It’s swimming season, and not just for humans! How can you get your dog to take a dip? Here are some tips from Leigh Siegfried, owner of Opportunity Barks Behavior and Training.
The warm weather invites us and our dogs to venture out, hit the trails, enjoy long walks and go on new adventures. For dogs (and humans) young and old, swimming can be great exercise and a ton of fun.
If you’d like to see if your dog is a swimmer, I’d recommend:
- Finding a shallow creek and just something that your dog can walk across with you or wade in. If there is a visible bottom to the creek, this is great for those pups that may be a little less ready to take the plunge. Baby pools can be great for this also.
- Encourage exploration in shallow water. Toss in branches, sticks, favorite toys or even pick up a few rocks and plop them in. Many dogs are drawn to pawing and playing with water, which can then encourage them to hop in. You can try this in creeks, lakes as well as pools that have a few concrete steps where you can place larger rocks to peak their curiosity.
- Pools. Ok, if you have a friend or a place where you can spend some time in the water with your dog, two things.
- If there is dog that already loves swimming, just allow your dog to watch that dog splash about, they may get a sense of what these pools are all about by observing and follow the lead dog.
- Give a swimming lesson. Secure and holding on to your dog in the water. Support their body weight, allow them to paddle and then guide them towards the exit point. It’s important that they get more comfortable with the whole idea and also know that there is a way out.
I was a natural swimmer as a kid, but the closest thing I have to compare what it must be like for the pups newly in the water is how I felt when a friend talked me into a trapeze lesson. Ok, I was scared to death, but did it and afterwards, felt a sense of accomplishment and went back for more. So with new experiences, there may be a bit of fear and it’s natural. So help your dog learn to negotiate what you are throwing at them in the most kind way possible.
Tips after a swim session:
- Damp dogs and hot spots. Some dogs with longer coats will take a long time to dry — keep an eye on hot spots or any skin condition that could be aggravated by dampness.
- Frequent potty breaks. While some dogs can swim and seem to not take on much water, others that are fetching open mouth swimming will need frequent breaks. In fact our male dog when swimming can easily potty every 10 minutes or so for an hour post swim, so get them out frequently to make sure they are not going to have an accident indoors.
- Limber tail syndrome. This happens after a hard day or weekend swimming. It most commonly affects labs and can look like there is something very wrong because the tail will be limp and appear to be broken. It’s often more of a sprain to the tail muscles due to over exertion and sometimes water temperature is thought to cause it. Consult with your Vet, if needed.
Opportunity Barks offers private lessons, group training classes, workshops and day school training programs for dogs at their new East Falls location at 3510 Scott’s Lane, Suite #3112, Philadelphia.
OpBarks also has a location in Bucks county where dog owners come up to venture on our fenced acreage and…learn to swim. The pool is open (!!), so if you want to venture to the country with your beasts, drop her a line. Visit www.opbarks.com for more info.