Many dog owners often wonder how to keep their beloved pets active without having to walk in the hot weather. This is where the swimming comes in – it’s an activity that brings a lot of fun to both the pup and his owner, especially during the summer.
But although this activity can be very entertaining, we can’t forget that it’s not a natural behavior for the pups, like sniffing, eating, and other activities are. If you’d like to have your pooch swimming, you will have to teach him to do so – it’s the same like it is with the humans.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the methods that will help you get Fido into the pool and enjoy swimming together with you. We recommend picking out a dog life jacket to keep your pup safe and afloat. Read on!
Why is My Dog Afraid of Water?
Some pups, as well as some specific breeds, really like to swim and have fun while they’re in the water. But some pets, on the other hand, are terrified of it, and won’t get near it no matter what the owner does. They don’t care for the treats or rewards – they just want to be as far away from the pool or the river as possible.
Many pups that are afraid of water suffer from conditions such as extreme sensitivity and anxiety. The minds of dogs are very sophisticated in a psychological way, and, just like humans, they can suffer from fears that seem unreasonable to others. This kind of anxiety can develop from abuse, appear as a consequence of raw emotions, or just be inherited from the parents.
Some pets, on the other hand, will acquire a fear of water because of the bad experience they had with it in the past. Maybe they almost drowned when they were just puppies, or the previous owner used water to punish them in some way.
During their lives, these pups had an experience that made them afraid of water, and they associate it with something terrible – their fear is a terrifying one and can make a simple outdoor walk a real horror.
Other pups will develop this fear merely because they have, over the time, lost their trust in humans. Maybe they were abused before, with or without water, and this experience created a fear that’s very hard to overcome.
It’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to find the reason for your dog’s fear – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. With encouragement, praise, patience, and through the development of a strong bond of trust, it’s totally possible to help your pooch to overcome this fear.
How Do I Get my Dog in the Pool?
Many dogs can swim, but not all of them. The best time to teach him to love the pool is when he’s young and without negative experiences with water. Some of them will have fun almost immediately, while some will require a lot of time and patience from the owner.
Unlike the sea or the ocean, a typical swimming pool has walls, and these things will make the pooch think that he’s trapped. That’s why it’s essential to teach the pup to get into the pool himself – throwing him in is never a good idea. In this part of the article, we’ll try to help you out to get your beloved pup into the pool without any problems.
- Step #1
Start by calmly leashing the dog and casually walking him to the pool. Use a confident tone while speaking to him and avoid dragging the leash. If you notice that he is terrified, let him go and try it again tomorrow.
- Step #2
Try to encourage the pet with your voice, but also remember to reward him with treats and praise each time he makes a step towards the pool. It’s important for the pup to associate waking towards the pool with good things. For now, the only important thing is to get him to the pool’s edge – once you do that, call it a day.
- Step #3
At this point, your only objective should be keeping him at the pool’s edge for as long as possible. Sit with him, pet him, and give him your praises as well as some treats. If the pup remains calm, put your own legs into the pool and let the pooch see that there’s nothing to be afraid of in that.
- Step #4
Repeat the previous steps until your dog becomes more confident, and always reward him with his favorite treats. You could try swimming in the pool while holding the pup on a leash – just don’t forget to avoid tugging. Once you think that the pet is ready, help him get in by putting his feet into the water. If he stays calm, remember to reward him with lots of treats and praise. This is guaranteed to give the dog a positive association with the pool.
- Step #5
At this point, it’s time to try swimming with your pet. Use the command “let’s swim!” and gently pull the dog into the pool. Once he’s in, quickly shows him where the stairs are and how to get out. In this way, he’ll figure out that the pool is not a trap, and won’t be so much afraid of it the next time.
- Step #6
Repeat the previous steps all the way until you notice that the dog willingly gets into the pool and doesn’t actually care about the leash. It’s time to remove the rope and see if he will readily get inside the water. If he does, your mission is complete – the pooch finds swimming to be a positive experience and will be happy to swim with you whenever you want him to.
Training Your Dog to Like Water
When it comes to training your pet to like the water, there are two methods you could use – the classical conditioning and the operant conditioning. These methods are quite different from one another, and both deserve a more in-depth look – so, let’s do it!
Method #1 – Classical Conditioning
The idea behind this approach is to create an association between two things that are unrelated, achieving this by using the so-called “bridge.” In this scenario, the unrelated things will be the treats and the water, while the click from your clicker will serve as the bridge. Let’s break it down into several steps:
- Like we already said in the previous part of this article, you can use the leash to bring the dog next to the water. Use a long leash, as it will let him move further or closer to the water.
- Start the whole thing far from the water. If he becomes terrified, return back to that spot.
- Every time the pup looks at the water, click and reward him with a treat. Do the same thing every time he takes a step toward the lake, river, or whichever body of water you’re trying to get him into.
- Reward the pup for every interaction with the water, and that includes touching it, drinking it, and, of course, going inside.
Method #2 – Operant Conditioning
This approach requires a bit more effort on the owner’s end. Unlike the classical conditioning, which encourages the pet associate one thing with another, the operant conditioning is based on giving cues and commands. It’s what most people will think of when someone says “dog training.” Let’s take a look at the steps:
- Start the whole thing by teaching the pooch to “target” on your command. It’s a simple behavior based on your pup touching his nose to the owner’s open hand, and it can be very useful.
- Next step is similar to that in the classical conditioning – take your pet to the chosen watery location by using a long leash. Remember, the leash is not for pulling the pooch into the lake, but for safety.
- Ask the pup to “target” to your own hand, while at the same time leading him towards the water. Remember to click and reward him for success.
- Continue moving towards the chosen watery location until you get inside of it, giving out lots of rewards. Aim to achieve at least ten successes per one minute, and don’t push it too hard – the dog could give up.
If you’re a patient person and always ready to give your pooch his favorite treats, you can also combine these methods. It’s possible that the pup will never truly love the water, but these methods should at least remove things like hesitation, phobia, and fear.