I believe most of us live in Hawaii for the turquoise blue ocean and the lush green mountains. I will often receive questions asking “how can I get my dog comfortable with the water?”
There are many tips that I can offer on this subject. However, I do want to state that many dogs are genetically predisposed to enjoy the water, while others are not. Do some research on your dog’s breed to see which category they may fall into. If your dog is not genetically predisposed, don’t worry! Try the tips below, and your dog may learn to fall in love with the water!
Tips for getting your dog comfortable with water:
- Your dog’s first exposure to water is critical. If the interaction is forced or if your dog is scared, this experience could determine if your dog will enjoy the water in the future. Never force your dog to go into the water. Take your time and allow your dog to investigate the water first. If allowed and you feel comfortable, take your dog off leash to see where they feel comfortable around the water. Is it far away from the water or do they move close to the water then back away? You can also use a long leash, give your dog freedom to investigate the water or put distance between the water as they see fit.
- If you are trying to introduce them to the ocean, do so on a calm day or go to a beach that does not have large surf rolling in. Remember, dogs have better hearing than us humans, so to their sensitive ears the rolling in of the waves could sound like an approaching freight train!
- Run in and out of the water yourself to allow your dog to see how much fun the water can be. Do not go too deep. Stay in the shallows and talk about how cool it is. Yes, say out loud “oh this is fun, let’s play!”
- For better or for worse, many dogs will follow what their friends do. See if you can find a swimming buddy that already enjoys the water. Let’s hope their friend will lead the way into the water.
- Bring a toy your dog enjoys to the beach. Play with your dog at a distance from the water that your dog is comfortable with. Slowly move closer to the water for a game of tug or fetch then quickly move back to a distance your dog is comfortable with. Keep the games short and fun. Do not push the game when it’s going well. Quit while your dog is having fun, so they have a good memory of playing next to the water.
- If introducing them to a pool, take it one step at a time, literally. Do not throw them in the deep end and hope for the best. Gently place them on the first step and allow them to get out if they want. This will also teach them where the stairs are in relation to the pool and how to get out. This can be a life saver for your dog.
- Another way to introduce your dog to the pool is hold them while you’re in the water. Move to the top step and let them get out on their own. Increase your distance away from the stair slowly. Stop while your dog is doing well. You want them to have a good memory of the water.
- Use a doggie life jacket. If you find your dog enjoys the water but they struggle trying to swim or do not want to get out of the water even though they are tired, use a life jacket. Our Lani Girl loves the ocean – – she will swim in it for days if we allowed her to! But her backend sinks. Her life jacket allowed her to swim longer and without us having to worry if she was safe. Take a look at her here: Pirate Lani Girl
- Training your dog to be comfortable in the water is not a race. Go slowly and have fun. If you’re having fun and not pushing your dog to their limits, your dog will be much more likely to turn into a water dog.