Many pet owners assume that their dogs are a natural in the water. Unfortunately, not all dogs know how to swim automatically, and some will even drown if they are left in a pool or lake unattended. Owners need to keep in mind that they may need to teach their dogs how to swim. Swimming can be a great way for a dog to cool off in the hot summer months, so you should encourage your dog to get in the pool if he or she seems to be getting overheated. However, you will also want to make sure that your dog can keep his or her head above water while in the pool.
It is important to make sure that your dog is a swimming dog. Some breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, hunting dog breeds, and German shepherds can swim easily, and won't need much training before they will be moving through the water effortlessly. On the other hand, English bulldogs cannot swim at all and will sink right to the bottom of the pool if they are tossed into the water without a flotation device. Lightweight dogs that have short lefts will normally have a hard time in the water. You should outfit pets of this build with a dog life-jacket if you want to bring them with you into the pool or plan to take them out on the boat during the summer.
To try and teach your pet to swim, you will want to find a location that is relatively quiet. If there is too much activity, chances are that your animal will be distracted and have a hard time focusing on the task at hand. YOU will want to keep your dog leashed during the first attempts to swim so that you can make sure he or she doesn't swim too far out and get into trouble. You should never take this leash off unless you are certain that your dog can swim unassisted and is consistently returning if you call him or her back to the shore. Even when your dog is a confident swimmer, never leave the animal in a pool area or near water unattended.
Don't just toss your dog in the water to see if it can swim. This will not be beneficial, and will simply frighten your animal. Instead, guide your dog into shallow water where you can stand alongside him or her. If needed, put a flotation device on your pet and then attach the leash. Walk slowly into the water, and allow your animal to get used to having his or her paws wet. If your pet is reluctant to get into the water, bring a toy or training treats with you to coax her in. Use a positive tone and display excitement at being in the water yourself. As your pet enters the water, give her lots of verbal praise.
Once your dog needs to paddle to stay afloat, gently move your arm to provide support around the dog's belly. The dog should naturally start paddling, but hold her around the belly until she is kicking with both her front and rear legs. Dogs should not learn how to swim with just their front legs, as they can tire easily when they try to splash around this way. If your dog starts panicking, bring her back to the shallow water and then try again. When you are done with the swimming session, show your animal the safest way out of the water. With patience and careful training, you will have a swimmer in no time who can stare in the joys of summer with you.