Great! The puppy jumps instantly into the water. Obviously, the puppy is a water dog, one that takes to water like a duck. Some breeds of dogs love the water. These water babies won’t need to be coached to venture into water. These troopers figure out what has to be done, jump into the water and swim naturally. In a situation such as this, the only thing that an owner has to do is to ensure that swimming becomes a fun activity for the dog, one that will build up the dog’s confidence and not one that will make the dog turn away from swimming. The owner or the trainer must not make the dog “unlove” the water. This can be achieved by making sure that the first swimming excursion is done when the weather is fine and warm as water would be considerably warm too. An ideal swimming hole would be a pond with about knee-deep water. The dog may love the water but a first time swimmer would not be a strong swimmer. It is akin to a baby taking its first steps. The swimming area therefore should not have fast flowing current and should not have high banks that would prove to be difficult for a tiring dog to climb.
Retrievers are supposed to love the water but never assume that because your dog is a retriever, it knows how to swim. Swimming for dogs should be instinctive. A dog should be able to swim once submerged in water. Swimming should be integral to a dog. The swimming stroke doggy paddle was in fact named after dogs. Unfortunately, not all dogs know how to swim and for that matter not all dogs wanted to swim either. All breeds of dogs must be introduced to the water. Throwing the dog into the water or pushing the dog from the boat is a big NO! This will be a bad experience for the dog and ten to one; the dog will hate the water. Worst there are many dogs that drowned this way. A dog that sinks like a bag of bricks must be fished at once if you don’t want the pet to be a goner. There are also some breeds of dogs that would find swimming to be a challenge. Generally, heavy dogs like English bulldogs and Basset Hounds with very short legs would find swimming to be very difficult.
So when do you start to teach the dog to swim? Not all dogs are born swimmers therefore swimming lessons, like socialization and obedience training is best started at an early age when the puppy is still inquisitive and fear of water would be one of the emotions not yet learned by the dog. Moreover, a puppy’s size would be more manageable. Most puppies from reputable breeders were already introduced to water but if it wasn’t done correct early introduction to water will make the dog a fine swimmer and one that loves the water. Let the puppy play on the edge of the water, to sniff around and to get its feet wet. Wade a bit and call the puppy. Some would take to the water at once and others would hesitate. Never force the issue. Some dogs take their time before testing the water. The main thing to remember is to build the confidence of the dog and to make the sessions fun. However, is easier said than done as some dogs, especially older ones would need to be helped into the water. And in most cases these reluctant swimmers would keep on trying to climb out. One trick is to hold the rear end of the dog while holding the belly with another hand. Notice how the legs will instinctively paddle. When the dog is paddling vigorously, remove your hand from under the dog’s belly and the dog will instinctively swim to the shore. This lesson can be repeated several times until the dog jumps into the water on his own. Taking another dog that enjoys the water is a good idea as it will entice the dog to swim and to imitate its friend.