Teaching Fido To Swim

If you like swimming, you’re probably enjoying the sweltering weather. It’s always nice to cool down on a sweltering day by taking a dip in a pool. Many of our canine pals also enjoy swimming. However, dogs must learn to swim, just like people. Read on as a local Treasure Coast, FL vet offers some advice on teaching Fido how to swim.

What Is The Best Age To Teach A Dog To Swim?

As a rule of thumb, usually around 4 months is going to be a good age. By then, Fido has pretty good command of all those legs, and has the basics of being a dog down. This is also the stage where you want to expose your furry pal to new experiences. If you wait much longer, your pooch may become wary of the water. Any younger, and Fido may not be strong enough to really get the hang of swimming safely.

Of course, if your puppy has any health problems, you’ll want to go by what your vet advises. If little Fido has just been spayed or neutered, wait until he or she is completely healed.

Can You Teach An Older Dog To Swim?

Older dogs can still learn to safely enjoy swimming. However, you don’t want to force the issue. You’ll also need to take a few extra precautions with older dogs. Senior dogs are more sensitive to temperatures, for instance. They will also tire out more quickly than younger dogs.

That said, swimming can actually be a great workout for older dogs. As you may know, arthritis is very common in older dogs. Swimming can give Fido a great cardio workout that is easy on his bones and joints. It’s also a great way to cool off on those sweltering summer days!

Can All Dogs Naturally Swim?

Not necessarily. Most dogs can figure out the basic doggy paddle, or learn to navigate in the water while wearing a flotation device. However, that doesn’t mean that they can really swim safely. For instance, pups with long spines and/or short legs, such as Corgis and Dachshunds, just don’t really have the capacity to steer well in water, and can get into trouble very quickly. Toy breeds, such as Pomeranians, can be in serious trouble in just a few inches of water. Brachycephalic pups, such as bulldogs and pugs, are in serious danger of drowning, because of their short airways. Additionally, many large dogs and some seniors also just aren’t well-suited to it.

That said, even pups that normally are great swimmers, such as Golden Retrievers, don’t always take to water like furry ducks. Fido will still need to learn how to swim. He also may just not like it.

Preparing Your Pup For Swimming

Before taking Fido swimming, take him for a short walk. You want to warm him up a little bit. However, you don’t want to overdo it. Your pooch shouldn’t be tired out for his swim lesson!

Get A Doggy Lifejacket

It’s a good idea to start Fido out with a doggy lifejacket on. This will help with buoyancy and stability. Plus, from a safety standpoint, it’s just good to help your pet get used to these. He would definitely need to wear one if you ever take him boating, or if you go camping near bodies of water. Plus, this can help him feel more confident about navigating in the water.

You may want to have your canine pal wear his lifejacket around the house, to get him used to it. Make sure that it fits well!

Choose The Right Spot

You definitely don’t want to just toss Fido into deep water and assume that he’ll figure things out. That’s extremely dangerous! Plus, even if your pooch does get the hang of the doggie paddle, he may very well be traumatized by the experience. He could end up with a lifelong fear of water, and could also be afraid of you.

You’ll want to go somewhere shallow, preferably a spot with a gentle slope. A dog-friendly beach is fine.

Choose The Right Time

You want to pick a time where the water is a comfortable temperature, and is pretty smooth. Fido may not enjoy the experience if the water is chilly or choppy. It shouldn’t be sweltering out, though, either.

Fido’s Swimming Lesson

When you’re ready to dip your toes—or technically, your pet’s paws—into the water, proceed carefully. Talk to Fido in a gentle tone of voice. It’s best to go into the water with your dog. This will help Fido feel safer. Plus, you’ll be able to support him in the water, either by holding him or grabbing the handle on his doggy lifejacket.

Normally, we would advise using treats as motivation when training. In this case, though, you’ll want to stick with praise and compliments, at least until your furry student has all four paws back on solid ground.

After The Lesson

Once Fido has gotten out of the water, rinse him off to get any salt, sand, or chlorine out of his fur.

One thing to be aware of? His paws will be very delicate after he’s been swimming. Just like our skin, dogs’ toe beans get very delicate and wrinkly after being wet.

Keep your furry pal on soft ground after his lesson. He could get painful blisters and abrasions running on hot or harsh surfaces, such as sand or pool decks, after swimming.

What Dogs Are Best Suited For Swimming?

Quite a few of our canine friends were originally tasked with chores that involved swimming. Many retrievers, for instance, would bring back ducks and other games to their masters. In fact, some pooches even have webbed paws and oily coats, which help them with this.

Here is a list of pups that usually love the water:

  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Standard Poodle
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • English Setter
  • Otterhound
  • Curly-coated retriever
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Barbet
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Irish Setter
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • Brittany
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Schipperke

Pool Safety For Dogs

If you have a pool, or are taking Fido to visit someone who does, you’ll need to take a few extra precautions.

The first thing we would recommend doing is showing your canine pal where the steps are. This is extremely important! If Fido were to fall in when no one was looking, this could save his life! You want to make sure that the knowledge really sinks in, so take a bit of time with this training, and test your pet a bit. You may also want to put some sort of a visual marker near the pool stairs, such as a life buoy.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to pools? The pool cover. Fabric covers can be quite dangerous. They may not hold Fido’s weight. However, your pooch may think it’s a solid surface, and could run out onto it. This can be very dangerous. We would recommend that you play it safe, and keep the pool gated off when it isn’t in use.

The biggest thing, of course, is to never leave your dog near water unattended. Even dogs that are good swimmers can panic if they fall in by mistake.

Make An Appointment At Your Treasure Coast, FL Pet Clinic

Do you have questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact us, your local Treasure Coast, FL pet hospital, anytime. We are dedicated to offering great care!

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