take your dog swimming

As long as you take plenty of fresh water with you and take proper precautions, you can take your dog swimming just about anywhere.   

Be careful in chlorine pools

If you take your dog swimming in a pool, be sure the pool has a shallow end with steps so the dog can get out. Also, be sure to check chlorine levels in the pool. For most people, the chlorine in a pool is safe, even if you happen to get water in your mouth. Most dogs have sensitive eyes and ears, so the chlorine in a pool can be dangerous. If a dog ingests pool water with too much chlorine, it could cause ulcers and skin rashes.   

Freshwater lakes and saltwater ocean 

Be sure to check natural swimming areas for easy ways to get in and out for your pet. Before you take your dog swimming at a lake or beach, look for algae, red tide, or dead marine life. Algae and red tide are toxic to dogs.   Dogs like to eat dead things like fish and debris washed in with the tide, which can cause serious problems. Try to take your dog swimming in a clear area of the lake or beach. A good rule of thumb is, "If you wouldn't swim in it or eat it, don't let your dog do it either."

What to do if your dog doesn't like swimming

If your dog is anxious or fearful of water, never force him to swim. Several things that will make it easier to take your dog swimming. Find any area that is easy for your dog to enter and exit the water. Be sure that you are in slow-moving water to help alleviate their fear. Get in the water with your dog and play with him! 

A life jacket is a fantastic tool to start your dog swimming

Before you teach dogs to swim, put a life jacket on them to give the dogs something comforting and water-resistant. A life jacket helps your dog keep his head above water- literally! Once the dogs are paddling around in the water, they will not sink and get more comfortable in the water.    

Let Your Dog observe other water-loving dogs

Take your dog places where they can observe a dog swimming. Seeing other dogs run and jump in the water can help your dog know that it is fun. Your dog will see happy dogs wagging their tails and playing with their owners. Your dog should see that there is nothing to fear about swimming.   

Start with a dog swimming pool

Start slow and gradually introduce your dog to a dog swimming pool. Dog swimming pools are reasonably priced and are the perfect size for your dog to get used to the water.  Don't fill the pool too full; ankle-high is about the right level. Throw some pet toys in and create a game to play. Gradually raise the level of water in the dog swimming pool. Soon your dog will be sitting in the dog swimming pool and playing in the water. 

As you can tell, teaching a dog to enjoy the water is pretty much the same as teaching a person to enjoy the water. Start slow, providing lots of examples and encouragement. Using the right amount of patience and persistence, you can easily teach dogs to swim and love playing in the water.

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