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Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Swimming seems so integral to being a dog that we’ve even named a stroke after them, the doggie paddle, so you’d assume that’s something that every dog is born knowing how to do. However, not every dog instinctively knows how to swim, and some can’t swim at all, Wendy Diamond, the founder and editorial director of Animal Fair magazine, told TODAY. Dogs’ aquatic abilities are so misunderstood, in fact, that she put together a list of water safety tips for dog owners.

Diamond confirmed that some dogs are born swimmers. It’s a good bet if the dog’s breed includes the word “water,” as in Portuguese or English water spaniel, it takes to swimming like a nursery-schooler takes to finger-painting. For owners of those breeds, the problem isn’t getting the dog into the water, but keeping it on dry land.

But other breeds aren’t as water-friendly. Some dogs have to be taught to swim, Diamond said, and others, like bulldogs, take to the water like submarines take to the Cross Bronx Expressway. For the former, there is hope. For the latter, there are those bright orange canine flotation devices. Among those that can’t swim at all or swim only with great difficulty are basset hounds, bulldogs, dachshunds, pugs, corgis, Scottish and Boston terriers and greyhounds.

And then there are dogs like the Maltese, which are capable swimmers, but which are also susceptible to rheumatism, arthritis and chills that could be exacerbated by taking them in the pool with you. Diamond has a checklist for doggy swim lessons:

Avoid excessive noise: “Take them to an area that’s not so crazy and hectic,” she advised. Like children, dogs can become frightened and confused if there’s a lot of noise and activity around them. The object is to keep them calm and focused on the swimming lesson.

Use encouragement: As when teaching a child, keep your voice upbeat and positive, she said. “Using treats and toys to encourage your dog to enter the water also works quite well,” she said.

Never throw them in: Just as you shouldn’t throw a child in the water and expect it to swim to safety, you shouldn’t do that with a dog, Diamond said. “Don’t force the dog. If they don’t want to do it, don’t force them to do it.” Instead, she told Celeste, “Slowly put them in the water and get their paws used to it.”

Support their weight until they paddle: Even if the dog is wearing a life vest, Diamond said, support its midsection and hindquarters in the water until they start paddling and feel comfortable.

Show them how to get out: Getting a dog in the pool is only half the battle. Diamond reminded pet owners that they also need to be shown where the steps are in the pool so they can easily get out.

Keep an eye on them: Even in the water, dogs can wander off. Dogs that swim naturally and well can jump in the ocean and keep swimming until they’re lost, Diamond said. “You want to make sure, like children, that you watch where they’re going,” she said.

[Source: NBC Today Show]