How To Introduce Your Dog To Water Safely and Comfortably

Written by aslmad.yaz

Dog grabbing a ball in the river

(Photo credit: Lisa Van Dyke / Getty Images)

Taking your dog on a trip to the beach or lake can be a great way to get some exercise and mental stimulation while having fun. Even non-water-loving breeds enjoy playing in the water, however, it’s important to introduce them early on. Here’s how to safely introduce your dog to water so you can enjoy your next adventure together.

Determine your dog’s comfort level with water

The first step is to figure out how comfortable your dog is with water. While the bathtub is one place you may think of to check your dog’s comfort with water, it may not be the best. Dogs that are fearful of baths may be fine in lakes and pools! Test in a comfortable location, such as a shallow lake bed or kiddie pool where you can watch for any signs of discomfort. These include reluctance to get into the water, immediately leaving the water, trembling, or licking the lips.

Choose the right equipment and location for water play

When you introduce your dog to water, you’ll want to do so safely and slowly. It may take several trips before your dog is comfortable. If you’ll be going to a lake or other deeper body of water, equip your dog with a doggy life jacket. You’ll also want to pick a lake or pool that has a shallow slope or easy-to-access steps that your dog can climb onto. A long leash is also useful if lounging at the beach or river to keep your dog from wandering into too deep of water.

If you’re still in the training stages of water play, a shallow splash pad or kiddie pool are great items to train with. You can use these as positive reinforcement tools, giving a treat or tossing a toy every time your dog shows interest or interacts with the water.

Teach basic water skills with positive reinforcement

All dogs should have basic skills when playing near bodies of water. This includes how to enter and exit the water such as onto docks or beaches. Bring your dog to these areas and offer a treat when they climb into or out of the water to encourage their use. 

You can also use positive reinforcement to get your dog comfortable with their life jacket. This will help your dog associate the experience with good things! Every time you put it on, feed your dog a few treats through the neck opening of the jacket, and after you’ve closed the clasps. 

Even the strongest swimmers should always be supervised when playing near the water. Stay alert, use a life jacket, and keep an eye out for any dangerous situations such as changing tides or deeper pools. If your dog appears tired or nervous, it’s time to take a break away from the water.

Have fun playing together

Once you’ve introduced your dog to the water and they seem comfortable, it’s time to have fun! Bringing along floating toys, swimming, and just relaxing together on the beach can be a great way to enjoy the water. If you need more ideas, you can also check out our guide to more fun toys for your dog to play with in the water.

Playing in the water can be a great activity for your and your dog to enjoy together. However, if you have a dog that doesn’t like the water or is still getting used to it, there are always alternative options. For more fun ways to play with your pup, check out our guide to the best dog games based on personality! Try out a few at home or the next time you’re at a lake or pool for the best tail-wagging time.

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