So you want your dog to swim?
“Do Labradoodles like the water?” Living near the Chesapeake Bay, I am asked this question often. The Labradoodle originated from two water retrievers…the Labrador Retriever and the Standard Poodle. Knowing this, it would reason that Labradoodles would make excellent water loving dogs as well, right? Well, this is often a function of what the dog is exposed to as a youngster. If you have read my socialization blog you are probably now familiar with how ‘bombarding your new puppy with early socialization’ will greatly enhance your dogs ability to handle new situations with pleasure…. water included. If your puppy has water incorporated into his play time when he is young, then he will view the water as a very fun and exciting activity. If, however, your Puppy’s main experiences with water are associated with BATHS (icky-blech..in dog lingo)….well…I bet you’ve already caught on!
Some doodles, like some labs and some poodles, are true water bugs and find water very exciting from the very beginning. These are the puppies that start swimming in the water bowl as soon as it is introduced. They splash around in the water with their paws first but soon the whole body joins in on the action as they swat at their own splashes! These are such
comical pups to watch in the puppy pen…entertaining themselves and us for hours on end! Sometimes sticking their entire head under water to explore the depths of the bowl….ahhh, it makes me miss summer. Just thinking about it makes me want to launch myself into that water bowl to see whats really going on down there! I know that I have a die-hard water bug when I catch one repeatedly napping in the bowl with his head hanging over the side in peaceful slumber. I liken it to floating in the ocean on a raft with arms and legs dangling over the side into the refreshing sea. I understand this bliss!
So how do I introduce my puppy to the water? If you live near a stream or lake it is very easy. Just make your play time near the water’s edge. Toss a floating toy into the water but close to shore (sticks work well too and if you toss it further then he is willing to swim there’s no big loss). If you do this a few times your puppy will quickly learn to retrieve his toy in the water. Eventually throw the toy into deeper water so that he/ she becomes accustomed to the depth. Once he is retrieving well in slightly deeper water, toss it a bit farther out so that he will have to swim just a little bit (but not too far at first). Just don’t throw it out farther then you are willing to swim to retrieve it yourself if he decides he is not quite ready for the swim!
Before you know it, your dog will have begun to associate the water with an intensely fun playtime!
What if I don’t have a stream or lake to practice with? A baby pool is a good solution to start with but they are rather shallow. If it is winter when your puppy arrives you can use a large soaking tub for the same purpose. It helps to have a life preserver on your puppy if the water is over his head.
One thing that I love is to watch my dogs jump into water to retrieve something. Dock Dogs are amazing to watch. Check out the dock dog link for some exciting and fun competitions.
Not all dogs are willing to jump from great heights into water below from the start but it can be taught. Just like teaching a child to ride a bike a little at a time we do the same for our dogs while they learn to jump into water. Start with a very small drop into the water…no more then a foot or two and when they are totally confident with this, move on to a slightly higher distance. Just keep increasing the distance when he has mastered that height with out any hesitance. Soon you will be on your way to having your own wild and crazy Dock Diving Dog! And WOW is it ever exciting to show off to your friends and family!
Pippi Longstockings is one of my waterbugs. She swims every day in the stream behind our house and she LOVES to retrieve tennis balls thrown into the water for her. If we stop playing before she is ready, she continues to play by herself. She is a total crack up…. Pippi will carry her ball onto the bridge over our stream and swat it off into the water. She then zooms around to the bank and throws herself into the water retrieving the ball….then repeats the whole thing again! Pippi is a tiny little thing packed with entertainment for the whole family…she only weighs 14 lbs and could give any lab a run for the money when it comes to water!
A note of caution, if your dog is swimming off of a boat or in a location where he can not get out of the water with out help it is always best to use a life preserver. It can be a life saver if your dog becomes exhausted and has no where to go! Special life jackets are made for dogs and available from many different sources. I have often used a child size ski vest on my dogs in the past with great success.