Many, but not all, dogs can swim. Encouraging a dog to swim is best done when they are young. This way, they have fewer negative experiences with water.
The experience of swimming in a pool should be fun with positive associations. Ensure your dog can get in and out of the pool safely.
Some dogs take to swimming immediately, like those with webbed feet.
With others, it takes time and patience. Some even need life vests and swimming lessons to feel comfortable in the water.
Some dogs, like those with long bodies and short legs or brachycephalic dogs, with shorter snouts and rounded heads struggle in the water.
Unlike the ocean, a lake, or a pond, a swimming pool has walls. This can make your dog sense they will be trapped.
Never force or throw your dog into the backyard pool. It is always better when the dog thinks getting into the pool is the dog’s idea.
One more thing to consider, if you let your dog use the pool, keep the pool clean. Regularly monitor the chlorine and pH levels and check filters and drains for dog hair. Check with your vet to ensure none of the pool chemicals pose a threat.
If you have a swimming pool, teaching your dog pool safety is crucial for keeping your dog summer safe.
Follow six steps to dog swimming pool success
Step 1: Stay calm
Calmly leash your dog. Talking in a reassuring and confident voice, casually lead your dog to the pool. Do not drag the dog. If it balks, unleash the dog and try another time.
Step 2: Use praise and treats
Use your voice to encourage your dog toward the pool without tugging on the leash. Each time the dog steps forward, reward it with praise and treats.
You want your dog to associate walking towards the pool with positive experiences. These could include being praised and receiving treats.
Consider this the goal for the day. You want the dog to have a positive experience.
Step 3: Sit at the pool’s edge
At this point, the objective is to get your dog to the side of the pool. Stand at the pool’s edge, petting your dog, and continue to praise and give treats.
Put your feet in the pool, and have your dog sit at your side.
Continue to talk to your dog in a normal tone of voice.
Praise your dog and give lots of treats.
Your goal for the day is to get your dog to associate the pool with a positive experience.
Step 4: Use repetition
Repeat steps 1 and 2.
Get into the pool and walk down the first two steps.
Now, call your dog to follow you while gently pulling the leash. Reward each step with praise and treats.
You may have to help them by putting their front feet into the water on the first step.
Reward the dog with lots of praise and treats.
Consider this your goal for the day.
Step 5: Show your dog how to get back out
Get your dog through steps 1-3.
Now, swim out into the pool. Call the dog by name and give the command, “let’s swim!”
Pull the leash gently while giving the command.
When the dog’s whole body is in the water, immediately show them how to turn around and find the stairs to get out. Then, reward your dog with lots of praise and treats.
Consider this your goal for the day.
Step 6: Eliminate the leash
Repeat steps 1-4 often enough that your dog will willingly get in with the leash slack. Try calling your dog without the leash.
The dog should get in readily.
Use lots of praise.
Instead of food treats in the water, reward your dog with a tennis ball or squeaky toy.
Ensure your dog thinks getting into the pool has been a fun experience.
The bottom line on dog swimming pool safety
Ensure using the pool is safe for dogs. Your dog must know how to safely get in and out of the pool.
Use highly motivating treats to train your dog. The value of the reward must be worth the effort the dog makes.
Ensure your dog knows the ladder, steps, or shelf’s location to exit the pool without panicking.
Karen A. Soukiasian owns Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.