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June 7, 2022

Teaching Your Dog How to Swim

  • Tips
  • Swimming
  • Dog
  • Outdoor
Border Collie dog swimming in lake with ball in mouth

Summer will be arriving soon, which means warm weather is just around the corner. We feel for our dogs during the summer months because they can’t be comfortable in the sweltering heat wearing a fur coat.

Help them find relief from the heat by taking them for a swim in the pool or lake. If your dog doesn’t know how to swim yet or is uncomfortable around the water, here are our tips for teaching your dog to swim.

Get your dog comfortable first

The first step to teaching your dog to swim is to ensure they’re comfortable with the water. Exposing your dog to water while a puppy is often the easiest time, but older dogs can learn too (although it may take longer if they’re more set in their ways).

Start with buying a kiddie pool and filling it with only a few inches of water. Let them walk around, supervised of course, in the pool. If they seem to freeze in panic when you put them in the water, encourage them with healthy dry food kibble pieces to encourage them to walk around the water. Don’t push too hard if they need more time or just aren’t ready to learn yet.

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Once they seem comfortable in 1-2 inch deep water, start encouraging them to jump in and out of the pool. This may take some time but treats as rewards can help.

Enter with your dog

Once your pet is ready for the next step, bring them to a quiet body of water, ideally one that’s still and with no undercurrent or busy boat traffic. A lake usually works well for this step. Just ensure it’s clean water with no signs of Blue Algae. Blue Algae blooms can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and severe skin irritation if your dog drinks or wades in water.

Always walk in with them for emotional support and so you can quickly respond if your dog panics or is in distress. Your dog trusts you and will follow you in the water if they know you’ll protect them. This will help them get the confidence they need.

Ensure they have good recall so you can call them back to shore with you in an emergency.

Use a flotation device

Dogs can wear flotation devices too. Your local pet supplies store will have several to choose from. Choose one for your pet’s size and weight. Like fitting a human for a flotation device, ensure it fits snug around your dog so it doesn’t slip off.

A dog floatation device isn’t meant for swimming but can help them gain confidence in the water while they are learning.

Practice makes perfect

Keep practicing with your dog in the water. Make a game out of it where you place some treats on a small float and encourage them to swim out to get them. Start in shallow water and go deeper as your dog’s skills increase.

Once your dog is about chest deep, support their body from underneath, so they feel secure. If they begin to show signs of panic, bring them back to shore for rest and try again later. A nervous dog won’t feel comfortable in the water until they know they’re safe.

Border Collie dog on the beach getting dried off in a towel

Once your dog is totally comfortable in the water, don’t let them stay in too long. When they return to shore, always give them a good rinse with clean, fresh water to remove any debris or dirt from the water when they come out. A good bath with soap when you get home is a good idea too.

We also recommend that even once your dog is a good swimmer, you never let them swim unsupervised. It’s easy for them to catch their leg on an underwater branch, debris, seaweed, or for a larger fish or boat to come by and spook or hurt them.

Swimming with your dog

Swimming is a great activity your dog can enjoy. It gives them fun exercise and helps them cool off on a sweltering summer day. You can help train your dog to be comfortable around and in the water this summer by following these tips. Once your dog learns to swim, they’ll remember it forever.

Always pack fresh water and a few snacks (for your pup and you). To find a local shop that carries Go! Solutions dry and wet food for your dog, visit our store locator.


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Go! Solutions Team

A Team of Dedicated Pet Parents + Nutrition Experts

We all want our cats and dogs to lead happy, healthy lives. We’re here to help you, with easy-to-understand information about your pet's daily care and feeding.