While some dogs get super excited at the prospect of getting wet, whether having a bath, going for a swim or playing with a garden hose, others are petrified of water and will do anything to avoid it. One fun thing for dogs and their owners to do together, is to go to the beach or a lake for a dip, but if your pet pooch is frightened of getting into the water, what can you do to help them overcome their fear?
- Ensure that your dog can get out of the water before they go in:
Whether a lake or pool, it’s important to check that your dog can get safely out of the water by themselves, should they want/need to. Getting them in might very well be a battle on its own, but if your dog panics once in the water and realises that they’re not able to climb out unaided, this could spell real trouble for you and your dog.
- Start small:
Paddling pools for children are fantastic for introducing dogs of all sizes to water, and with no fear of them drowning since they should be able to touch the bottom, you can start by throwing treats or toys into the water and having your pet retrieve them. If your dog is still reticent, try holding the treat or toy very close to your dog’s nose, and then leading them gradually into the water. When they have their front paws in the water, you can reward them with a treat, and so on, until your pooch has all paws in the pool.
- Remain patient with your dog:
Never shout at your pet or punish them during this process as you’ll simply elevate their stress levels and make it more of an ordeal for your dog than it already is. The process should be fun and full of rewards, or a water-shy dog will never overcome their fear. Patience also means not forcing your dog into the water if they’re not responding quickly enough for you; always try to coax them in with the use of treats and toys instead of dragging them.
- Remember that this is a big deal for your pet:
Overcoming any fear in life is as big a deal for dogs as it is for humans, and so never underestimate the achievement when your dog makes small steps towards becoming a water baby. Praise them continually and use positive body language to reassure them that they are safe. If you’re feeling a little tetchy or don’t have a lot of time to spare, then save the swimming lesson for another day.
- Don’t assume that your pooch will know how to swim!
NEVER throw your dog into a pool, a lake or the ocean and expect them to swim right away; the chances are that they may panic, flounder, or even drown, and if you are able to rescue them, they’re likely to be so mentally scarred by the experience that teaching them to swim in the future will be so much harder.
If you’re not wholly confident about teaching your dog to swim, always seek professional guidance from someone qualified to help you.