Summer and holidays are here! You want to take your dog everywhere and enjoy activities with him such as: cani-paddle, canoeing, swimming in the pool or even by the sea! But, will your dog be able to accompany you everywhere if he can't swim? Your dog is neither a fish nor an otter (mine may be lol!)! So how do we teach them to swim? Here are all the steps!
Common misconception: swimming for a dog is innate!
FALSE! While some dogs are very comfortable in the water, no dog can swim at birth. Let's not forget that the dog is a land mammal and even if some of them give us the impression of being superheroes, they do not naturally know how to swim.
In fact, many dogs are even afraid to put their feet in the water. No wonder, since it's not natural for them.
Despite everything, some dogs can swim from the first time and without help. They are often dogs, which by survival reflex, have moved their legs. But that's not all. They are often confident dogs that are comfortable with their bodies. They therefore have better control than others. Swimming is a huge effort for a dog. Indeed, swimming requires muscles that he is not used to using or not in the same way. So it's something very physically tiring. Swimming is therefore not an innate ability in dogs. And some are not at all good at staying on the surface and have, on the contrary, a tendency to sink.
What not to do
In dog training, many humans go through shortcuts, in all good will, but which are absolutely undesirable for the dog. So here's what you absolutely shouldn't do to teach your dog to swim:
Never push it in the water: it is one of the worst acts to do, but yet one of the most common. Not only is it very dangerous for the dog, because it can drown, get a hydrocution blow depending on the temperature or even cause the dog to panic.
Never force the dog to go in the water: forcing his dog is not healthy for your relationship and does not teach your dog to trust. In panic, he can hurt himself or you. Your dog has the right not to want to go in the water.
These two points create traumas in the dog, which can last a lifetime. The dog can even develop a water phobia.
Some dogs can't swim
Swimming is not natural and can be dangerous for some dogs. Dogs can be "classified" into three categories: those who will be able to swim easily, those who will have to be taught and those who will be physically unable to do so!
This is particularly the case for brachycephalic dogs (with crushed snout like the French Bulldog, pug or English bulldog), but also dogs with short legs and very long bodies (like some dachshunds or basset hound). Small dogs are generally less comfortable than large dogs.
All these dogs have in common that they tire too quickly and do not have the body powerful enough to learn to swim calmly and stay on the surface.
The risk of drowning is real and every year hundreds of dogs drown because of disability or exhaustion (even if they could swim). Then remember to put a lifejacket on your dog!
Putting a lifejacket on your dog is a responsible act, which helps to minimize the risk of drowning. There are them in all sizes and styles.
Some dogs don't like water
Beyond the fact that some dogs can't swim, it's also important to remember that not all dogs like water. It may bother you, but that's the way it is. You can't force a dog to like water. Some humans don't like it either.
It has nothing to do with the dog's breed. Indeed, you can have a golden retreiver who doesn't like water and a Pug who would like to jump in all rivers! So, as usual, be indulgent and let your dog decide whether or not to follow you. Your dog can live his whole life without ever going in the water - it's not a problem.
How do I teach my dog to swim in 5 steps?
On the other hand, no matter the situation, you can already be positive about the approach to water. This is the first step. Choose a quiet and safe place not far from a waterfront. Your dog must have confidence in you. Have fun with him by the water without necessarily putting your feet up. Show him you're here, that nothing will happen. If you are ready we will be able to go through the 5 concrete steps to teach your dog to swim:
Step 1: Bring appetizing treats and your dog's favourite toy. Start playing with him by the water. Take your time, because it must be experienced in a very positive way by your dog.
Step 2: Find a place where he will have a leg so he feels comfortable. Don't tie him up. Your dog must learn that he can always get out of a situation with which he is uncomfortable. Assume that a dog is always worried about what he doesn't know.
Step 3: Go into the water and call your dog. Motivate him to follow you. Once they step into the water or reach you, reward them with a treat, their toy and even a verbal validation such as a "yes".
Step 4: Do not force him to stay next to you if he does not want to. This step must be repeated several times until the dog can stay in the water longer.
Step 5: Once this step is completed, you can encourage your dog to go where he doesn't have a leg and help him swim by placing your hand under his belly. You can also throw him a toy (not too far at first) to get him to jump into the water.
All these steps must be done at the dog's pace. It can take several hundred tests for the dog to get there. You will always have to be patient and encourage her. You can help yourself with another dog who can swim. Indeed, your dog could swim by mimicry.
You now know all the steps to teach your dog to swim. However, it is important to always be present when the dog is swimming and should not be allowed to become exhausted at the risk of drowning. Puppies and older dogs tire more quickly. In any case, remember to put a life jacket on him!