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Teaching Your Dog to Swim

May 15, 2021

Many of our canine companions love water. However, while some dogs are natural swimmers that take to the water with little coaching, others are more timid about it. If Fido doesn’t know how to swim, you may want to consider getting him safety lessons. This could one day save his life! A Roanoke, VA vet offers a few tips on this below.

Starting Out

Don’t just put Fido in the water and expect him to immediately figure out the doggy paddle. Even if he does, he may be so terrified by the experience that he develops a fear of water. Start by letting your pooch splash around in a kiddie pool. You can also let him wade a bit. When you’re ready, opt for a spot with pretty shallow water, and carry him into the water. Support your furry friend as he is learning. Encourage him with praise and ear scritches.


Safety first! We recommend putting a lifejacket on Fido any time he is going to be around water. If you have a pool, you’ll want to use the same general precautions as you would with a toddler. First and foremost, never leave your furry buddy unattended near water, even for a minute. Keep pools gated off when they aren’t being used. You’ll also need to be careful with pool covers. Sometimes dogs don’t realize that these aren’t solid surfaces, and try to walk on them. That could be very dangerous!


Whenever we talk about training dogs, we usually recommend offering treats. Obviously, you don’t want to give Fido any food while he’s swimming. Save the snacks for later, when your pet has all four paws on solid ground. Speaking of training, the command Stay can be very useful. If you’re in a boat that’s pulling away from the dock for a round of waterskiing, you don’t want your pup jumping in after you!


Swimming isn’t appropriate for every dog. Some pooches, such as brachycephalic dogs, large breeds, and very small dogs, just aren’t well-suited for the water. These pups may still enjoy wading or splashing around, but you’ll need to take care not to let them get in over their heads. Ask your vet for specific advice.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns about your dog’s health or care. As your Roanoke, VA animal clinic, we’re here to help!

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