How To Teach A Dog To Swim

Dog learning to swim in a poolOn a hot day there is no better way to cool down than going for a swim, even for your dog.

It is important to remember that not all dogs instinctively know how to swim and some are actually scared of or don’t like the water. Here are a few tips to help teach your dog how to swim, enjoy the water and most importantly to stay safe.

Tips to teach your dog to swim

  •  Introduce your dog to water when they are young. The earlier you get them comfortable with the water the better.
  • Never force or pull your dog into the water, this is likely to scare them more. You can coax them by using their favourite toy or calling them in.
  • Always keep them in close reach, especially when starting. When they are initially learning keeping them on a lead at first is the safest.
  • Start with a small amount of shallow water. A wading pool or clam shell is a good starting point. Then you can gradually increase the water depth as the dog becomes more confident.
  • Starting in a creek, dam, calm water beach or somewhere they are able to walk into the water can be less daunting than a swimming pool as they know they can touch the bottom.
  • If swimming in a pool, ensure that your dog can safely get out. Sometimes a ramp like the Skamper Ramp are helpful and easier to use than stairs.
  • Take your time teaching them to swim, doing it over several days if they are hesitant.
  • The swimming action of paddling the feet generally comes naturally when a dog is in the water and can’t touch the bottom. Many dogs just need practice to perfect the motion. If they need help learning this you can hold the dog around their middle and balance on them against your body while gently moving their legs in a paddling movement.
  • Remember, safety first when it comes to letting your dog swim. Always supervise them, never let them swim alone. Ensure that they are close enough to hear you and that you can reach them if needed. Make sure the water is safe, clean, free of debris and not in an area with a strong current. The vet-n-pet DIRECT Help Centre has a great article on Water Safety Tips For Dogs to remind everyone how to keep your dog safe around water.
  • And remember, have fun!!

Until next time,

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Author: Bec

From a very young age Bec has always had a great love and appreciation for all animals. Bec is a qualified Veterinary Nurse and also has a Bachelor in Applied Science Animal Studies with special interest in Wildlife and Recreational Animals. Her studies have been put to good use working in various animal industries including small and large animal veterinary clinics, horse studs and the family cattle property. Horses have played an important part in her life, living on a horse stud and caring for horses throughout breeding, foaling, spelling, racing and retirement. Bec is the proud mum of two gorgeous girls, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, a cheeky cockatiel, chickens and many horses including a naughty little pony.

11 Replies to “How To Teach A Dog To Swim

  1. My Lady Lexi is not only good in swimming. She loves to dive-in.

  2. Molly is not comfortable in swimming. Will you suggest me a swimming tube for dogs??

    1. Hi Audrey,
      I would try a flotation device which is like a life jacket specially designed for dogs. It will keep them a float and they have a handle on the top so you can pick them up if needed. This will allow the dog to swim on their own, practising their action and building confidence all while staying safe. We have a few doggy life jacket options available like the EzyDog DFD Life Jacket or the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat.
      I hope this helps
      🙂 Bec

  3. Pingback: Summer Safety Tips – vet-n-pet DIRECT Blog
  4. Hi, do you have any tips for getting a rescue dog used to me using a hose? When I use it he incessantly barks and won’t come near me until I put it away.

    1. Hi Roseanne,
      Thank you for the question. I have put your question into the vet-n-pet Direct Help Centre as it has a rather lengthy answer, plus others may be experiencing a similar problem. You can view the answer to your question here.
      Good luck and let us know how you go.

      Kind Regards

  5. Love your blog! But this article is not detail.
    Can you write more detail follow step by step and photos.
    because I want to teach my puppy swim, do you have any advice for me ?

    1. Hi Marina,
      Thank you for the feedback, I’m glad you like the blog.
      I’m sorry I don’t have anything more detailed for you at this stage. My advise would be to follow the suggested steps in the article. Swimming in general comes naturally once a dog is in water deep enough that they can’t touch the bottom, their feet will start paddling. If your pup is having trouble paddling hold them on your hip and move their legs/feet back and forth in a paddling style. Always start in shallow water that they can get in and out easily by themselves so they do not get scared. And lots of positive talk and rewards.
      Good luck!

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