4 tips to make swimming safe and fun for your dog

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Swimming is some of the best exercise you can give your dog, and it’s a great summer activity. Just like for people, it’s great cardio, easy on the joints, and loads of fun. My Corgi puppy Hudson is taking to the water like a fish (or maybe a Labrador), and I am thankful for a great way to drain his energy without melting in the heat. Whether your dog is a little swimmer or loves water as much as a cat, here are four tips to help acclimate your dog to swimming.

1.  Location matters. If your dog is a new to swimming, try going to a pond or lake instead of a family pool. It’s much less intimidating for a dog to walk into water gradually, instead of having to jump into a pool or take the steps. My 4-year-old rescue pitbull, Hamilton, taught me this lesson the hard way. The first time he saw a backyard swimming pool, he ran and jumped in the deep end. Unfortunately, he sank so deep he absolutely panicked. My husband had to dive in and pull him out. A year later, we are still trying to get him to get near water again. If you do take your dog to a pool, make sure he or she know the entry and exits. This is very important, so your dog won’t panic. Always let your dog get in out of the water as he or she pleases. You never want your dog to feel trapped.

2.  Make water time fun for your dog. Try throwing a ball or a stick to get your dog to get in the water. (Hudson looks something like 

” target=”_blank”>this.) Just throw the toy short distances at first to build your dog’s confidence. Make sure you encourage your dog whenever he or she tries to swim. I love going to the dog park, because when Hudson sees other dogs swimming, he is much more eager to do it himself. No puppy can resist playtime with his buddies. Even kiddie pools are a great way to let your dog cool off in the summer. My small dog loves to splash around it, and even my big guy loves to cool off his feet by walking through it.

3.  As always, remember to be very patient with your dog. Even if your dog’s particular breed is known for swimming, it might take them weeks or months before swimming like a champ. The Australian Shepherd I grew up with would only go to her knees in water. But one day I was floating out on a lake on a raft and it got a hole in it. I was laughing and splashing around as the raft started to sink. My Aussie took this as a sign of great distress and shocked everyone by swimming out to me. When she realized I was fine, she swam back to shore and I’ve never seen her swim again. Not all dogs like to swim, even if they know how. So the water might not be for them.

4. Lastly, just remember to be safe. If you own a pool and your dog is a swimmer, make sure your dog is always supervised in the pool. It’s not safe for him or her to swim without supervision. Watch out for drinking the pool water as well. Too much chlorine isn’t good for your dog. Depending on your location (such as on a boat), and your dog’s swimming ability, a dog life jacket may be necessary and helpful. Don’t forget to get in and enjoy the water with your dog. It’s good for both of you. Happy swimming!

Ashley Hay is a certified pet-training instructor and dog groomer with over seven years of professional animal caretaking experience. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband Dan and two dogs, Hamilton (American Staffordshire Terrier) and Hudson (Pembroke Welsh Corgi).

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