Prochoice Petfood

Professional's Choice

Teach your dog how to swim!

Swimming is an extraordinary exercise for dogs. Learn if your dog likes to swim.

8/1/2021Ertuğrul Demirci

Teaching your dog to love water at a young age has many benefits.

Swimming is an extraordinary exercise to burn extra energy. In fact, owners of many performance dogs (competing in agility, flyball, herding, frisbee, tracking and obedience) often use swimming to keep their dogs in top physical condition.

It can also be a safe aerobic exercise for dogs with arthritis, joint or spine problems, or who are overweight. In these cases, water takes the pressure off the joints, reducing pain while also allowing them to burn calories.

Does your dog like water?

Some dogs are born into water, swimming gives them extreme pleasure. Some dogs don't even like getting their paws wet! Dogs with short necks or large chests may not like swimming because they have trouble keeping their heads out of the water.

So how do you know if your dog is a natural swimmer?

There is an easy way to tell if swimming is one of your dog's inherent skills. Hold your dog barely in the water, if he's flapping his front paws, kicking his paws out of the water and hitting the water means he needs some help learning how to swim! With your help, it can easily taught to use its hind legs and tail for swimming.

Things to consider when teaching your dog to swim:

  • NEVER leave your dog unattended around water!

  • Make sure your dog knows how to get out of the water. You can even place a large vertical marker, such as a plant or flag, next to steps or ramps to help your dog orient himself.

  • Stay on the shallow side and keep classes short - no more than ten minutes. Dogs cannot step under water like humans and get tired quickly.

  • Dogs need to get used to wearing life jackets so they don't panic in an emergency. Give your pup plenty of time to understand how the life jacket works so he can wear it comfortably in the water.

  • Stay in control of your dog during your lessons by using a leash or a long rope attached to your dog's life jacket.

  • If you swim in lakes or other natural bodies of water, vaccinate your dog against Giardia, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea and be passed on to you.

  • Avoid strong currents and stay away from boating and fishing areas where underwater hazards are more likely. Also be aware of any logs or rocks hidden in the water that your dog could land on while jumping.

  • Dogs can also get sunburned – especially around the nose and ears, so talk to your vet about sunscreen made for pets and give your dog plenty of time in the shade.

  • Food stays in your dog's stomach longer than yours. Wait 1 ½ to 2 hours after a meal before swimming to avoid bloating.

  • Learn pet first aid and brush up on your skills regularly.

  • Have the number/address of the nearest emergency vet handy, just in case!

Start Slow!

Do not force or throw your dog into the water! One bad experience can make him hate water for life. Encourage your dog to play around the water with treats or a favorite toy, or get into the water up to where his legs touch.

Dogs that love water will not want to go out even if they are tired. If your dog is panting a lot, get out of the water and take a break.

Chlorine can be bad for your dog's eyes and skin, and they can catch bacteria from lakes, seas or rivers and get sick. Rinse them with clean water after getting out of the water.

Remember, patience and consistent training is the secret!