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How To Teach A Dog To Swim

4 min read

Updated - May 17th, 2022

Believe it or not, not all dogs are good swimmers! They may doggy paddle out of instinct, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to stay afloat. Some breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, for example, are more inclined to enjoy swimming due to their thicker coats or webbed feet. On the other hand, Bulldogs and Dachshunds cannot swim as efficiently due to physical limitations. Either way, it’s important to get them accustomed to water if you and your family like to frequent dog-friendly pools, the beach, or any natural body of water.  

If you’re wondering how to teach a dog to swim, we’ve got the answers you need. Let’s dig in! 

How to teach a dog to swim in 4 steps

1. Begin your dog’s swimming session in shallow water, like a kiddie pool. Allow them the time to get comfortable with their setting by dipping their paws and legs in, but not their full bodies. This can take several tries, which requires lots of patience and positive reinforcement. 

2. After they get more used to their environment, slowly lead them out into deep water. If you started off in a kiddie pool, you can then advance into a larger backyard pool. Make sure that your dog has a flotation device on, such as a dog life jacket. This will help them stay afloat. 

3. Beginner swimmers may try to use only their front legs when swimming, which can quickly tire them out. Hold onto your dog’s torso and life vest as they learn how to doggy paddle with all four legs and their tail for better support in the water. 

4. Ensure that your dog can leave the water whenever they please, whether it’s through a ramp or a ladder. Encourage them every time they choose to go back into the water by rewarding them with their favorite toys or training treats

How to keep your dog safe while swimming

While teaching your dog to swim can be a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved, you should always prioritize their safety. Whether you’re teaching your pooch to swim in a dog-friendly pool or a natural body of water, make sure to always accompany them and be aware of your surroundings. 

Here are just a few factors to consider as you keep your dog safe: 

Preparing a flotation device

If your dog is not a natural swimmer, a life jacket can help maintain their buoyancy when they tire out and need a break. It’s important that you purchase a life jacket that properly fits your dog’s body, as they will be relying on it to stay afloat. Make sure that it comfortably supports their head without constricting other parts of their body, and is made of water-resistant material. Life vests with handles are great, in case you need to lift your dog out of the water. 

Monitoring water quality and water currents 

Make sure to hydrate your dog before letting them swim anywhere, whether it’s a lake, public beach, or a chlorinated dog-friendly pool. Otherwise, they may try to drink the water they’re swimming in. Unclean or chemically-treated water  can cause unnecessary harm to their body. Wash your dog thoroughly after every swimming session to keep them clean. 

If your dog is swimming at a beach or lake, it’s crucial that you supervise them at all times. Unless it’s a pond, any natural body of water can have strong currents or even riptides that your dog will have difficulty escaping. 

Protection from sun exposure 

Just like people, dogs can get sunburn when exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time. Excessive sun exposure can lead to future skin problems in dogs, such as skin cancer or dermatitis, which is why dog owners need to take preventative measures for their outdoors-loving pets. Some breeds need more sun protection than others, especially if they have thin or white coats. However, all dogs benefit from proper sun protection. Before sending them out into the water, slather their skin with waterproof, unscented dog-friendly sunscreen to protect their skin. 

Professional training sessions 

There are professional training sessions available for dogs that need an extra bit of help and reassurance when learning how to swim. Swimming lessons can be fun and engaging, allowing dogs to get the exercise they need while spending time with their beloved owners. As you continue to learn how to teach your dog to swim, be patient, enthusiastic, and encouraging. Your dog will hopefully come to enjoy the water and spend more time in the sun! 

Even if you take precautions, pet emergencies can still happen. That’s why Pumpkin dog insurance plans pay back 90% of covered vet bills to help give you peace of mind all summer long.

Shi-won is a copywriter and an enthusiastic dog aunt to Maltese and Shih Tzu puppies.