How to Teach a Dog to Swim Through Positive Reinforcement
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Dogs are active and curious animals. It's no wonder many love to swim! However, teaching a dog to swim isn't as easy as letting them figure it out. Each dog is different and will need some guidance and reassurance from their caregivers.
In this AnimalWised article, we're going to explain how to teach your dog to swim through positive reinforcement. This way, we ensure our dog associates swimming positively and enjoys their training sessions. Continue reading to learn more!
Why should you teach your dog to swim?
All dogs could benefit from learning to swim. It's not only a fun summer activity, but it can also keep them safe if they ever do fall into a pool. In fact, an estimated of 10,000 dogs drown each year in the United States. This is why it's best to take precautions and teach your dog to swim from an early age.
Training your dog to swim is not only a great safety precaution, but it is also great aerobic exercise for dogs of all ages. This is especially true for dogs with arthritis or overweight dogs as it doesn't put pressure on our dog's joints.
Do all dogs enjoy swimming?
Swimming is fun for many dogs. However, some dogs prefer other methods of exercise. For example, short-necked dogs, such as the American Bulldog, may have a harder time swimming and therefore, may not enjoy it as much as a Labrador Retriever.
A great way to tell if your puppy is a natural swimmer is by placing them above water and seeing if they start paddling. Many puppies have this instinct when being near water. This way, you can tell if your puppy will enjoy swimming and is already a natural swimmer! Learn more in our article about if all dogs can swim.
How to teach your dog to swim
Now that we've gone over why it's important to teach our dog to swim and how to tell if they're a natural swimmer, it's time to learn how to teach our dog to swim. Here at AnimalWised we believe in training our dogs through positive reinforcement and in a safe matter. Follow our tips to safely teach your dog how to swim through positive reinforcement:
Getting them familiar with water
The first thing you'll want to do is get them used to water. Some dogs will feel overwhelmed when encountering a big pool for the first time. This may produce your dog with some anxiety. Therefore, we are going to avoid this.
The first step is to fill a baby bath with water and encourage your dog to play with the water. You can do this by playing catch and throwing the ball into the water. This will help them associate water with play and fun. You should also encourage them to get into the water! Make sure you have a warm towel ready for them once they've finished.
Getting them used to their lifejacket
For safety purposes, it's recommended to provide your dog with a lifejacket when swimming. However, before sending them off to the pool with their lifejacket, we should first give them time to get used to wearing the lifejacket. To do this, you can allow them to wear it for a couple of minutes each day. You should also play with them through positive reinforcement so they can associate the lifejacket with a positive and fun activity.
Once your dog seems to be comfortable with their lifejacket, it's time for their first swim!
Their first swim
Now that your dog is familiar with water and their lifejacket, it's time for their first swim in the pool. For their swimming training sessions, we recommend that you also get into the pool. This will motivate your dog to get into the water with you. It will also make them feel more safe and comfortable with this new experience.
For this you will need:
- Dog lifejacket
- Your dog's favourite water-proof toy
- Some treats for positive reinforcement
Once you're both ready, follow these simply steps:
- Put the lifejacket on your dog.
- Now, you will get into the pool to show your dog that it's perfectly safe and fun.
- If your pool has steps where your dog can first step into, you're going to encourage them to get their paws wet.
- Next, you're going to use their favourite toy to tease them and encourage them to start swimming.
- Make sure to pet them and even hold their torso so they feel more safe.
- Once they are in the water, they will instinctively start paddling with their paws.
- You will slowly let go of their torso as the lifejacket will make sure they are always safe.
- Now you can move a step away from them and encourage them to come to you by calling their name. If you have a treat nearby, here is the time to use it!
- Once they come to you, reward them with affection and a treat.
- Now you can start try to play catch in the pool by using their favourite water-proof toy.
Using positive reinforcement with play
By using treats and fun games, such as playing catch, you will encourage your dog to enjoy their training time at the pool. If your dog is still a puppy, you will need to be extra careful to make their time with water and swimming a positive experience. This is because, at this age, they are more vulnerable to being traumatised by a bad experience that can lead them to experiencing behavioural issues as an adult dog.
This is why using wholesome methods, such as positive reinforcement and play, you will best encourage your dog to learn to swim while having fun.
Swimming in rivers, lakes or oceans
Once your dog feels comfortable swimming in the pool, you may want to try in different natural waters, such as rivers, lakes and oceans. You must simply be aware of the state of the water. Opt for clean and safe waters. Make sure the rivers have safe currents and the ocean has calm waves.
You could also research the safest natural waters near your location. Make sure to bring your dog's lifejacket, toys and some treats. Remember that your dog will enjoy it more if you join them into the water. Lastly, keep in mind that you will need to wash your dog after their swim. This way, you'll make sure that your dog's coat is clean.
You may also be interested in our article about if sea water is good for dog's skin. You can also watch this video on how to train your dog to swim!
If you want to read similar articles to How to Teach a Dog to Swim Through Positive Reinforcement, we recommend you visit our Sports category.