With access to so many beautiful lakes in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, it only makes sense to want to share your lake life with your dog. Whether you choose to swim in Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam Lake, or Lake Opechee you will want to make sure your dog has a grasp on the basics of swimming to make it an enjoyable experience for both of you! Some dogs are natural swimmers while some are not. If you want to teach your dog to swim, here are 5 steps you can take to ensure both you and your pooch make it through the learning process safely and soundly.
- Use a dog life jacket
- Be in the water with your pup
- Start small
- Keep it short
- Make it fun!
1. Use a dog life jacket
Safety first! If you are teaching your dog to swim, I strongly recommend purchasing a dog life jacket. A dog life jacket will help:
You – A dog life jacket will help you by giving you a handle to grab and lift your dog. Have you ever tried to lift a panicked wet dog out of the water? Not fun…or easy for anyone involved. Most dog life vests have handles on top that help you easily capture and lift your dog out of the water. Also, many dog life jackets come with D rings to attach your dog’s leash; as your dog’s confidence grows you can let them swim further away from you while keeping them safely within reach.
Your Dog – A dog life jacket will help make your pup buoyant. The buoyancy will make learning to swim easier for your pup (especially if he is a stout breed like a pug) and will also lessen fatigue and keep her warmer in the water.
2. Be in the water with your pup
Teaching a dog to swim is like teaching a child to swim, you need to watch them at all times. Although animal instincts make the swimming process a bit more natural for puppies (usually you can just put them in the water and they start paddling away – it is called the dog paddle after all!), you should be in the water when they are learning so you can guide them, encourage them and lift them to safety if needed. (Although, if you are teaching a full grown large breed dog to swim, please make sure you have the strength to handle them in the water or, if not, recruit some hired muscle!)
3. Start Small
If you have a pool, it is the ideal place to start teaching your dog to swim. You want to make sure you start in a small confined area so your pup doesn’t swim off into the deep abyss with you chasing after them!
Ease your pup into the water gently, allowing them to get their feet wet and then their bodies. NEVER toss your dog into the water and hope they catch on. It’s not fair to them and they will likely be afraid of the water afterward.
4. Keep it short
Dogs use a lot of energy and lose a lot of heat in the water. Ever notice how most “water dogs” like Newfoundlands and Portuguese Water Dogs are large breeds with lots of fur? So keep your lessons short until your dog develops the strength and stamina to spend longer periods of time swimming. Also, make sure that after your swim your puppy isn’t too cold. If they are you can wrap them up in a nice beach blanket and snuggle with them until they are warm.
5. Make it fun
Often times, puppies will see their families frolicking in a pool or lake and naturally want to join in! Make sure you keep the learning experience a positive one. Keep telling your dog what a good dog they are and imbue each foray into the water with encouragement and celebration of your pup’s bravery!
Treats are highly recommended if your dog is hesitant or panicked in the water. If she knows that every time she does a lap, there is a delicious morsel waiting on the other side, you’ll be surprised how quickly your dog will take to the aquatic life. Also, if your puppy is a retrieving type, purchase a few floating toys, toss them (the toys NOT your dog) into the water and ask your dog to fetch!
Now that the lazy, hazy dog days of summer are upon you, we hope you’ll keep water safety in mind for all of your family members, even the furry ones! Happy swimming!