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How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

When it comes to water some of us pups like it and some don’t. I’m not that fond of it myself. I don’t even like getting my feet wet! But, I have some brothers and sisters that love it, especially that big Ozzy and Brandi. Heck, they even try to stand in the water bowl! My Lady says you would think they are part fish! While I might not like getting wet, if I was to fall in a pool or lake, I sure would wanna know how to save myself WOOF! I’m gonna let my Lady give ya a few tips on How to Teach Your Dog to Swim!

How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

Does your dog like water? Many dogs do! I have a mixed pack here.

Half of them love the water and the other half wants no part of it!

When it comes to the water and your dog swimming safely, most need a swimming lesson or two before they can safely be let out into a body of water.

If you think your dog would enjoy swimming, but they don’t have any experience with it, read on to learn about the why’s and how to teach your dog to swim!

Why Your Dog Should Learn to Swim

There are two main reasons why you should teach your dog to swim.

Number one is so that they can potentially save themselves if they fall into a pool or lake, or if they wander too far out into a river.

Not all dogs will instinctively know how to swim properly, and an emergency situation isn’t the time to try to learn!

The second reason you should teach your dog to swim is so that they could possibly save you or your family!

Likely you’ve seen at least a couple of videos of dogs jumping into the water to save children, adults, and even other dogs!

That couldn’t happen if the dogs didn’t know how to swim!

black lab swimming

Beyond those reasons, think of all the fun they can have!

Ozzy and Brandi love the water! They love to play, splash and fetch toys from the water.

They are half lab and half German Shepherd.

I think it may be true about all labs love the water. Those two are like fish!

Safety First

When you first start to teach your dog to swim, you should get a dog flotation vest (the dog equivalent of floaties).

Ideally, your first lesson would happen in a pool or lake. Just don’t start off in a river or the ocean, as your dog would be dealing with both how to swim and how to fight the current!

Dog swimming in lake with ball in his mouth

During the lesson and even after your dog has learned to swim, never leave them alone!

They could get overtired or have a hard time pulling themselves out of a pool and could drown!

Dog Swimming Lessons

First, lead your dog (leashed and with a flotation vest on) out into the water on a shallow end.

Give them time to get used to all the water around them.

To help speed up the process, consider coaxing them with a toy or treat.

Keep praising them as they get further and further into the water.

Once the two of you are in water deep enough that your dog needs to start swimming, keep a hand under their tummy until they seem to be balancing well in the water.

Continue praising. If your dog seems to be swimming decently, take your hand away.

They should be swimming with both their front and back legs.

If they’re not, put your hand back.

Eventually, your dog should figure out the right rhythm and should swim with all their legs. Have them swim for 10-15 minutes.

That can be it for the first session. Lead your dog out of the water, remove the flotation vest, praise them, and rinse them off.

If the first session went well, do the same things during the next session, but without the flotation vest.

Otherwise, keep the vest on. Likely it won’t take more than a few sessions for your dog to get the hang of swimming!

If Your Dog Becomes Distressed

If at any point during the sessions, your dog starts to become distressed, lead them out of the water, give them time to calm down, then begin the lesson again.

Husky dog swimming in pool

Remember, not all dogs like water. Some may be quite cat-like in their hatred of water (Miss Molly is in this category – she does not like getting wet in any form or fashion)

And you may not be able to teach your dog to swim if they have a heavy body with short legs (like Basset Hounds and Bulldogs).

If your dog can’t learn how to swim, plan to not take them near water, blockade your pool, and put a flotation vest on them if they’ll be on a boat.

Does your dog like water?


Sunday 16th of September 2018

Really helpful, interesting how they learn to swim

Alisha Lecroy

Sunday 30th of October 2016

I always thought dogs naturally knew how to swim.

Genie Fettig

Wednesday 28th of September 2016

Wish my dog hadn't been absolutely terrified of water. (He wouldn't even get close to the hose when it was on.)

Sarah L

Friday 9th of September 2016

I think kids and dogs should all be taught to swim at an early age.

Stephanie Lashbrook

Tuesday 30th of August 2016

I had one dog I thought hated water and she surprised us by chasing after a bird and right into the water; we didn't have to teach her anything. She just went for it but she hated baths and rain. Another time she cheated and floated around in the lake on a boogie board from the boat. Now I have another dog who also hates rain and baths so much he tip toes around the puddles to go to the bathroom. He's a lab mix. I've never given much thought about this. I was always in the thought that this was a natural instinct for them. But I wonder about him being able to and that is assuming we can get him in the water.

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