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A Guide To Safely Introduce Your Dog To Water

Sun’s out, pup’s out! With the arrival of summer, a trip to the lake or the beach for some refreshing water escapades with your four-legged best friend is the way to go.

However, dogs and summer water activities don’t always mean a fun time. Because while many dogs enjoy swimming in the beach or any body of water, there are some that are afraid of even going near it.

But if you introduce your dog to water the right way, they can learn to embrace the fun of it and build their love of the water!

Continue reading to make a splash and safely dive into summer with this guide on how to introduce your dog to water.

Understanding Your Dog’s Relationship With Water

Bohdan Malitskiy / Shutterstock.com

Before we dive into introducing your dog into to water, we first must understand their relationship with water.

While we see a lot of dogs making a splash in the water, especially during summer, not all dogs are the same. Like us, hoomans, some may not love being near it, or even become anxious when in any water.

By understanding your dog’s relationship with water, you’ll be able to introduce them to it with the right attitude that will make a positive and enjoyable experience.

Here are ways to help you understand your dog’s relationship with water:

  • Consider their breed: Breed traits can play a significant role in a dog’s affinity for water. Water breeds like Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels have a natural liking for water. On the other hand, breeds with physical characteristics not made for swimming, like Pugs or Dachshunds, will need more time and patience during water introductions.
  • Assess their individual temperament: You’ll be able to better understand your dog’s relationship with water through their individual characteristics. There are dogs that are playful and naturally gravitate towards water, while others may seem more anxious around it.
  • Think about any positive or negative past experiences: Think about your dog’s past experiences with water that you think might impact their love or hate for water. Most of the time, negative experiences such as being thrown in the water unexpectedly will shape their overall relationship with water.
  • Recognize any signs of comfort and/or discomfort: Observe your dog’s body language and behavior around water. Signs of comfort include a relaxed posture, a wagging tail, and their curiosity to explore further. Meanwhile, signs of discomfort includes whining, whimpering, trembling, and just trying to get away from water.

What To Prepare For Your Dog’s Water Introduction

Most of us would love to spend our summer having fun in the water and are excited to enjoy it with our dogs. However, when preparing your dog’s introduction process with water, you have to make sure you are well-prepared.

Here are a few points to consider when preparing:

Positive Association With Water

Before formally introducing your dog to water, you have to create a positive association with water into their every day lives. For example, you can include water-based games during training, give them water-based toys, provide them access to shallow water with a kiddie pool, or play recordings/sounds of gentle waves and running water.

The Right Equipment

1. Life Jacket

A Bulldog In A Pink Polka Dot Life Vest Chewing On A Tennis Ball
Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com

A well-fitted life jacket is recommended if you are unsure of your dog’s swimming abilities or if your dog is a bit hesitant. Furthermore, with the use of a life jacket, you can safely and calmly save your dog for any possible accident.

However, make sure to get your dog used to the life jacket before you go to the beach, lake, or any body of water.

Here are some life jacket options that come in a variety of size and can help your pooch stay afloat:

2. Leash

A leash provides additional safety for your dog when they’re in the water with you. It also provides you more control over their movements, ensuring they are always at a safe distance from you and away from potential danger.

And just like a life jacket, a leash can assist you in safely and calmly saving your dog from any possible accident.

If you’re looking for a leash to use for water activities, you can check out these long leashes:

3. Treats

A Man Giving A Dog Treat To His Dachshund On The Beach
Carolstphoto / Shutterstock.com

Of course, if you truly want the water introduction to be a positive experience, then treats are a must! Do not forget to reward them when they get into the water or show any improvement, no matter how small or big, so they can associate the experience with something positive.

The Right Location

For their first time, it’s always best to choose a body of water that is calm and comfortable. It can be a shallow swimming pool, a designated safe swimming area in a lake, or a quiet beach.

Furthermore, take the water’s temperature into consideration. Make sure that the water is not too cold or too warm for them. Dogs that are introduced to water with a comfortable temperature will also associate the experience with something positive.

Proper Basic Obedience Training

To ensure a safe experience, ensure that your dog knows how to respond to basic obedience commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “come”.

These may be basic commands, but they are very important and will help you maintain control over your dog and keep them at a safe distance at all times during their water experience.

Dogs And Summer: 10 Steps To Safely Introduce Your Dog To Water

Dogs and summer don’t always go well together because some dogs aren’t as enthusiastic to be in the water. But a proper introduction will play a very important role in how they react to water now and in the future.

So, without further ado, here are 10 steps on how to safely introduce your dog to water:

1. Use A Life Jacket And Leash

Dogs And Summer Two Dogs In Life Jackets Practicing Swimming
Nukky Starlet / Shutterstock.com

Before your dog makes a dip in the water, make sure they are wearing a life jacket and a leash. Since this is an introduction, their reaction can be unpredictable. With safety equipment, you’ll be able to maintain your control with them and ensure they are always safe.

2. Start In Shallow And Tepid Water

Introducing your dog to water is a gradual process. They do not automatically learn to enjoy everything water has to offer. So, it’s best to start in shallow and tepid water.

Bodies of water that are shallow do not have strong currents, a lot of distractions, and loud noises. Usually, this will give your dog all the time it needs to get accustomed with the water.

3. Go At Their Own Pace

Girl Taking A Labrador Dog Who Is Afraid Of Swimming To The Beach
PixieMe / Shutterstock.com

Let your dog slowly approach the water and enter it at their own pace. Never force them to do anything they don’t want to.

Similarly, if your dog wants to get out of the water, let it swim out of the water. Avoid scolding them or pushing them to do anything they don’t want.

Do not assume that your dog will love the water during the introduction. So, be patient with them and make sure they are comfortable with the experience.

4. Offer Support

Do not assume that your dog will go into the water alone. Instead, go in the water together with them and offer them the support your need.

When they look scared or hesitant, give them some much needed encouragement and support by holding them tightly while in the water with them.

5. Turn It Into A Positive Experience

2 Jack Russell Terrier Dogs Are Enjoying Swimming And Playing Ball-Fetching Together
Pommy / Shutterstock.com

Along with encouragement and support, you can also offer your dog some treats while in the water with them. This way, they can start associating the experience with something positive.

You can also use toys to encourage them to play in the water as well. For example, you can toss them a ball and let them fetch it.

6. Monitor Your Dog’s Reaction

Pay attention to your dog’s body language and behavior while in the water. If they ever show signs of distress, give them space or let them get out of the water.

However, if you don’t see any signs of hesitancy and they start to feel a lot more comfortable, encourage them to explore the water and play with toys – all at their own pace, of course.

7. Gradually Increase Exposure

Labrador Swimming In A Pool
Wasitt Hemwarapornchai / Shutterstock.com

Once you see that your dog is comfortable in shallow water, you can gradually move them to deeper areas. When you do this, don’t forget to continue providing support and encouragement as needed.

8. Take Breaks

Swimming or just simply being in the water can be exhausting for dogs. So, if your dog starts panting and is looking tired, take breaks in between or simply call it a day.

9. Practice Regularly

Dogs Enjoy Playing On Beach With Owner
amfroey / Shutterstock.com

Make water introduction a part of your dog’s routine until they become more confident and comfortable. With the right mindset, a lot of patience and positive reinforcement, most dogs will learn to enjoy the water.

Furthermore, practicing regularly will greatly improve your dog’s swimming skills.

10. Dry Them Off After The Activity

Of course, it’s important to also look after your dog after introducing them to water. While water activities with your dogs are usually enjoyed during the summer season, always remember to dry your dog off with a towel to warm them up.

Taking care of them before, during, and after the water introduction will ensure a positive experience for them.

Common Mistakes Dog Parents Make When Introducing A Dog To Water

We should remember that just like hoomans with any skill, dogs learn things progressively, and with the right encouragement and support, they will slowly become more confident in their skills.

However, there are some people who make mistakes that leads to negative water experiences. So, in saying this, here are some common mistakes dog parents make when introducing a dog to water:

  1. Throwing a dog into the water. The most common misconception is that the best way to teach a dog how to swim is by throwing them into a body of water, which is not true at all. As a matter of fact, this does the opposite and can cause a traumatic experience that will result in a fear of water. Furthermore, this can be dangerous and a dog can drown because of this.
  2. Disregarding safety precautions. Going into any body of water can pose its own dangers. So, going into deep water, not using a life jacket nor a leash can increase the risks of accidents and injuries to your dog.
  3. Letting a dog in the water unsupervised. When introducing your dog to water, their safety and comfort are your top priority. So, do not leave your dog unsupervised in the water, no matter how shallow it is.
  4. Assuming all dogs are good swimmers. A lot of people believe that all dogs are naturally good at swimming, but this is far from the truth. As mentioned above, there are dog breeds that do not have the physical characteristics for swimming.

Conclusion

Smiling Man Helping His Black And White French Bulldog To Swim In The Swiming Pool
Kunlathida6242 / Shutterstock.com

Every dog is unique and not all water introductions will be the same. But one thing is for sure – the introduction must be tailored to their comfort and safety.

So, if you want to have a soaking fun summer with your dog, the water introduction must only consist of safety precautions and positive reinforcement so your dog can slowly build confidence in its swimming skills and find the fun in it.

And if your dog learns to love the water, then congratulations! However, if they still don’t like the water even after you have safely introduced them to it, you have to understand and respect this decision.

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