How to teach your dog not to be afraid of water
Forcing your dog to swim is easy, but it might damage its relationship to both you and the water: what you should and shouldn't do.
Many dogs love to swim and won't ever say no when the opportunity arises. Waterdog breeds are examples of such dogs, as well as the exceptional swimmer, the Newfoundland dog.
But what about the dogs who fear water, who avoid water at all costs.
Never force a dog into the water
Not all dogs have a natural urge to dive into the deep blue. Some dogs barely dare to touch the cold wetness with their paws. There can be various reasons for this, and it is only a myth that all dogs are born natural swimmers.
Yes, most people manage to manoeuvre well in water, but some breeds struggle more than others.
Boxers and Dachshunds are examples of dogs that do not necessarily move with ease in the water simply because of their anatomy.
Whatever the reason is, there is one thing you should not do if you want to improve your dog's relationship with water: force it into the water.
Most dogs will swim if forced into the water, but this method is not a good approach. In the worst case, the dog will only become even more scared of water.
How to make your dog feel comfortable in water
A more sustainable solution is a gradual introduction. Let the dog control how close or far into the water it goes. Feel free to walk along the shoreline yourself, so the dog can see that it is not dangerous. Maybe it will follow you, maybe not.
If it does not dare, even if you are in the water, you can try to lure it further out with some treats. Bring a treat your dog can not resist and see if it motivates it to try.
If treats and appraisal do not work, you can try with a stick or the dog's favourite toy. Remember to praise the dog a lot, even if it is only 10 centimetres further out into the water.
Also, remember to be calm during the whole process because if you remain calm, the dog will too.
Speaking of calm: choose a place where the water is calm. A wavy, turbulent sea can be scary to a dog, so a calm water is preferred.
If none of the advice above helps, it may be worth allying with another dog owner of a water-loving dog.
If your dog witnesses a dog friend enjoying himself in the water, the chances are that your dog also wants to join in on the fun, and it might dare to approach the water.
Last but not least, it may be worth buying a dog life jacket. It will give the dog increased self-confidence and a sense of security when swimming.
Have you tried all the abovementioned advice without any signs of progression? Maybe you have to accept that your dog does not like water, and that is ok. Water play is not a necessity for a happy dog life. And remember that most dogs will be able to swim ashore if they are ever so unlucky to fall into the water.
Breeds that usually love water
1: Labrador Retriever
4: Golden retriever
5: Portuguese water dog
6: German Shepherd
7: Curly coated retriever / Flat-coated retriever
8: English setter
10: Irish Water Spaniel
11: Lagotto Romagnolo
12: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
13: Spanish Water Dog
Breeds that are not suitable for swimming
Dog breeds with so-called Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome, or in other words, breeds with very short snouts, can struggle in the water. They can get tired because it is difficult to breathe, and they may have trouble keeping their snout above water.
Examples of such breeds are:
3: Bull Terrier
Other breeds that often struggle in water:
2: Shih tzu
5: Chow chow
6 : Basset hound