10 Steps to Get Your Dog Swimming

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A black Labrador Retriever jumping off a rock into the water

Summertime is here! Warm weather means you’ll want to take extra consideration when including your dog in any outdoor activities. The good news is there’s a great dose of refreshing summer fun waiting for you and your dog at the lake! Having your dog enjoy water allows for so many shared summer adventures. Is your dog not a swimmer yet? These 10 tips will help!

A wet lab puppy standing on a rock by the river

Start Young

When possible, introduce your dog to water when they're a pup. That said, it’s still fully possible to encourage an adult dog to swim! Begin with a gradual introduction to water in a familiar setting.

A wader-clad man fly fishing with his chocolate Labrador Retriever in the water

Be Visible

Make sure your dog is safe in the water. A bright collar and a safety check cord are the best way to go. There are many waterproof collars on the market that are mildew resistant. There’s no need to smell like a wet dog.

A black and white dog with its head tilted standing in front of a body of water

Be Patient

Some dogs need a lot of repetition to get the hang of it. Never push or rush your dog to take the plunge. Confidence takes time!

A white poodle mix standing in shallow rocky water

Stay Shallow

For the first few lessons, find an area where your dog can wade out into the body of water at their own pace. A small lake or pond can be excellent for this stage of training. After some fun time splashing around, your dog will become more comfortable and they will begin to gain confidence.

A yellow lab holding a green training toy while swimming in the water

Use Their Favorite Toy

To help encourage your dog, toss their favorite toy just out of reach. If your dog has already been wading comfortably near chest level, place the toy in water just a bit deeper now. This will entice your dog to push off from the shore.

A brown and white dog carrying a stick through the water toward the shore

Take Time to Play

Until your dog really has the hang of it, remember to toss the toy on the shore every now and then. These easy tosses help encourage your dog because it’s just like play time in the yard. This will keep your dog revved up for more.

Two golden retrievers walk up a beach sharing a stick

Invite Their Best Dog Friend

Summertime fun is more fun with friends! Dogs learn a lot from other dogs. Inviting an experienced dog to the lake for early training can be a major confidence boost for your dog. Find an area that allows multiple dogs to swim and romp around away from any boat traffic or roads. Throw a toy that the experienced dog is sure to chase, and you might just see your dog turn into a skilled swimmer in no time flat.

A speckled dachshund with startling blue eyes resting on sand

Take Breaks

Learning a new skill is best done with fresh enthusiasm. Allow your dog to take supervised leash breaks on dry land every five to ten minutes. This will keep your dog engaged in the training and prevent them from getting too tired. Plus, shaking off in the sunshine is part of the fun! Can you say zoomies?

An sturdy Staffordshire Terrier chest-deep in still water standing in a lake

Create a Routine

Just one afternoon is a great start, but don’t stop there! To get your dog comfortable in the water and used to a day at the lake, or a dock-jumping event near you, create a routine, so your dog is happy and confident without being tired or overwhelmed. Set aside some outdoor time this summer to get your dog in the groove. They will love the time outside to explore with you. Exercise, like learning to swim, is great for their mind and body.

A black dog jumping into a choppy lake surrounded by low green hills

Go Big!

After some fun weekends at the lake, why not see how your dog stacks up against the competition? If your dog has been charging into the water without a care in the world, look up a UKC dock-jumping event near you. Now that your dog swims, see if they can fly!

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