Can I teach my dog to swim?
Dogs are born with natural instincts – how to bark, how to dig and much more. It is however a common myth that all dogs know how to swim. While some dogs have this natural ability others simply do not and will struggle time and time again when being placed in the water. The phrase “doggy paddle” is not relevant to all dogs.
When finding out if your dog can swim you should bear in mind that there are three categories; dogs who can swim, dogs who can be taught and dogs who should not go near water. It would be a total disaster if they did. Dogs that were bred to retrieve waterfowl or anything else related with water have swimming sewn into their genes so it is only natural that they are able to pick it up straight away. Dogs such as Water spaniels, golden retrievers, Irish setters should take to swimming naturally but remember, it is not gaurenteed.
On the other hand there are the dogs that cannot swim. These are generally dogs with short legs such as the boxer, the dachshund and bull dogs. Their short legs cannot get enough momentum and thrust in order to propel. The pug also has difficulty due to have a short face and breathing difficulties that are only increased when in the water. The breeds of the Maltese and Chihuahua should in theory be good swimmers however can get frightened when in water which can lead to drowning. There can be a vicious circle amongst swimming dogs that occurs. First it is fear which leads to panic, panic leads to fatigue and it goes round and round. For a frightened dog in water this makes drowning all the more likely.
When choosing an area to take your dog swimming you should be careful. You want to avoid anywhere with running water or currents such as rivers or the sea. A strong dog who can swim will not be strong it’s first time. A pond with knee deep water is recommended for the first time. Furthermore it should have banks that are low enough for your dog to easily climb out of. Remember that it is not certain that a dog will swim no matter what the breed so it is always a big no to throw or push a dog in the water. Guide the dog in slowly. Let them explore and take its first steps into the water slowly. If you make the experience a bad one then your dog may hate the water forever.
If you are taking a dog sailing or on any other water related trips and you are worried after reading this then do not worry as there are life jackets made specially for dogs.