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Introducing your dogs to water for the first time

More often than none, we meet many dog owners that tell us their dogs do not like to swim and they are afraid of going into the water or sea. I would ask them how do they introduce their dogs to the water?

Their replies are pretty much similar; At the dog pool, they will carry their dogs to a far corner and toss/ put them in, and most of them do not have any flotation aid on them. Mind you; this is the FIRST TIME your puppies have ever been in the water!! You could imagine the fear & stress triggered in your dogs when all of the sudden, their paws cannot feel a single thing and the strange weird tasting liquid surrounding them. To worsen the situation, the water could be cold. This multiplies the stress and fear factor tenfold.

I recently met a young Lab owner, and she told me that her 1-year-old puppy is terrified of the waves crashing on the shore when she drags him into the seawater for the first time. I highlighted to her to put herself in his "shoes". Get down to his eye level and try going into the sea with the waves coming towards you. It will just freak your stressed puppy out, and Labs are water dog!

Before I became a Canine Hydrotherapist, I brought Oliver, my Westie for his 1st swim at a Center here in Singapore. Being a puppy, he is always ready for new adventures and full of excitement. However, he was not introduced in the water properly, and he took a dive into the water and stay underwater for a while before he was pulled up. From then on, he just hated to go for the swim or even refused to enter the Centre. He would bark with fear non-stop till we leave the Center. It took months before I could rehabilitate and reintroduce him back to swimming. And now he will be the swimming mascot @ Hydro Canine.

Dog owners must be educated that not all dogs are natural swimmers. Just like humans, our puppies needed to be encouraged and taught how to swim. A positive introduction into the water will help to build their confidence, be comfortable and enjoy swimming. Introducing a young, inexperienced puppy to water is a matter of desensitization. We accomplish it just as we would any new situation—progressively. In case it needs to be said: Never "teach" your pup to swim by tossing him off at the poolside or forcing him into the water. Do not do what you will not do to yourself if you are not a swimmer.

Start off in shallow, warm water, where the pup can comfortably stand. You should introduce your puppy to water only after he understands necessary obedience skills and you make your intro to water slow and fun, you should end up with a dog that views swimming as a high reward.

@Hydro Canine, we have a custom built low gradient ramp that we use to introduce your puppies int the new environment, we will begin with the first few sessions of heel work in the shallows, with no expectations for swimming. Once they are relaxed and comfortable in the water, we start to play with toys and positive encouragement. Usually, after a few quick retrieves in elbow-deep water, your puppy forgets about the water altogether and begins to swim. Water introductions can take several days depending on the dog. When your pup is showing no hesitation toward the water, toss the object far enough to require him to swim to reach it. Usually, that's all it takes.

With a solid introduction to water, we will have them swimming and having fun as well as building their core muscle and strength to support those growing joints as well as mental stimulation which every puppy needs.

Your dog will soon love to swim and getting all the health benefits of swimming.

Do check out our Puppy Puppy Swim @ Hydro Canine for more information.

Always swim your dogs with a flotation vest, no matter how well they swim.

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