Trainer Tips: How to teach your dog to swim

23March 2017

Today’s Trainer Tip:
How to teach your dog to swim in the pool.

Featuring Phinney, a Cocker Spaniel who is almost 9 years old.  Phinney has hip dysplasia and luxating patellas.  Basically he has bad hips and bad knees.  If you have a dog who has bad hips, bad knees, arthritis, or joint pain, swimming is an excellent exercise!  It is also a good low impact exercise for anyone or any dog in general.

To get a dog comfortable in water, the first step is to be sure than YOU are calm during the training.  Anytime you introduce your dog to something new, they are going to be a little unsure about it.  If you stay calm, this will help your dog stay calm during training.

First I recommend gently placing your dog into the water in an area where they can easily touch without having to swim.  After doing this a few times, (if your dog is small enough to lift) place your dog into the water where they are unable to touch and get them swimming.  At first it is natural for them to freak out a little and splash about.  Stay calm.  Wait until the dog calms down and has a good swimming rhythm going.  Once that happens, allow them to calmly and slowly swim to the step where they are able to get out of the pool.  Praise lavishly!

Next attach a leash and a dog life vest (if necessary).  If you have a larger dog that you are unable to life, start here…
At this point, you will gently lead your dog into the water.  This is the hard part for them.  Most pools have steps with a drop off and not a gradual entrance into the water (like a lake or ocean might have).  Remain calm and gently pull on the leash until the dog moves forward.  Once the dog moves forward, immediately remove the leash tension.  Going over that lost drop off may take a few minutes.  Take your time.  Once the dog moves into the pool and begins swimming, praise lavishly!  Allow the dog to swim around the pool while you guide them with the leash.  Once the dog has a good rhythm going, allow the dog to swim to the edge where they may exit the pool.  Again praise lavishly.  If while swimming in the pool the dog begins to panic, do NOT panic or become nervous with the dog.  Stay calm.  If you need to (and the dog is small enough), lift the dog out of the water and allow them to calm down.  Once they are calm, put them back into the water and get them swimming again.  Hold along both sides of the dog and allow them to swim in place and get a good rhythm going again.  Then allow the dog to exit the pool and praise for a job well done.

Repeat this until the dog becomes more comfortable in the water.