Water Love – dogs and water activities


Different dogs, different approaches to water fun. Reggie the Jack Russell is soooo busy and often very mucky in the water. Max the 12-year-old shepherd is intense about water retrieves, but basically relaxed while swimming. Jazz the heeler likes adventure and games – since she’s competitive and Max can beat her at water retrieves, she doesn’t like them as much. Obie the dobie is still getting his water wings. The super muscled dogs like the Jack Russell and the doberman have to work much harder to stay afloat, but they can still swim well.

Water can be so much fun for dogs. I’m working on getting Obie the Doberman to like swimming as much as Max does. We’ve gone to the lake almost every day it was nice enough to do so and played games in the water. He’s getting much more confident about launching into swimming. And he seems to be a good swimmer, but his body isn’t very buoyant so he has to work harder. I start dogs with a long line attached, about 25 feet of floating light rope.

Since late August and early September in northern Wisconsin can be great, sunny and warm days or very cool, rainy, windy days, (we’ve had 4 inches of rain so far in Sept) having a nice series of good days for swimming has not happened. Immersion (ha ha) in the sense of doing something lots is the best way to teach swimming, and most other things.

Max loves water retrieves. Obie thinks they’re OK. In order for him to like them more I’ve been playing tug in the water, and also fake racing him to the tossed bumper in the water, and playing with the bumper so he has to swim faster to catch up and grab it.  Just doing short bits of swimming then letting him take his prize to shore. To go to shore again, which is, at this point, a reward. Notice; I’m always wet,usually quite wet when teaching dogs to swim and to like water. If you want a dog to like water get in there too and make it fun.

The other approach to introducing water. One of the days I was at the lake another family came with a black lab pup (maybe 5 or 6 months old) and they stood on the shore for a while in their long pants and shoes. Since the pup didn’t go in on his own the man went and picked him up and tossed him in. He jumped right back out. Hah! they better hope the predilection of the breed over-rides their attempts at teaching him to like (hate?) water. The other thing taught was to avoid getting close to the man when near water, ‘don’t come,’ and assuredly that being picked up is likely to get ya tossed. Who knew you could train so many things while going to the beach.

So if it really is too cold to go into the water yourself, as in later in the season there are always other water options – shore play with sticks (sticks don’t matter so if the pup doesn’t get them and I’m not willing to get wet, so what). Or going out in boats. Yes Jazzie did fall in and jump in … so if your dog hasn’t learned to like swimming yet, don’t let them launch – and maybe they need to wear a doggy PFD.

Bring a towel, for you and for the dog and …

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