Introducing to water with the hopes he'll love swimming??
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Thread: Introducing to water with the hopes he'll love swimming??

  1. #1
    arlinevg is offline Member
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    Red faceIntroducing to water with the hopes he'll love swimming??

    Odie is our 3rd lab. 4 months old today! Bailey, 9 yr old, loves the water, as long as her feet stay on the ground. She's our "Field and Stream" girl. When she was a puppy, some creepy kid pushed her in a pool when my back was turned and I think that spooked her for life. Although she's an excellent swimmer, she does not go into our pool, etc,. unless we pick her up and carry her in. She will dutifully swim directly to the steps and get out. Bailey will then do her little "spin cycle" and sometimes add a tuck and scoot immediately after swimming out of our pool. It seems she's happy to have gone swimming..........or maybe she's just joyous to have gotten out! Our departed lab, Boomer, seemed to follow Bailey's lead with regard to the water. He was bolder about putting his face in the water to retrieve balls at the beach, but wouldn't swim out to retrieve a ball that was in the pool or too far out from shore when at the beach or a lake. He never had any trauma, as Bailey did that would explain his disinterest. I'd love it if we could get Odie interested in swimming. He has come onto the big step in the pool and splashed around, but we haven't tried getting him to do anything else. Should we invest in one of those doggie swim vests to start him off initially? I'd love some guidance if you're willing to share. And forget about taking him to some dog swim class, my husband would never pay for that!

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    cillovely is offline Senior Member
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    I started Siren out with a doggie pfd, just so he'd get the feel for swimming in our pool but he was still slow to like it, he'd do a lap or two and then back on the steps or out on the deck. And I'd have to semi-force him to get in. What really made a difference I think with him was taking him to the brook in our back yard where it was a slow gradual increase in water depth. And we spent a week on a lake this summer which really got him into it. Now he's a regular fish, whines to go in the pool.
    Maybe if you go in at the beach with him and gradually get him to go deeper and deeper he'd like it.

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    Beerfish is offline Senior Member
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    Too bad that Bailey is not crazy about lots of swimming. How does Odie react when he/she sees Bailey swimming in the pool? I think the best way for younger dogs to learn about the fun of water without getting too frightened is if they see another dog or older dog swimming around. They often forget all else and want to join in and before you know it they are swimming like crazy.

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    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultWhat worked for Puff

    Below is a copy of a post I've often made:

    My Bess (black female) took to water immediately when she was about 5-6 months old, as soon as the ice thawed from the nearby pond, and she swam like a fish. Her love of swimming was sometimes a problem with her because she was so magnetically attracted to swim in any water she saw, whether safe for her or not (rapids, waterfalls, etc.).

    My Puff, (yellow female) on the other hand, liked to splash in water, wade in it, but was extremely reluctant to go any farther than have it just touching her belly. We first tried her several times at a lake playing with other Labs that enjoyed swimming.

    No luck.

    Next, I tried getting in the water and calling her to come to me.

    Ditto (no luck).

    (Not swimming was not an option since my sailboat is a great pleasure to me and Puff was destined to go along.)

    We use 2" x 12" vinyl "Lucky Dog" training dummies** which she'd previously learned to retrieve. When she was about 8 months old we'd go for daily off-leash walks by ponds in a nearby nature preserve. I tied a 30 foot kite string to the TD so I could pull it back in case she didn't get it. (VERY wise decision -- you can guess why.)

    I tossed it near the water's edge and then progressively farther out.

    Puff took some extended training--2X/day for 150+ days--to learn to swim properly. For one thing, she's a slightly small (62 lbs.), lean and lanky field line Lab and lacks much of the buoyancy many other Labs have -- especially the "blockier" bench line as my Bess had been.

    Puff's first attempts at swimming were to so very furiously flail the water with her front paws (to keep her head from drowning) that she created a mini-geyser--but without using her rear legs at all. That put her in an upright position in the water.

    That problem was quickly solved by putting a canine lifevest on her -- and with that she very soon learned to also use her rear legs. (We use the Ruff-Wear brand.)

    BUT Puff still lacks a lot of the buoyancy most other Labs have.

    Puff and I spent 10-15 minutes at a time, sometimes twice a day, practicing swimming retrieves for the next 6 months. Gradually she became more confident and, as her swimming skill improved, I'd usually take her life vest off. Now she doesn't hesitate to plunge in the water and swim out to retrieve her training dummy which I've just thrown.

    Without her canine lifevest, when she's swimming, only Puff's head and some of her neck is visible above water. With my Bess and most swimming Labs I've seen, all of the top of their backs and the top of their tails are slightly above the water's surface.

    Swimming is not on Puff's "My Top 10 Favorite Things To Do" list. Running and splashing at the water's edge might make it but not swimming.


    ** Google "w w w.gundogsuppply.com" for a cheap source of training dummies.

    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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    J.R.&JNE's Avatar
    J.R.&JNE is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by cillovely View Post
    I started Siren out with a doggie pfd, just so he'd get the feel for swimming in our pool but he was still slow to like it, he'd do a lap or two and then back on the steps or out on the deck. And I'd have to semi-force him to get in. What really made a difference I think with him was taking him to the brook in our back yard where it was a slow gradual increase in water depth. And we spent a week on a lake this summer which really got him into it. Now he's a regular fish, whines to go in the pool.
    Maybe if you go in at the beach with him and gradually get him to go deeper and deeper he'd like it.
    I agree. I really do think the pup feels more safe and in control if there is a gradual increase in water. I think this is the best way for them to learn and get used to the water. My boy lab learned this way in the Colorado River and he now uses the boat ramp, jumps off of the bow of the boat, swims in pools, etc. The girl lab also learned this way (took her longer), but she really does not use the pool or the boat ramp. She goes in the river and especially loves the ocean. Also, it helps them if there are other dogs around who are loving the water.


    J.R. and June


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    labby is offline Senior Member
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    I always take my pups out with some of my older dogs. My Libby is a Bitch (yes the capital B is deliberate) when it comes to keeping the bumper away from everyone else. She'll grab the bumper and then go up and down the shoreline teasing the other dogs until they get so frustrated they generally jump right in.

    If you can find an older dog that likes to swim, not just wade, take that dog with you and have lots of fun. The pup will usually want to get in on the fun and go in. It might not go all the way in at first, but usually they'll end up doing it. When they do, OH BOY! WHAT A GOOD DOG! ISN'T THIS FUN!! You treat the swim, even a short one, like you're so happy you might burst.

    Whatever you do, do not force it. It might take a few sessions with some puppies, but mine are usually swimming by the end of the first time that they go to the lake.

    Oh and a smaller pond is usually less intimidating to a puppy so look for those to start out in.



    Laura





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    cillovely is offline Senior Member
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    A not so funny thing happended over this weekend with the brook in my backyard and Siren. We got torrential rain on Sunday morning, so the brook became more like rapids. I took him for a walk and let him off leash when we got to our yard becuase he had been doing well coming back on command. Well he went straight to the brook, with a look back and me as I yelled his name and a big NO, and jumped right in. He's paddling away but can't get back to me and the open shore. At least he moved over to the side where it's not as strong a current. Everyone had A/C's on so nobody heard me yelling so I had to go in and get him. Thankfully it's only thigh-deep on me, and not strong enough to push me, but it still wasn't easy. The rocky bottom was brutal on my bare feet, but I finally got him and helped him get closer to shore, but the bugger actually tried to go in again. Needless to say I was not happy with him. He scared the you know what out of me. And he is banned from off leash privledges for a while.

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    I had kind of the same thing as Laura when it came to getting Diesel to swim, when he was about 10 or 12 weeks old. One night after work, a friend and hunting buddy from work called me. He was at his family's pond with his Weimaraner Gunner, and thought it would be good to let them meet and play, since they would be hunting partners in the future. I took the little guy over, and he had such fun following that big grey Weim around, but didn't go all the way in. My friend walked out to where the water was thigh deep and called to Diesel. He of course started walking out to where my friend was, and the bottom gradually dropped out from under his feet until he swam the rest of the way. My friend held him up as we both praised him, then let go as I called him back to shore. That's all it took, and I haven't been able to keep him out of water ever since.
    My Lab is smarter than your honor student.

    Deacon 12/1/1999-4/2/2012 RIP, bestest boy.
    Diesel 3/29/2010 My little hard charger.


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    Destinfam5 is offline Senior Member
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    I have to agree that the watching other dogs swim theory must work, because my pup jumped in our pool at a very young age from watching my 3 kids swim. To her, they're part of her pack and we had her long enough at that point (about 3 months old) that she knew we were her family, so watching them swim and have fun in the pool was like a magnet. The first couple times she jumped in she didn't swim much but after that we couldn't keep her out of the water. She swims every single day, has jumped into the bathtub, gotten in the shower and will come running if you turn the sink on. We did the fetching in the water after she was comfortable swimming and knew the way out of the pool.

    This past weekend we took her to sound side which is like the bay (dogs aren't allowed on beaches here) and tried her swimming out there. She loved it! She even went onto the fishing dock and my husband had to hold her back because she wanted to jump before he even introduced the idea to her. She dove off that thing like a pro and went back for more!

    Patience and fun are the 2 things you need

  12. #10
    arlinevg is offline Member
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    Thanks everybody! This is very promising. So far he really does seem to enjoy water.....hopping onto the big step in the pool and putting his head into the water to retrieve water toys on the step and just generally plunking around there, running into the shower while I was in there (big surprise for me!) and loves getting sprayed with the hose. We are supposed to have very warm weather here in the SF Bay Area this weekend so we'll get in the pool and see how he does. Any recommendations on the floatation vests I see some of the dogs wearing? I see that lots of them are being put on sale right now, presumable b/c summer is ending. I guess I'd have to get a much smaller size than I"ll eventually end up needing when he's through growing.

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