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Fetch The Sun's Outdoor Dog Adventures: Taking Your Dog Swimming

Updated: May 21


Dog jumping in a pool to go swimming

Swimming is a great way to keep your dog fit and active. Not only will it help keep them healthy, but it's also an enjoyable activity for the both of you. Swimming is a fantastic low-impact activity that offers numerous benefits for your dog's physical and mental well-being. It provides an excellent source of cardiovascular exercise, which helps maintain a healthy heart and lungs while also strengthening muscles. Additionally, swimming can help improve coordination, balance, and overall mobility in dogs. But before you dive in, a little preparation goes a long way. Make sure you have all the essential gear and safety precautions in place, and you'll be ready to set out on countless aquatic adventures with your pup.

Swimming is an inherently risky activity that has the potential to result in serious injury or death. We take no responsibility for any safety risks or issues arising from participating in activities discussed in this article and recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian before starting any activity with your pet. You should always practice swimming safety measures, closely monitor your pet during all activities, and never leave your pet unsupervised in or near water. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only, and we recommend seeking professional advice from a qualified veterinarian before engaging in any activity with your pet. We are not liable for any injury or death that results from following the advice described in this article. This content is not medical advice and should not replace consultation with a physician or veterinarian.


 

Benefits of Taking Your Dog Swimming


Dog swimming in a pool with a lifejacket

Taking your dog swimming can be beneficial to both you and your pet in many ways, from improving your pup’s fitness levels to helping them cool off on hot days.

Physical Fitness

-Excellent source of cardiovascular exercise -Encourages movement of all four legs -Helps build stronger muscles in a low-impact environment

Socialization

-Dog-friendly areas like beaches or swimming holes can be a great way for your dog to socialize with other dogs and people -Swimming in the same body of water can help them become comfortable around others,

Mental Stimulation

-Help them learn important skills like how to paddle and navigate the water safely -Stimulates your dog’s mind by providing them with new challenges and obstacles to overcome -Can lead to a more content and relaxed pet overall

Cooling Off

-Keeps them cool on hot days after playing outdoors -Option for when other forms of exercise may be too strenuous in the heat


 

Prep Tips for Taking Your Dog Swimming


Dog shaking off after being in the pool

If you’re interested in taking your dog swimming, there are a few things to consider before getting started. First and foremost, make sure your dog is comfortable around water and enjoys being wet. Not all dogs will take to swimming naturally. When we rescued Lucy from the shelter, she was a 2 year old Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix and I thought she'd be the perfect water dog. I've tried a few times taking her to the beach and she wants nothing to do with it! So it’s best to start slow and give them time to adjust if they seem hesitant at first.



Take Necessary Safety Precautions


Whether you're going to a pool or a natural body of water like a lake, pond, river, or ocean, important safety measures should be taken when your dog is in, or near the water.

Always Supervise Your Dog In The Water

Always Use A Lifejacket

Check Water Depth

Avoid Rough Waters

Be Aware Of Water Hazards

Know The Weather And Water Temp

Make Sure Your Dog Has ID

Look Out For Wildlife

Limit Swim times


Find an Appropriate Location


It's important to find a safe environment for your pup when taking them swimming. Look for designated dog beaches or bodies of water that are free from hazardous materials or strong currents. Make sure it is dog-friendly and also consider the size of your pet. It's also important to make sure that wherever you go swimming has an easy way to get in and out of the water. Jumping off a rock jetty is not recommended!



When looking for a dog-friendly spot to take your dog swimming, you'll have to do some research. Some beaches and parks may have restrictions on dogs, while others may require special permits or fees. It's important to do your due diligence to avoid any disappointment or conflicts.


One helpful tool for finding dog-friendly spots is the BringFido website. This site provides a list of dog-friendly beaches, parks, and other locations where your pup can swim. It also includes information on any restrictions or fees that may apply. Best of all, there are usually lots of comments from other dog owners for each spot. Reading those can give you some great inside info on spots like best time to go, stuff to bring, parking, etc...


You can also check with local community centers, pet stores, and vets for recommendations on spots in your area. You can also check with your local social media groups. There are many online communities and groups dedicated to pet owners, where you can ask for recommendations or share your own experiences. These groups often have members who have tried different locations and can provide valuable insights.


Gather the Necessary Supplies


Although this list is not exhaustive, it should provide you with a good starting point. Remember, you might require additional items, and you may not need every item on this list.


Food and Water

Ramps

Toys

Towels

Sunblock

First Aid Kit

ID

Dog Shirt

Dog Lifejacket


Training Tips for Taking Your Dog Swimming


Basic Commands

Before taking your dog swimming, it is important for them to already respond well to basic commands like recall, leave it, etc... and feel comfortable in their home environment. These commands can be extremely helpful when it comes to swimming and can help you control your dog's movements in the water.

Controlled Environment

Before heading to a pool or lake, try practicing in a small, controlled body of water like a kiddie pool (see more below). This will help your dog get used to being in the water and build their confidence before taking on larger bodies of water.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is an effective training technique that involves rewarding good behavior with treats or praise. When teaching your dog to swim, use this technique by offering treats and praise when they exhibit the desired behavior. This will help encourage them to continue swimming and make it a positive experience.

Be Patient and Consistent

As with any type of training, patience is key. It may take some time for your dog to become comfortable in the water, so be patient and don't get frustrated if they don't pick it up right away. Consistency is also important, so try to practice swimming regularly and reinforce good behavior each time.


 

Teaching Your Dog to Swim


Dog swimming in the water

The commonly held belief that all dogs are natural swimmers is just not true. Most dogs do instinctively paddle their legs once in the water; however, for some dogs, this may be the limit to their swimming abilities. And for some dogs, this natural motion may not even be enough to keep them afloat.


In this section, we'll give some tips on how you can get your dog comfortable in the water, assess their skill, and teach them to propel themselves through the water.



Swimming is an inherently risky activity that has the potential to result in serious injury or death. We take no responsibility for any safety risks or issues arising from participating in activities discussed in this article and recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian before starting any activity with your pet. You should always practice swimming safety measures, closely monitor your pet during all activities, and never leave your pet unsupervised in or near water. The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only, and we recommend seeking professional advice from a qualified veterinarian before engaging in any activity with your pet. We are not liable for any injury or death that results from following the advice described in this article. This content is not medical advice and should not replace consultation with a physician or veterinarian.


Know Your Dog's Limitations


Dog in a lifejacket standing by the pool

Every dog's different - some may not take to swimming as well as others and will need more time to adjust (or maybe it just not be for them). It’s also important to be aware of your dog’s physical limitations while in the water. If they seem to tire easily or have difficulty paddling, don’t push them too hard and give them plenty of rest breaks.


You should never force them to swim if they seem uncomfortable or scared. Allow them to do so at their own pace. When taking your pup swimming, it is important to pay attention to their body language for signs of discomfort or fatigue.


If they seem hesitant, don't force them into the water and give them time to adjust. Limit their swim sessions as needed and watch out for signs of exhaustion, such as heavy panting or slowing down in the water.


Introduce Them Slowly & Positively


It is important to be patient during this process and remember that it may take time for your dog to get the hang of swimming. If at any time they seem to be overwhelmed, try breaking up the activity into smaller increments and go back to a more shallow area where they feel comfortable. It may take several times to get your pup acclimated to the water. It's important that you don't rush this step and that you don't get discouraged.


  • Using treats can be a great way to provide a positive experience in the water

    • Treats will help them associate the activity with something enjoyable and get them more comfortable as they explore more in the water

  • Start slow and give them time to get used to the idea of being in the water

    • Allow them to explore their surroundings first, from a distance; if they seem hesitant or scared of the water, you can try getting in first to show them that it is nothing to be afraid of and lead them into the shallowest area

  • Try playing fetch

    • Using a toy in the shallow area can help them build their confidence


PRO TIP: Try starting off with bath time or playing around in a shallow pool or kiddie pool filled with warm water and gradually work up to larger bodies of water. When in the bath or kiddie pool, make sure that you’re with them at all times and provide plenty of positive reinforcement and praise for their progress.


Forward Motion


Woman guiding her dog to make foward motion while swimming

Once your dog has gained comfortability being in the water, you can move them into deeper water where their legs are no longer touching the bottom. As mentioned above, there's a good chance that they will instinctively begin paddling their legs once they can no longer touch. This is a great starting point to help them learn the basics of swimming.

Once they get to this point, you can try encouraging them to move their body forward in the water by gently pushing them from behind or throwing a toy ahead and having your pup swim towards it.


The dog life jacket you choose should come with a handle, or handles, on the top. You can use these handles to move your dog forward as they paddle their legs (see photo above). This could help them to understand how the motion works and that paddling their legs can move them forward.


Role Models


Having a dog who already knows how to swim serve as a role model for your dog can be helpful. If you have any friends or family with swimming dogs, it could be a good idea to set up a doggy swimming play date. Your dog may become more confident when seeing his or her canine buddy having fun in the water.


Happy dog in a lifejacket jumping into a pool

As they watch and mimic their fellow dog(s), your dog will start to understand what it takes to stay afloat in the water. Additionally, watching another dog already having fun in the water may help lessen any fear or anxiety they have about swimming.

Post Swim


Lucy dog getting a bath after the beach

Once you and your dog get out of the water, make sure you reward them with plenty of praise and treats for a job well done. You should have that towel handy to properly dry them off; this will help to prevent any chill when getting out of the water - especially if it's windy. Once your pup is all dried off, give them plenty of water and food if needed.


It's also important to immediately check their paws for any debris and clean them off with a towel. You should also plan on bathing your dog as soon as you get home.


While it's typically safe for a dog to swim in a chlorine pool, a dog's eyes and ears can be a bit more sensitive and you shouldn't let it sit on their skin for too long afterward. Oceans, lakes, and ponds are home to bacteria and you'll want to make sure your dog is free of any parasites or bacteria they may have been exposed to.


PRO TIP: After all of that, you can give them lots of love and snuggles to end the day on a happy note!


 

Ready, Set, Paddle!


Dog swimming in a pool with a lifejacket

Teaching your dog to swim is a fun and rewarding experience. It can be an activity that the two of you can enjoy together while getting some great exercise. With patience and practice, even dogs who are not considered natural swimmers can quickly become more confident in the water. Just be sure to start slow, use positive reinforcement training techniques, and keep an eye on your dog at all times while they're near/in the water.


Frequently Asked Questions About Taking Your Dog Swimming


Q: What dog breeds are good at swimming?

Q: Can all dogs swim?

Q: How do I know if my dog is ready to swim?

Q: How can I keep my dog safe while swimming?


 

Read Up On More Amazing Outdoor Adventures


Pomeranian smelling flowers on a hike

We hope you've gained some useful info about taking your dog swimming. We know that this is one of the more challenging outdoor activities you can do with your dog and it's not for everyone, or every dog and that's ok. If you're looking for something a bit milder, or even more challenging (like surfing), check out our full Fetch The Sun adventure guide by clicking the button below




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