Summer is here and it’s hot out there! It’s time for the beach and the pool, but your fur-covered friend is brand new to the world and has questions. What is water? Is it fun? Can I be in it without getting soap in my eyes?
Yes, of course. But, your dog might be antsy about getting into the water, because it’s large and intimidating, looking at you with longing because you seem to be having so much fun.
Never fear: It’s pretty easy to get a puppy to swim, it just takes a little safety and some preparation.
How soon can you take your new puppy swimming?
“Start young!” advises the American Kennel Club. The sooner they understand water is good and fun, the better. In a video about training puppies to swim, dog trainer Zac George demonstrates good methods with June, an adorable 11-week old puppy.
Ease them into it
Start with a shallow amount of water. A bath or a baby pool is a good idea if you have space. Pools can be intimidating, so sometimes a puppy will respond better to water that gradually deepens, like a pond or a lake. With a natural body of water, they may not get scared by the seemingly boundless ocean of water that is your pool. June was very curious about her owner’s pool but didn’t know quite what to do.
A life jacket, such as this one, with a handle on the top, is key, especially at first. This way if you need to quickly grab the dog, you’ll be able to do so without struggling. George advises letting the dog walk around on land wearing the vest for a few minutes to get used to it.
Entice with toys
George also advises that you use your puppy’s favorite squeaky toy to get them in the water. If you are playing in the water with their toy, they’ll naturally want to join you. He also advises using treats as an enticement.
You can extend their time in the water with toys, too. If you throw a floating ball a few feet away, that will encourage the puppy to swim toward their favorite toy. Eventually, hopefully, the water will be enticement enough.
It’s okay if your new puppy isn’t immediately excited about the water. It just might take a little getting used to. Use your judgment during the swim session. When you see they’re getting nervous, encourage them with positive reinforcement. If they are getting tired after a few doggy paddles, it’s ok to lift them out of the water.
In his video about puppy swimming, George notes that the puppy in the video, June, seems to be having a good time, so they extend the session. By the end, she’s dog paddling all the way across the pool without a life vest.
Safety tips to keep in mind
Some breeds, such as medium-sized and large breeds such as Portuguese Water Dogs, Spanish Water Dogs, Irish Water Spaniels, American Water Spaniels, and Newfoundlands are more acclimated to swimming, writes Dr. Becker, but according to the American Kennel Club, you should always use a life vest with brachycephalic breeds like a Bulldog or a Pug who have trouble breathing in general (a short nose and a flat face will do that to a puppy). Dachshunds, with their short legs, also have a harder time swimming.
Last but not least: Always be present with your dog when they’re swimming.
Happy dog paddling!
Featured Image: Anthony Upton/PA Wire