Teach Your Dog to Swim

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With summer just around the corner swimming is a great way to exercise your dog without having to worry about the dangers of overheating. However, I have had several people tell me they wish their dog would swim like Sadie and Rusty do. Well, I have to tell you, Sadie and Rusty did not just learn to swim on their own. I had to get into the water with them and teach them it was okay to swim.

I took each of them into the water for the first time when Sadie was about a year old and Rusty was about eight months. I adopted both Sadie and Rusty from the local shelter, so I have to guess at their ages. It was really hot outside and neither Sadie nor Rusty would get into the water. So I had this great idea of going in with them. I might have come up with a different plan if I’d remembered that the water was from snow runoff, but enough about me: After-all this blog is about sharing information for dog lovers.

I walked into the water with Sadie first. We stayed in the shallow water at first, when Sadie was comfortable, I started taking her into deeper water, until she was swimming with me. It took about 30 minutes from walking into the water until she was swimming.

My husband did the same with Rusty while I let my feet and legs get their feeling back. Because Sadie was already comfortable in the water she went in with Chris, which helped Rusty to relax quicker. He didn’t want to be left behind so he learned to swim much faster. It always helps when you have a dog that already knows how to swim help teach a dog that doesn’t.

Now it doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of winter or the hottest day of summer, both Sadie and Rusty never seem to stay out of the water.

Keep in mind that it’s important not to throw your dog in or drag them in, you’re trying to make swimming a fun experience. Be gentle and let your dog learn at their own pace. If your dog has had bad experiences with water you’ll need patience and make certain to do nothing that will frighten your dog. Remember, this is like every other training session make the session fun and offer plenty of praise, even if your dog barely gets their paws wet.


  1. I think that all dogs CAN swim, but reserve this of cases of emergencies = when they’d HAVE to swim. Figuring out that it is something that could be done on purpose and could actually be a great fun is indeed another thing, though some dogs seem to take to that right away.

    Our Jasmine is a Rottweiler and she always loved water. Where there is a pond, lake, stream or a larger puddle, you will find her in it. However she was strictly sticking to shallow areas.

    Getting in the water WITH your dog certainly creates great motivation and sometimes it’s just so much fun that the dog might even forget that she doesn’t like water all that much as our late Rottweiler.

    I remember vividly the first time Jasmine swam. We were playing in the water and having a good time, when she reached for her toy further than she intended and where water was too deep. Her body immediately started swimming, but the look on her face was showing that she was quite distraught with having no control over what was happening. She immediately turned to shore to take back control over her body.

    That was the first time she swam and we actually did happen to caught that on film! Next day however, we were walking along a slow creak and she spotted a very interesting leaf floating on the water. She wanted to check it out. Remembering from the previous day that is is possible to move through water too deep to walk in she decided to get that leaf. That’s when she discovered that she can actually do this stuff on purpose!

    She is enjoying swimming ever since.

  2. Jana, sounds like Jasmine is a fun dog. I think I would have laughed at her first time swimming, I can imagine the look on her face. Great story thanks for taking a minute to share it.

    I agree with you. I think all dogs are born with the ability to swim, but some dogs seem to think they cannot. With the more timid dogs accompanying them into the water can help them to gain confidence. Getting into the water with your dog is a lot of fun for both you and your dog. I love going swimming with Sadie and Rusty during the summer. Especially since temperatures often reach over 100 degrees here during the summer.

  3. will this work for all dogs?

  4. It will work with most dogs. Some dogs take a little longer and others never do enjoy swimming.

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