How to Make a Dog Like Water

One of the biggest things dog owners dread is the day they find out their dog hates water. Aside from dogs hating water, dog owners sometimes have a harder time accepting the fact their dog isn’t going to be the water-dog they were dreaming for. Some owners become impatient and inadvertently instill a permanent fear in their pooch.

With some training and coaxing, you can turn any dog into an aquatic loving one by practicing good habits.

In my lifetime of owning dogs, I’ve had them all–the water loving ones and water hating ones. From puppies, to young adults, and even seniors, they’ve all learned to love water. I’ve also met dogs who were born and raised in shelters that took to the water with no training or proper introduction. And I’ve also met dogs of good stock run at the sight of water. Understand, dogs are individuals with different tolerance levels. Even if there are traits passed along to make breeds good swimmers, it will not make up for a bad introduction to water.

Deep down, dogs just love to have fun. Dogs who are scared and confused about water don’t know any better, yet, but water is FUN. Knowing how to make a dog feel secure and confident in the water is the biggest secret to making them beg for their next swim.

Below is a list of things that can easily traumatize a dog and should be avoided. You almost have to put yourself in their situation–you wouldn’t want any of these things happening to you as an introduction to water, would you?

germanshepherd-swimming-in-ocean

What NOT to do:

  • Never toss your dog into a large body of water expecting them to swim miraculously

If you’re trying to find out if your dog can swim, tossing a dog into large body of water will only traumatize a dog. Not only can the impact stun the dog, there is a great chance of them inhaling water and or loosing air due to the impact.

  • Never drag your dog into a large body of water expecting them to think it’s OK

Forcefully dragging your dog into a large body of water will not make your dog confident in the long run. Dogs learn to adapt to things at their own pace. Using excess force to push or pull your dog into the water will leave a lingering thought of struggle and distress every time your dog sees a large body of water.

  • Never give your dog a bath with cold water using high powered nozzles (hose water)

Avoid bathing your dog with a high powered hose and or cold hose water. If your dog is shivering, that’s probably a good sign the water is too cold. Not all dogs are crazy for hose water, so for beginners, don’t introduce pressured water to dogs lacking confidence.

  • Never expect your dog to swim in cold water or in cold weather

Some of the best times for dogs to learn to swim is in the warmer seasons of the year like spring and summer. If you’re not willing to take a dip in 40 degree weather then your dog definitely isn’t either. Use good judgement when playing in Mother Natures harsh weather conditions.

  • Never use rough or fast moving water (creeks and streams) as a place for swimming lessons

If you’re taking your dog out for their first real encounter with water, then avoid moving water at all costs. Swimming in a creek or stream requires a lot of confidence and conditioning. The pull of underwater currents can scare your dog, even you, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Swimming in moving water also requires a great deal of conditioning. Just because you own an aquatic-loving breed, respect the fact that dogs are individuals because I’ve seen the best of them sink. Always use a dog life jacket when swimming in moving water.

  • Never expect your dog to be a natural born swimmer

People sometimes think dogs can perform the impossible like leap over walls, chase down rabbits, and swim on their first try… because they’re a sporting dog? Be prepared with the precautionary thought that your dog will sink like a rock and you’ll have to go in for them. Though some dogs are natural born swimmers–Labradors and Newfoundlands–I’ve met some that never learned to like water, let alone swim. Aquatic-loving breeds are equipped with the tools to powerboat through water (big webbed feet and powerful shoulders), but can and may need some tuning if they don’t float right away. ;-)

  • Don’t make a big deal out of it–be there for them

Dogs feed off of our energy. They know when we’re sad. They know when we’re happy. But they don’t know what to make of our high pitched laughs. When dogs are learning the quirks of swimming or learning to tolerate water, you need to be encouraging and praising–not laughing at the top of your lungs taking pictures from a distance. This does nothing for a dog but put them in an awkward situation they won’t want to be in any time soon.
If you own a dog who is having a hard time accepting water, there are a few things you can do to train them. The reason I say, “train,” is because they require patience. Lots of patience. You should never expect your dog to love water the first day of implementing these methods. Dogs are individuals, so you need to be willing to work with them until they are 100% confident and comfortable.

senior-dog-swimming

Practice good habits

  • Always make bath time fun and memorable

The bread and butter of getting a dog to like water is bath time! When your dog has a hard time accepting water, it’s important to make bath time fun and memorable. This is an instance where water and dog must meet. So be sure bath time becomes a happy pastime for you and your dog. Use warm water on a low pressure setting if bathing indoors. If bathing outdoors, for beginners, use 5g buckets with warm water and a cup to pour over your dog. Use treats and lots of praise so your dog knows they are doing a fantastic job and that water leads to extra love and treats.

  • Get in the water with them

Dogs that do everything in confidence, have had the pleasure of socially adapting to life due to good parenting and or just being the extroverts that they are. Dogs can easily get over their fears if we stand in the way of them and show them, physically, that it’s OK to proceed because, “look, I’m fine, so will you.” Dogs trust us, but only if we lead.

  • Always make jumping and splashing in a body of water fun

If you don’t have the luxury of owning a swimming pool, one of the best ways to get in the water with your dog is with a kiddie pool. Kiddie pools are inexpensive (around $9) and are perfect for coaxing dogs into water. You can start off by filling these small pools ankle high, tossing in a few toys, and starting a good ol’ game of fetch. Place your dog in the kiddie pool and sit/play with them–praise them, play with them, show them a good ol’ time. With time, increase the water level until your dog isn’t afraid to make a splash in the kiddie pool on their own.

  • Use a buddy system to help build confidence

One of the best ways for dogs to feel confident and comfortable around water is by using a seasoned water-loving dog. What I mean by that is a dog or dogs that have no problem with swimming or splashing around in water. Allowing your dog to observe their body language will help your dog engage in the water activity without thinking too much. They’ll see there is nothing to fear because all they see are tails wagging and dogs having a fur-load of fun.

  • Always think safety.

Safety for your dog should always be first priority when playing in water. Us humans, sometimes think our dogs have superhero powers because they’re the descendants of wolves. We must understand that they too can get bloat, muscle cramps, and fatigue during physical exercise. So, with that being said, always use a dog life jacket if swimming in large bodies of water. Experienced or not, dog life jackets help keep the mind focused on the fun parts of being outdoors. Always keep in mind that there is no better alternative for safety than adult supervision.

  • Kelsey

    Cool, a very nice list of things to know! thanks :)

    • Papico <3er

      hi. i live in California and i have a black mouthed Cur poodle mix. She has always loved the water and swam in a large deep pond as a puppy, but now, she wont go anywhere near any sort of water. not even the sprinklers on a hot day. HELP!!! we hsve tried everything. She has had no tramatising experiences what so ever. Thank you.

      • Maeneisha

        HI, i have this one dog that is really scared of water ( Doberman Terriar mix ) and she hates water first day i got her she was 5 months and she is a year now and she HATES water still i try giving her baths in warm water give her treats but it still don’t work and i don’t know what to do now beacuse pretty soon she will be a guard dog! HELP ME PLEASE!!!

  • K-Elle

    Hi can i ask you a question i have two big dogs(cross between coli,german shepard and labrador)and the day we picked them(as babys)the male fell in the pool and almost drowned,,ever since then he has not liked water but his sister is a water loving dog and always jumps in the pool.When any of us are swimming he runs around the pool barking and wanting to get us out.
    How do we get him to like water?
    thanks :)

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello K-Elle,
      Traumatizing experiences are the worst to deal with. They require lots of patience and soothing during the process to re-build a dog’s confidence.

      I experienced a situation where my dog exhausted in moving water and almost drowned. She was afraid of water for a few days, but after working with her everyday to like water again – she can’t get enough.

      You can try a kiddie pool; fill it ankle high with water and place him in the pool if he isn’t willing to go in. Play with toys, wrestle – whatever it is your dog loves to do to have fun. Make sure you praise and tell him he’s a good boy.

      Eventually, if he isn’t so big, you can carry him into the pool, SLOWLY. Don’t use a collar and leash to pull him into the water as this will stress the animal. Hang out by the steps first where he can experience a similar situation to the kiddie pool. Sit there, pet him, talk to him, cup your hands and gently cover his body in water.. Do that for a couple days.

      Soon enough, you can carry him into deeper water. Carry him at all times. Do NOT let him swim on his own. Patience is key.

      I also highly recommend you use a floating vest so he can work out all the quirks once he does decide to doggy paddle around. Floating vests are underrated in the dog community, but they are HUGE confidence builders.

      Good luck!

  • Sue Huss

    My Pomeranian has always loved swimming in our pool she gets in and out all by herself but I can’t get my other Pomeranian to go any where near the water. Any advise from anyone?

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Sue,
      It’s always a struggle to get a dog to swim. But the most important thing to find out is what her thoughts on water is? Obviously dogs don’t talk, but you can learn a lot from their body language.

      Does your Pom get nervous or scared during a bath? Does she run and bark around the edge of the pool? Or does she avoid the body of water by staying as far away as possible when everyone is in the pool?

      If your dog is nervous or unsure, it’s a confidence issue. Your dog is basically unsure and can’t process what or how it is you guys are doing the activity in water. Dogs do everything in confidence. Purchasing a small life vest will allow her to float at ease and swim around like a champ. Her brain will start processing that information and soon you will have a dog that will join in to play.

      It’s crucial during her introduction to water that your dog isn’t placed in the pool alone while everyone observes from the outside. The animal will worry and wonder why she is the only one in the pool. Praising will help your land animal have just as much fun in water as she does out of it.

  • Luz

    Hi, I have a question my dog (Labrador) simply does not like water I bought him a kiddi pool and I encouraged him to get in but he just simply does not want to. I even got in there and splashed a bit to make it seem fun but he acted as if he was scared. I already tried with treats and nothing works. How can I get him to get in?

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Luz,
      Keep trying. It takes weeks, months, before a dog accepts water. Get a cup use that to bathe him in the kiddie pool as well. Praise, praise, and more praise. You can never praise your dog enough when helping them coax with a difficult situation. How long have you been working on this issue? Now that’s it’s summer, I recommend about 20-30 minutes a day. No need to stress them out by making it an hour long process.

  • Please help my dog

    I have a dog that absolutely hates water. I think he’s a lab pointer because of his webbed feet. We tried a kiddie pool for a month , but he was scared every day and it would take at least ten ,invites to get him in by himself in about an inch of water. Earlier in the year he did fall through the ice in a town lake, but even before that he still wouldn’t be anywhere near water. I’ve tried as much as I could think of but it was no use. Please help!

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello,
      Your dog has been through it all with water–there isn’t any reason for him to like it at this point; considering he fell through the ice and all. The best way to build your dog’s confidence is to get in the water with them. Literally sitting in the bathtub with them or getting in a swimming poo/kiddie pool with them. It’s all in the coaxing. You need to find ways to show your dog that water is fun.

  • Mark M

    Hello Samuel, We’ve had 3 Weimaraners in our family, the 1st one was ok with the water, the 2nd 4 year old is totally against it, and we currently brought home our 3rd Weimaraner. The 3rd one is just 7 weeks. at what age do we start to introduce the H2O? Is it too late for the 4 year old to change? We do have a pool, but will start with the kiddie pool.

    Thank you

    Mark

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Mark,
      There is no time too soon to introduce a puppy into water. The younger, the better. They don’t know any better. They are eager to experience, be challenged, and have fun at that age.

      My experience with Weimerainers is that they have very soft, affectionate and loving temperaments. Avoid anything that will break the trust. A kiddie pool to start is always great.

      In the comfort of my own backyard, I don’t mind acting a fool, and getting into the water with a dog that doesn’t trust water, or me around water. Praise, praise, praise — keep it fun. Patience for older dogs, they have a lot to process. Dogs of any age can learn to love water.

      We have some good friends who breed hunting/retrieving dogs (Flat coats, Labs, Standard Poodles, Spaniels) and they introduce their puppies to water as soon as they can walk. There is no time too soon, as long as it’s done safely and correctly.

      What they do with their pups is the kiddie pool method (those with large pools use their pools). When you have a litter of puppies, as one could imagine, it turns into a huge play fest. This is why, if, someone has a water-loving dog and one that isn’t, it’s easy to work that in ones favor.

      Personalities play a huge part. As you most certainly know, all 3 of your Weimies are different.

      Dogs do everything in confidence. Things that are fun to them are always done in confidence if you’ve noticed.

  • Fred

    Hello, we are having getting our dog in the water we think she has had bad experiences with water before, but she is a kelpie cross border collie. What do we do?

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Fred,
      The only way to help a dog who is severely traumatized or unsure about water is getting in the water with them. Dogs trust us, but only if we lead.

  • http://doggeekz.com teresa alvarez

    i have a dog and he hates water. He is a lab mixed with bulldog and i read that those are the type of dogs that usually love water. I used to try to make him go around water, and i give him a bath with the hose. I didnt know that is bad for him, i thought maybe if i made him he would learn its okay but now i know its not. is there still hope for him to end up enjoying water?

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      There is always hope. Once a dog has had an unpleasant experience with water, you must find a way to get in the water with him. Should it be using a kiddie-pool for starters, or finding a local dog-pool, or a friend’s pool. Start off small. Just know your dog must observe you in the water to build confidence. Praise as always.

  • francesca

    i adopted a puppy of the street in nov. it was 2months at first he seemed ok with water but now he cries and squirms during bath time. i only have a shower so we bathe together. after i do my hair i hold him and wash him. i guess its the cold apartment which i cant change. however we bathe in warm water and i make sure to wrap him up fast. he is a chihuahua mixed with poodle or maltese. i do not know if he dislikes large body of waters as i just got him in the winter.

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Francesca,
      Not much you can do here: Chihuahuas are some of the most frail dogs in existence. They easily get cold, shiver and become uncomfortable.

  • Celia

    I have a Neopolitan Mastiff who is afraid of water. So bad that you cant go close to him with a spray bottle, he wont even go into the bathroom if someone is in the bath or have the tap running. I dont know what to do for him. I really need to give him a bath but its almost impossible with his size and strength. What do I do? I tried dry shampoo’s that worked for a minute then he got scared because he eventually saw us using the bottle. Any suggestions? Im desperate to wash him!

    • http://www.doggeekz.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Celia,
      You mentioned your dog is afraid of a spray bottle — do you spray your dog to correct him? This is an easy way to make dogs react to water in ways you don’t want. The kiddie pool method in your case may work wonders. You can fill it up and sit and comfort him inside. Play games — or whatever activities you do together inside the pool.

  • Sam

    We have a boxer/shar-pei who hates baths. She avoids the bathroom. Once you get her in the bath she will wait patiently and let you bathe her, she won’t try and get out of the tub before you let her. She’s a really good patient girl. On the flipside, she loves to swim in lakes! I always get in with her, because we don’t have a leash free beach. I wasn’t sure she would be able to swim well the first time because she isn’t a water dog. So clearly her hate of baths isn’t from water. We got her when she was a year old, so maybe her previous owner gave her traumatic bath experiences? Our other 5 month old boxer mix jumps in the tub with you if she’s in bathroom! We haven’t brought her to a lake yet, but it’s starting to warm up.

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Classic example of how dogs associate activities and fun. The previous owners probably were to controlling or did not give her a good bathing experience, but she knows lakes are super fun to swim in. This is a perfect example. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Papico <3er

    hi. i live in California and i have a black mouthed Cur poodle mix. She has always loved the water and swam in a large deep pond as a puppy, but now, she wont go anywhere near any sort of water. not even the sprinklers on a hot day. HELP!!! we hsve tried everything. She has had no tramatising experiences what so ever. Thank you for your help.

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Hello Papico,
      At this point, it’s good to get in the water with her. Get a small kiddie pool (they are cheap during summer months) and start playing in there. Dogs learn to disconnect with water simply going through a bad bath experience.

  • Candykerry

    Can you make a husky love to swim?

  • Candykerry

    Our dog is a breed of husky and a street dog.And her old owners ALWAYS tryed to disicpline her with water now she’s really afraid of water.When she sees the hose in. My hands she runs and try to escape.I really don’t now what to do.İts hard for her baths too.HEEELLLLPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      These are the worst cases. I’ve dealt with dogs where owners squirt the dogs with a water bottle to keep them from doing things. This is always bad for dogs when it comes to more water at higher pressures like a hose.

      I would not use a hose for bath time at the moment. What you can do is fill up a bucket and use a cup to bathe her. Yes, this take a long time, but your dog can’t be dealing with a hose.

      It’s a long process, but start up with the bucket, then maybe a kiddie pool. Even dogs that love to swim never learn to like a hose. It’s cold and they don’t enjoy the high pressure. Sometimes even the sound it makes.

      Good luck!

  • kelly babbit

    Okay my girl is a Amstaff Terrier & she goes NUTS around water. It doesn’t matter if its a hose or the pool..If we are in the pool,she will bark at us for hours not stopping for anything- regardless of how hot it is out. If its the hose she will attack the water till she pukes… I dont know what to do.

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Some dogs are just crazy for water. When dogs bark at the edge of the pool when people are inside the pool, it means they want in on the fun but are unsure. I own a few dogs like this, they are sometimes the silliest because they want in, but are so scared.

  • Nina Patel

    Hello! My husband and I started the process of bringing our 1 year old Border Collie/Pitt mix into a pool. We bought her a life vest and started to coax her with treats and show her that I was in the water and it was fun. My husband stayed on dry land and kept rewarding her each time she smelled/touched/licked the water. Just as we were making progress, my father came from behind and pushed our little pup into the water. He has that old way of thinking that throwing a child or dog into a pool will be best.

    She began to panic and I tried to hold her and calmly move her around the water. She was not having any of it and finally made her way out. Needless to say, she ran as far from the pool as possible and shook for the next 30 minutes. We did not bring her back to the pool and are unsure of when we can try this again. I do not want her to become afraid of large bodies of water or even being on the side of the pool. My heart aches at the thought of how scared she was from all of this. Any tips on how we can move forward from this horrible experience?

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      I’ve dealt with dogs who have been pushed and or thrown into large bodies of water as their introduction to water. They always come around with the proper coaxing. But it takes time. Some dogs it’s taken me close to 1 month of playing with them in the pool (everyday).

      Our dogs trust us, so all you need to do is show her she can trust you around water again. This means no dragging, or pulling, because she might not step in the water at this point. Once you introduce struggle again, it will trigger worry.

      You can try the leash method by coaxing her in (slight tugs on leash) but never result to pulling her directly in. If that doesn’t work, carry her in the shallowest part of the pool like the steps or baja (if your pool has one) and sit there for a good while. Praise her, talk to her, cup your hands with water and pour it over her (soaking her entire body eventually).

      Pay close attention to a dogs tail and eyes, if you can get her tail wagging and her eyes to focus on something like a toy or treat, you can carry her to a deeper part of the pool so she can swing those legs again and swim. If she avoids eye contact and keeps her tail down, take it way slower and only do the steps for now.

      I like to carry scared dogs in the pool, then release them so they can paddle, then pick them up again, and so on.

      Just build the trust back.

  • DC

    Have a 1 yr old GSD. He has and loves his kiddie pool, will swim in open water — biting at the little ripples, will jump in deep water and chase sticks all day. If one of us gets in he goes crazy. Starts screaming and jumping in and grabbing us (skin or vests doesn’t matter to him ouch) and pulling us out. What is the best way to get him to accept we are OK in the water. Thanks

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      Wow, I think it’s the GSD’s smart nature to worry that way. Some dogs can process things on a whole other level, and your GSD obviously has that. He is obviously worried for your safety.

      The best thing to do is to pet and calm him down. I wouldn’t reach his level of energy (you can easily do this by laughing at him for his concern), be calm and relaxed at all times while speaking to him in a regular, soothing tone. I would sit in the water with him for 30 minutes in his kiddie pool, petting him, and or maybe trying to engage in his favorite game, or fetch even.

      I find this funny because I think your GSD thinks it’s best if you don’t swim in water — he knows what can happen in water! You’re dealing with a smart dog who is worried, I would approach it that way. Be creative, but also don’t stress him out. This will take time.

  • kellygarcia

    I have a jack Russell x Lanchashire Kneeler who is terrified of water, even a bath. The first time we bathed him as a puppy he hated it. We went by the book and did everything as suggested but still he hated it. Now it’s a constant battle to get him to have a bath. I brought the kids a paddling pool and the dog now refuses to go in the garden.
    HELP! Please!

  • Brittany G.

    Question, My Brittany’s back right legs kneecap has been popping out. I have been thinking of getting her used do water for a while. (Been trying for a year now, I’m back to square one) Do you know if this would make her knee worse, or make a fun new activity for us to do together?

    • http://www.bestofdog.com/ Samuel Nieves

      I’ve worked with dogs that have this issue (mostly genetic, some due to injury), and I’ve always encouraged the owners to do hydro-therapy in a more controlled environment before swimming in a deep pool. You will pick up a lot of information and cues from the those working in this field.

  • alBee

    I just got a Lab last night from a family that was giving her away. After trying to get her in the bathtub for over half an hour and only receiving her refusal, I asked the family about bath time and they stated never giving her a bath in the two months they had her in their household. This morning I drew a warm bath again. Gave her a treat when she put her snout in the water, but she’s just not getting any closer than that. She’s a big dog and I’m not comfortable lifting her into the water because I don’t know what her reaction will be. I also noticed she has flea eggs so I really have the urgency to get her a bit cleaned up. Would it be easier to take her to get grooed by proffesionals while she gets used to water?