Do you dream of stress-free bath times and relaxing games of fetch on the beach with your furry friend? While most breeds love the water, others are more cautious — or even afraid. If your dog is on the fearful side, it could stem from a negative experience or because your pet hasn’t spent much time near water. However, you can gradually accustom your dog to the water with the right training, patience and praise. Here are six ways you can turn your water-shy pooch into a hydrophilic swimmer who may even tolerate bath time.
1. Start With Shallow Wading
If your dog has an aversion to water, start with small exposures. Fill a kiddie pool ankle high and coax your pup in with a few toys. Ideally, the water should be very shallow. If your dog remains calm while in the water, offer praise. Run your wet hand over his fur and see how he reacts. If your dog keeps calm, continue to praise. Work on these exercises progressively and remember to always reward the desired behavior. Once your dog is accustomed to playing in shallow water, you can gradually add more and eventually work up to larger bodies of water.
2. Give Your Dog an Out
If you own a pool, it’s crucial to teach your canine how to get in and out, and where to safely rest in case it becomes fatigued. Knowing where the steps or ramp are located can help your pooch feel safer and more comfortable in the water.
3. Join Your Dog
Help your dog build trust in the water by leading the way. It’s important to physically show your canine pal that the water is safe and that there’s nothing to fear. Carry your timid pet into deeper bodies of water to demonstrate that you’re there to offer support and encouragement. Hold onto the dog’s midsection and let it stroke a few paddles with its paws.
4. Invite Hydrophilic Companions
Plan a pool or beach day and take along a few water-loving pooches. Your dog will be able to observe its fellow canines enjoying the water, wagging their tails and having fun. Observing their body language can help your dog build the confidence to engage in water activities.
5. Use a Flotation Device
Invest in a doggie life jacket for nervous canines. The vest offers buoyancy and a swaddling-like effect, which can help keep your pup calm. A wide variety of canine flotation devices are available on the market. Be sure the vest is a snug fit so it can keep your pup afloat. You can also guide your swimming dog by using the handle on the back of the vest.
6. Make Bath Time Fun
Bath time can be trickier than splashing around at the beach because it’s more invasive. Try incorporating water toys and introducing your dog to the bath accoutrements prior to entering the tub. Give him or her a treat for sniffing the shampoo, shower head and other bath time equipment. Invest in a no-slip mat for the bottom of your bathtub to prevent accidents. Be sure to use warm water at low pressure to ensure a comfortable experience for your pup. Reward your dog’s good behavior with praise and treats.
Water Safety Tips to Follow
Swimming with your pup can be a thrilling experience, but before you dip a foot or paw into an ocean, pool or lake, consider these essential water safety tips for dogs:
1. Never throw your furry friend into a body of water.
2. Rinse off canines after swimming to remove chlorine or salt water, which can dry their skin. Don’t forget to dry their ears to help prevent infection.
3. Make sure your dog takes rests from swimming every so often to prevent fatigue.
It’s also important to remember that not all dogs are natural swimmers. But with the right patience, training, positive reinforcement and safety precautions, your pup can be taught to overcome aquaphobia. Starting slowly and building a positive association with water is key to setting up your pooch for water success.
Author bio: Eryka Hawkins is Marketing Manager for Dog Lover’s Towel, a distribution company best known for its flagship product, The Absorber. She has been with the company since 2016, with experience in brand marketing, sales and customer experience.