Not all dogs naturally know how to swim, and it is up to you to teach them for safety’s sake. Expecting them to be able to handle themselves in an aquatic situation can be dangerous, especially if you have a pool or visit lakes or rivers during camping trips with your canine companion.
So, how exactly do you teach your dog to swim? While they quickly learn how to stay afloat, it is crucial that you target a few specific points and techniques to ensure their safety and make the experience fun for them. After all, fun is the best teaching tool of all.
For most owners, getting them adjusted to the water is a good start. You don’t want them to panic when they enter a water environment (river, lake, pool, or even canoeing) because they can easily get confused. So, how old should a puppy be before they begin any kind of swimming lessons? Generally, it’s good to start early, around seven months, to get them accustomed to a water environment. It’s good for safety purposes, just in case they fall into a swimming pool or get excited and jump in (dogs are renowned for their desire to save their friends and will often jump in to try to save you if you’re in the pool).
Teaching your dog to doggy-paddle
You may want to start with a doggy pool. They’re inexpensive and are great for cooling them off during the hot summer months. In a shallow environment, they’ll be able to move around in the water without being afraid.
Once accustomed to getting wet, it’s time for swimming lessons. Don’t just put them in the pool. There are some handy tools, such as pool ramps, that give your dog a boost out of the water. This is mainly because dogs cannot climb out of a pool like we can. Just keep in mind that swimming can be disorienting for them, and knowing their exit point is important. Dogs can panic, so be careful that they don’t pull you down or scratch you.
Place them in the pool at their exit point and allow them to get a feel for the water environment. Then you should guide them around the pool and have them follow you. At the end of the lesson, guide them back to the exit and let them get out on their own.
Precautions when swimming
Protecting yourself is just as important. Wear a shirt and shorts that will cover your torso and legs. Dogs can easily scratch you with their nails, especially when they’re paddling or even panicking. It is likely that first time swimmers will want to grab on to you for safety, so this can save you from unnecessary nicks and scratches.
This brings up the importance of hygiene. Something to consider before introducing your dog into a pool is your dog’s nails. Many people know how much it hurts when they stub their toe or hand when swimming or just getting out of the pool. Dogs are just as susceptible, and can easily crack or shatter a nail, which could easily become infected. This is where additional tools like the doggy ramp can help out.
You must also be cautious about a pool environment, since chlorine can be hard on their eyes or dangerous to ingest. Sometimes it’s not good for them even to just inhale it. Consider the use of a salt-purified pool. Salt actually makes the water denser and things in it more buoyant (so your dog will find it easier to float) and is softer on their skin and eyes. Keep in mind that their fur can be hard on your pool filters, so don’t be surprised if you have to clean your filters more often.
Swimming lessons for your dog
There are of course a range of doggy swimming training facilities available to help train your dog. Because this is all about safety, there are a few questions to ask before you enlist in any classes. How will they train your dog? Do they teach through positive reinforcement or through discipline? How you train your dog will affect their outlook and attitude towards water. What safety precautions do they take? Is their pool a safe environment and dog-friendly? Consider that it is also important that trainers be aware of the risks of an aquatic environment and are able to take measures to ensure your dog’s complete safety (such as resuscitation). Then consider what type of environment they will be in. Remember that chlorine pools can quickly irritate their eyes.
As your dog’s owner and protector, it is up to you to ensure their safety at all times. Though we do not always think about how dangerous a pool can be to our dog, it is important to understand that without proper training, your companion could injure themselves or even someone else if they don’t know how to swim safely.
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