Teaching Your Dog How to Swim?  Here’s What You Need to Know

Teaching Your Dog How to Swim? Here’s What You Need to Know

As the weather starts to warm up, we might find ourselves heading to the beach or to any other body of water to cool down.  But what about your dog?  Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs love water, and not all dogs are able to swim.  To get your dog accustomed to the water and to avoid certain hazards like drowning, gently introduce your dog to the water by giving your dog swimming lessons.  Here’s what you need to know about teaching your dog how to swim or taking your pup to the beach:


  1. Where to Go

If you take your dog to the beach – make sure that it is at one of Malta’s dog-friendly beaches, to avoid any fines.  These beaches will be marked with a ‘Dog Friendly Beach’ sign and owners are required to keep their dog on a leash unless their dog is in the water, as well as to clean up after their dogs.


  1. Different Breeds and Swimming

Not all dogs love swimming, and the different makeup of each breed plays an important role in whether or not your pup is a natural in the water. Some dogs were developed to swim such as the Labrador Retriever, whilst others such as Bulldogs and Dachshunds have a physical make-up, for example their short legs, which makes swimming for them very difficult.

That being said, even if your dog belongs to a breed that is made to swim, it’s important to take safety measures to make sure your dog feels comfortable in the water.  Whilst they might be natural swimmers, some pups are scared of the water and so it’s important to take a gentle approach when teaching your dog how to swim.



  1. Doggie Life Jacket

The American Kennel Club (AKC) reports that a life jacket is a great tool to have when taking your dog swimming.  Not only will it aid those breeds that find it naturally difficult to tread water, but it’s also a great method to teach your dog how to swim. Most young children at the beach use floatation devices to help them swim and to avoid drowning, and it’s no different with dogs.

As you would with a child, make sure that the life jacket you get fits your pup well.  A life jacket will keep them afloat minimizing water being swallowed, as well as allows dogs to use both back and front legs to paddle.  If your dog has swallowed too much water, a common symptom is throwing up that water. In the case that this happens, the AKC recommends dehydrated food to absorb any extra water in your dog’s stomach.  It’s also important for dogs who find themselves in strong or rough currents, or those who are near deep water – just in case they fall in.  A life jacket with a handle to pull your pup out of the water is the safest option.


  1. Don’t Just Throw Your Pup in the Water!

Your pup’s first time swimming should be fun – not traumatising.  The AKC writes that throwing your pup in the water and letting them swim by themselves can have long-lasting effects on your dog, possibly making your furry friend scared to swim or enter the water ever again.


  1. Entice your Dog into the Water

Whether by using a toy, or a buddy, gently welcome your pup into the water.  Ideally, this is done in shallow water so that your pup can reach and gradually swim to deeper ends.  It will also help if you are in a part of the water where you reach yourself, just in case your dog jumps on you for support – especially with big dogs.   Like with all other training, reward your dog with positive reinforcement every time he enters the water.



  1. The Right Temperatures

If the water temperature is too cold, your pup could suffer from hypothermia.  Some of the symptoms when your dog is feeling excessive cold include shivering as well as the inability to lift his tail.

If it is summer and your pup is by the beach, he may also suffer from the heat.  Dogs’ bodies respond to heat differently than ours and it’s important to provide your pup with plenty of shade and drinking-water to keep hydrated – not seawater!   On the opposite spectrum, your pup could suffer from heatstroke, some of the symptoms of which include excessive panting and thirst, as well as difficulty breathing.


  1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen, I hear you say?  Yes! Your dog needs protection from the sun too – especially dogs with light coloured coats, noses, eyelids or ears. They can even get sunburnt or have skin cancer.  But don’t just apply your usual sunscreen on your dog.  Like your dog has its own type of shampoo, dogs need to have their own sunscreen made especially for them, otherwise it can be toxic.  If you are at the beach, a waterproof sunscreen is your best option.

According to the AKC,  you should first test a small area of your dog with sunscreen just in case your dog is allergic.  If there is no allergic reaction, 20 minutes before going out in the sun, apply the sunscreen to the bridge of your dog’s nose, ear tips, inner thighs, and around the lips – making sure your pup does not lick the sunscreen until it has been absorbed, as well as that the sunscreen doesn’t get into his eyes.  Don’t forget to reapply after a couple of hours or after your dog has been in the water.


Your pup is part of your family, and it’s important to take precautions to safeguard your dog’s health, as you would with any child.  Whether it’s teaching your dog how to swim or just letting him play in your garden, there are always ways to be proactive and keep your dog safe. Other precautions to safeguard your dog’s health include Pet Insurance that covers veterinary expenses and even liability. For more information on Laferla’s Pet Insurance Plans, or to get a quote, get in touch today.  For more information on how to train your dog how to swim, visit the American Kennel Club.