How to Teach your Dog How to Swim

The warm summer months and the midnight sun is almost upon us here in Alaska and there are plenty of lakes and swimming holes to cool off. Have you ever thought about how to teach your dog how to swim?

Teaching your dog how to swim can be a fun, yet challenging, activity. Many dogs take to water so quickly while others can be afraid if the water. Having taught many dogs how to swim, I am a big believer that this is the best process to take to get your dog ready for the water.

Find Out if Your Dog Likes Water

Some breeds, like Labradors, love water.

Others, like Bulldogs who cannot swim without flotation devices, may not be big fans of swimming.

The only way to find out is to take your dog  into the water with you. They may need a few tries to see if they like it, but if after two attempts, they are still nervous or appear scared, swimming is not for them. Stick to long walks, jogging,  and other exercise.

If they like swimming continue to the next step.


Safety First

When testing to see if your dog likes water, and during your first swimming lesson, it’s best to go into a calm, shallow body of water.

Pools and lakes are ideal. Avoid the ocean and rivers because the currents and waves are dangerous and can scare you dog of swimming forever.

  • Wade out with your dog
  • Make sure they’re wearing a secure flotation vest
  • Walk next to them and let them know you’re there
  • Keep the first attempt short
  • Walk with them out of the water

If they run from the water and show no interest in getting back in, or are fearful of any attempt to go into the water again, don’t force it.

Second Swim

If your dog seemed to like the water, try again. Start slow, and wade out a bit further. You may need to support your pup under her belly or chest to encourage the use of all four legs.

  • The “doggie paddle” is good for keeping them afloat, not swimming.
  • Extend your time in the water, gauge their reaction
  • Stay out a bit longer each try. Once your dog is comfortable, have them swim to you from a short distance
  • Never leave your dog unattended in the water, even if they’re wearing a floatation vest

After a Swim

Whether your dog loved or hated the water, your best bet is to praise them heavily and reward them with lots of petting and treats.

If they are full of energy post-swim, this is a good time for a walk. If they’re tired, bring them home and let them sleep it off. Swimming takes a lot of physical energy, and it can be exciting to a dog that loves water, so they’ll need plenty of rest.

If you have any questions please give Alaska Dog Works a call at 907-841-1686