TRAINING: How to Introduce Dogs & Puppies to Water

How to introduce dogs and puppies to water

We are all hoping for great summer, full of balmy evenings and hot days. With that in mind, we’ve asked StyleTails resident dog training and behaviour expert Louise Glazebrook from the Darling Dog Company to share her best tips for getting your dog to enjoy the water.

Come the onset of those warm summer days, our dogs usually want to do far less pounding the pavements as it’s just not fun – you have to remember that they are also wearing a full on fur jacket, all the time. This is when fresh, clean water near you can really benefit your dog. It will not only cool down and refresh them, but it can really help to keep them fit and ensure some stimulation at a time when walking and running is a bit too much effort.

What you do need to bear in mind is that around fifteen mins of water play and swimming can be similar to an hour’s walk. It can tire them out as much as it tires you out when you start trying to run through water!

If your dog is a natural water baby then its easy for you, you won’t need to do more than show them a puddle or pond before they throw themselves in. My dog is a bit like this – which is why we call her a hippo!

If your dog is not so keen or has never really been exposed to water, they will either learn to enjoy it or they won’t. Never do what I once saw a man doing – throwing his Westie into water, as in his words ‘he was being a wuss’. This will do nothing for your relationship with your dog, and will only create a distrust and fear of the water.

Around fifteen mins of water play and swimming can be similar to an hour’s walk.

With puppies I usually start with them on a very lightweight long line and just sit by the side of some shallow water. Do not use deep ponds or places where the dog needs to swim. You need to look at finding water which has a graduated footing, is safe, clean and that dogs are allowed into.

Once your puppy shows an interest in standing in the water, I usually look at spending a few days of playing games by the water, slowly getting the toy to land in the shallowest part. You should also make sure you have the toy on some kind of rope or string, so that it doesn’t float off.

It is all about building your dog’s confidence and enjoyment around the water. Usually once they have this, you can progress them to throwing the toy further to fetch and they will begin to venture in. If your dog doesn’t enjoy fetch then look at finding a light-weight toy that your dog can collect and you can then play tug with. Even bits of weed, stick, floating twigs can be an incentive to get in. It is all about taking your time, being patient and rewarding with something your dog wants.

Water play should be fun and rewarding not scary and unenjoyable, so if your dog looks like they aren’t keen, stick to the paddling pool in the back garden. Never force them in and always make sure there is no current, the water is safe and that there are no animals which your dog can get to like nesting ducklings.

Water play should be fun and rewarding not scary and unenjoyable.

If you are going to visit a dog-friendly swimming spot, remember to take an old towel with you, because if your dog is anything like mine, their coat will retain water and take forever to dry. You do not want your dog being damp and laying in wet fur on cooler days as it’s not great for the joints.

Have fun, and if you do get your dog into the water, share your pictures with us on twitter or instagram – @styletails and @darlingdog so we can see for ourselves!

Get Louise’s book now: Dog About Town – How to Raise a Happy Dog in the City

Does your dog love the water or hate getting wet? Where are some of your favourite swim spots? Tell us in the comments below!

Louise is one of London's leading urban dog trainers and behaviourists. Her passion for dogs sees her take on all sorts of projects – from working with Dogs Trust to promote responsible dog ownership in inner city estates, to finding BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw his perfect rescue pup. Louise lives in Hackney with her husband, baby son and her deaf Bulldog Cookie.

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