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Teaching Your Dog To Like The Water

Not all breeds of dogs like the water, and even some of the breeds that are supposed to be "water dogs" don't seem to enjoy getting wet at all. There are also dogs from specific breeds that don't typically go near the water that just can't wait to head out to lake for some fun in the sun. A great deal of how much or how little your dog enjoys being in the water does depend on their breed tendencies and traits, but how they experience being in the water the first few times can also make a big difference in their attitude towards swimming and playing in water. 

Breeds That Are Naturals
If you are a person that wants his or her dog to be a water loving animal, it is highly recommended that you stick to breeds where this is a characteristic. Not surprisingly all of the retrievers including the Lab, Chesapeake Bay, Curly and Flat Coated, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling and the Golden Retrievers are all typically fond of swimming and being in the water. Many of the spaniels, including the Cocker Spaniel, are also great water dogs and enjoy playing in and around water. Setters such as the Irish, Red and White and the Gordon generally enjoy getting in the water. 

Almost any dog with "water" in the name is also a natural. These breeds include the now very popular Portuguese Water Dog, Irish Water Spaniel and the Spanish Water Dog. These dogs are great for retrieving in the water but they also love to just get out and splash around and swim. All the above mentioned dogs are powerful swimmers and generally all dogs within these breeds will have some natural comfort level in the water. 
Some surprisingly great swimmers and dogs that really love the water include:
  • Rat Terriers
  • Poodles, more specifically the Standard and Miniature sizes
  • Schipperkes
  • Newfoundland Dogs
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Boxers
  • Pit Bull types
  • Border Collies
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Shih Tzu
Dogs That Tend To Avoid Water
Perhaps not surprisingly many of the very large and the very small dogs really don't enjoy water as much as the dog breeds listed above. Dogs with extremely dense coats and many of the northern types of dogs tend to fall into these categories. 

Dog breeds that tend to avoid water if possible include the:
  • Akita
  • Chihuahua
  • Basenji
  • Siberian Husky
  • Whippets
  • Great Danes
  • Shar Pei
  • Chow Chow
This doesn't mean that these dogs won't go near water, but they generally don't naturally enjoy swimming or getting more than their feet wet as they walk along the beach. 

Starting Out
First it is important to realize puppies should not be encouraged to get into any type of water, especially if they are younger than 4 months. Very young puppies should never be in water as they cannot regulate their body temperature and can inhale water, resulting in the likelihood of pneumonia developing. Older puppies, 4 plus months, should be encouraged to wade into the water but only to their comfort level. This is perfect if you have a pond, beach or lake nearby where you can allow the puppy to play along the shore. 

Gradually as the puppy or dog becomes more comfortable and confident they will wade out further. Most dogs prefer to be able to walk out into deeper water so avoid pools or other areas where there is a sudden drop off. Dog floatation devices, similar to human lifejackets can be used, but you can also simply support your dog by forming a cradle with your arms and helping them stay buoyant. After a trip or two experimenting with the leg movement of swimming your puppy or dog, if they are a natural water dog, will be off and swimming on his or her own. Dogs under one year of age should be carefully monitored in the water as they may become quickly tired and need assistance. 

Dog breeds that don't enjoy the water may need a bit more encouragement. Offer treats and lots of praise as they gradually move into deeper water. Play along the edge of the water and encourage but don't force the dog into deeper areas. If the dog refuses to go any deeper never push or pull the dog forward, this is likely to result in the dog panicking and possibly scratching or biting the handler. Lifejackets and floatation devices as well as having supporting the dog as he or she gets into deeper water is the best option. 

Never throw the dog into a pool or body of water to get them to swim. Not only will this terrify the dog but it will absolutely mean that they will never go into water voluntarily again. In addition if this happens your dog may no longer respond to your calls to "come" since it resulted in a real trauma for them. 

Sometimes pairing a hesitant dog with a capable and comfortable swimming pooch in a playful outing can help. Often in playing with the other dog the non-swimming dog overcomes his or her fears and will splash around and play in the water, even swimming in some situations. Lots of praise and rewards for going into the water, even with another dog, will also help reinforce that this is a desired behavior. 

Monitor your dog in the water and watch for any signs of fatigue or exhaustion. If your dog is tired or has been swimming a lot, take them out of the water and have them relax for a while before heading back out again. Most dogs don't monitor their own energy levels and some dogs can be at risk for drowning if they become overtired in the water. It is also very important to know the area where your dog is swimming, especially if there is a tide or a current. Never allow your dog to swim in areas that are potentially dangerous due to the tide or current, or because of pollution or other conditions in the water itself.
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