How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

Most people think that dogs are natural swimmers. Many are, but some are not. Some of the worst swimmers have non-buoyant bodies, so will sink to the bottom of the swimming pool if they aren’t wearing a life vest. Examples of dogs that are not safe unattended by the pool include basset hounds, bulldogs, dachshunds, pugs and boxers. Even if your dog is NOT a natural swimmer, you can still introduce them to your pool and give them the enjoyment of swimming with your family. Below are some tips for helping get your dog into your pool safely and effectively so your whole family can enjoy swimming with your pet.

Tip #1: Get your dog comfortable with the water.

The first step in getting your dog swimming or spending time in the pool is to get them comfortable around the swimming pool and to get a sense for the water. Bring them to the edge of the pool and splash a bit of water on them. Don’t rush it if they are uncomfortable. If they are hesitant, don’t rush things. It may take a several sessions before your dog is OK getting wet, especially if your dog is a bit older and this is his or her first time around a swimming pool.

Tip #2: Don’t leave your dog around the pool alone!

As mentioned above, not all dogs can swim, and even those that can may panic if they fall into a swimming pool unexpectedly or in the dark. Pool safety products such as alarmed collars or pool alarms if your dog is sometimes around your pool when people aren’t.

Tip #3: Use a life vest.

A life vest is extremely important for many dogs, especially in the initial period of learning to swim in your pool. It makes the swimming experience much safer, even for dogs that can swim. There’s lots of great life jackets that are comfortable for your dog, and can keep him or her safe both when they’re swimming or if they fall in by accident. Until your dog is extremely comfortable getting in and out of your pool, dogs should wear life jackets when they are in or around your swimming pool. More tips can be found here.

Tip #4: Encourage your dog to get into the water, but don’t force it.

Once your dog has been around the swimming pool and is comfortable being splashed a little, try taking the next gradual step. You can bribe your dog with dog treats, or invite another dog that swims to your pool. Sometimes seeing another dog makes it easier for your dog to jump into the pool!

Tip #5: Install stairs or a ramp for an easy exit.

Often the most difficult thing for dogs to learn is how to get OUT of the pool. If the dog isn’t a good swimmer, this can cause panic and distress. There are many different options for helping your dog exit your pool, including stairs and ramps. It’s a great idea to put a marker on the pool deck near the exit like a flower plant or sculpture so your dog has a visual queue of where the pool exit is.
Finally, make sure that you are patient with your dog! For some dogs, getting into a pool can be a big ordeal, and it’s worth it to take your time with this process. It can lead to many years of enjoyment with your dog in your swimming pool!

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