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Why won't my dog swim?

Plenty of dogs absolutely love swimming and can’t wait to get in the water – it can be a really fun time for you and your dog. But what do you do if you love a swim but your dog wants to keep his paws firmly on dry land?
Why won't my dog swim?

Can all dogs swim?

First of all, unlike humans, dogs don’t need to be taught to swim. They all have an inbuilt instinct and will be able to make the right swimming movements. However, this doesn’t mean that all dogs are good swimmers! Dogs with very short legs, such as Dachshunds and Corgis, will struggle to move through the water. Flat-faced dogs like Pugs and French Bulldogs have to tilt their faces up to keep water out of their nostrils, which puts their bodies at an angle that makes them sink.

Why won’t my dog swim?

Even if you have a typically water-loving breed, such as a Labrador, there can be reasons why your dog is less than keen on taking the plunge.

  • Temperament. Some dogs are not as confident as others – your dog might not be brave enough to jump straight in.
  • Bathing. Does your dog enjoy bath time? If they don’t, this might make it harder to enjoy water elsewhere. Make bath time as fun as possible for your dog with warm water and lots of praise and treats.
  • New experiences. Even if your dog likes the bath or a pet pool, swimming in open water might still be a little frightening for them to face a large area of water that sounds and smells different.

How can I help my dog to enjoy swimming?

There are lots of ways to encourage your dog to feel more confident in the water.

  • A great way to start is with a pet pool or child’s paddling pool. You can make this a lovely experience for your dog by filling it with just a couple of inches of warm water, having some favourite toys (and a few treats!) to hand, and some soft towels for when it’s time to get out.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have access to a swimming pool that allows dogs, this can provide a safe way for you and your dog to have fun together.
  • Once you’re ready to venture to open water, a calm shallow lake or stream will be less daunting than rough water and large waves.
  • Choose an area that will be easy for your dog to get in and out of.
  • Stay calm and have fun! If you’re calm, this will help your dog stay calm. If your dog can see you having fun in and around the water, this will make them more likely to join in.
  • A water-loving dog friend can work wonders to show your more reluctant dog what a great place the water can be.
  • Just as you would with anything new for your dog, take it at their pace with plenty of positive reinforcement and praise – if they aren’t ready to get in the water, never force them.

The most important thing is that your dog has fun – with a bit of encouragement and patience, your dog will hopefully come to love swimming!

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