Training Your Pooch To Swim

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Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs can swim! Some are afraid to even get in the water. Does your dog like to swim? Or is he or she unsure about going for a dip in the pool or local lake?

Training a dog to swim is not very difficult and is a very healthy activity for all dogs. The benefit for a dog that enjoys swimming includes better cardiovascular health, relieving arthritic aches and pains in the joints as they age, and helping to lose weight. You may own a dog who takes to water like a duck to a pond, but other dog breeds need a little help to get started.

To begin training a dog to swim you should have a friend along to help in case of an emergency. Choose a nice warm day and a body of water without distractions of boaters, jet skis and sunbathers. It should be noted that young dogs and puppies have yet to learn a fear of water and will be much easier to train for this activity. For this article we will assume we are dealing with an adult dog.

The initial lesson will have you carry the dog into the water to a depth of your knees. Gently lower the dog into the water while you have his or her head pointed towards your friend on the shore. The dog will naturally begin to make a paddling movement with the legs so keep one hand under the chest and the other hand holding the tail and hind end up. Allow the dog to begin to get a feel for the swimming action and release your hold on the dog.

At this point in the lesson your friend on shore needs to be calling the dog by his name and encouraging him to swim to shore. Once the dog has swum to shore give him a special treat, and plenty of praise.

You can use this same basic swimming lesson in a pool as well. NEVER take a dog that has not learned to swim and toss him into any body of water. This is an inhumane thing to do and may well either drown the dog, or frighten him so bad he will never go near water again.

If you are not having any luck, enlist the help of a dog trainer. You can also begin the lessons by taking along another dog that is already a good swimmer. Your dog will want to do as the other dog is doing, and may begin to swim without any help.

Training a dog to swim is not hard and will provide many hours of enjoyment for the dog and your family.

Is your pooch a swimmer? Please tell our readers about your dog.


  1. You’ve never had a mastiff before. Carrying my 240lb boy into the water would be a silly sight to see. I took him to a doggy paddle fundraiser, where he was surrounded by swimming dogs and balls being thrown. He got use to the water and was swimming in no time. At least when he wasn’t trying to drink up the entire lake. :)

  2. I have a 3ish year old rescue beagle who is not a fan of water. I bought her a life jacket and tried to make swimming fun. She’s just not that into it. I’ve heard other beagles aren’t big swimmers either. Bummer!

  3. My chocolate lab loves to swim but I always fear he is overdoing it, whatnis a safe time limit for him to swim? He is 3 years old.

  4. I should print this and tape it to my Dad’s forehead. I was trying to teach all our dogs how to swim (smallest is 75 pounds though, so there’s no carrying these pooches into the water) but I was trying the best I could with praise and time. Dad decided he wanted to hasten the process with *his* dog and dumped him off the dock. Buster is an awkward swimmer and will no longer put hindpaws in the water. He’ll chase fish and leaves and put his forepaws in the water, but if the rear ones get water, he jumps like he got shocked. Poor guy. :(