Time to Doggy Paddle: How to Teach a Dog to Swim

One of the best ways to cool off during hot weather is doin’ a splash in the pool (or ocean—ya girl needs a vacay, and she ruvs feelin’ the salty ocean breeze flowing through her fur). Swimming is much more fun with a friend, but not all dogs are natural swimmers. Read on to learn how to teach a dog to swim.

Safety First!

Not all floofs float. Some dog breeds, like Labrador Retrievers and Portuguese Water Spaniels, were bred specifically for water jobs—but all dogs are different. Never assume any dog knows how to swim. Other dogs—especially ones with chonky, stocky builds like Bulldogs or short-legged pups like Dachshunds—are actually more likely to sink than swim. Ruh roh!

To ensure pup stays safe, equip him with a life jacket. A dog flotation vest should fit snugly around the dog’s chest and ribs. Look for a life jacket with a handle. A handle will let you easily pull your dog out of the water (paws crossed you never need to!) and can help you guide your dog during swimming lessons. 

If you find a life jacket you love, don’t forget to check the sizing guide and take puppo’s measurements. We stan pup parents who make sure woofers are both safety-conscious and stylin’!

Let Your Dog Get Used to the Water

Fren hates goin’ into a full tub of water for *shudders* bathtime, so don’t make her go into the deep end before she’s ready! You wanna associate pawsitive feelings with swimming time, so it’s best to start in shallow water where you can walk alongside your dog. Let pup get used to having her feet wet. Practice walking into and out of the water so she knows how to get out. 

Also, don’t forget the leash! Keeping doggo on a leash during swimming lessons ensures he doesn’t get too far once he becomes confident with his doggy paddle! Our exclusive Patio Leash™ will keep pupper close by, and when you go out to celebrate a successful swim time, you can clip the leash to your table.

Once your dog is used to shallow water, it’s time to hit the deep end. Since fluffer will be floating (thanks, life jacket!), she’ll realize she’s safe, and her paddling instinct should kick in.

If smol fry has a doggy friend who knows how to swim, see if he can come along. Dogs also learn by watching, so seeing another dog swimming can help.

Practice Water Safety

Make sure you provide pup with plenty of fresh water—swimming is hard work, and dogs don’t always distinguish between drinking water and other puddles. You don’t wanna deal with a pupper who gets an upset tummy from drinking too much pool, lake, or ocean water. Plus, natural bodies of water can contain yucky parasites that’ll make dogs sick.

Also, make sure you’re aware of your BFFs surroundings. There may be other critters swimming nearby, especially in lakes and oceans, so be on the lookout for water snakes, snapping turtles, and other creatures that might come after pups.

Make sure your dog feels safe and secure in the water, and she’ll be a regular Katie Lepuppy in no time.

Do you have any tips on how to teach a dog to swim? Woof at us in the comments and let us know your fave tricks! And pawlease tag us @SidewalkDog in your swim time vids on Instagram—we need that kind of cuteness in our lives.

Featured photo: Blue Bird

Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagram, then enter our drool-worthy giveaways.

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