Surprisingly, many dogs don’t have the natural instinct to swim. The good news is that dogs are quick learners who can be trained to swim by following the steps below.

1. Introduce your dog to water slowly. You can turn on the water hose or sprinklers and encourage him to play and splash in the water. You can also purchase a small kiddie pool and encourage your pet to stand or lay in it to keep cool on a hot day.

2. Purchase a life jacket for your dog at either a pet store or a boating store. You will need to know your pet’s weight when making this purchase. The life jacket will help your dog to float and feel secure.

3. Find a good location to introduce your pet to the water. If a pool is unavailable, find a calm, shallow lake or pond where you won’t have to battle tides or rocky terrain.

4. Contrary to what friends may tell you, it’s never a good idea to throw a dog into the water. This can be frightening for a pup! Get in the water yourself and gently coax your dog to join you. You might need to have him leashed so that you can give gentle tugs on his leash. You might also want to bring along his favorite toy to entice him to join you. (If his favorite toy doesn’t float, purchase one that does!)

5. Once you’re able to convince your pup to wet his paws, support his underbelly with your hand and move him in circles around you until you see that he begins to “doggie paddle” with his legs.

6. If this is all you accomplish on your first swim lesson, don’t be discouraged. On your next visit to the water, repeat all of the steps above but bring 2 floating toys. Once your dog can paddle on his own, throw one toy a few feet from you and praise him while he fetches it.  When he returns to you, throw the other toy over his head and encourage him to fetch again.

7. A great way to encourage your dog to swim is by soliciting the help of a friend’s swimming dog. If your dog sees how much fun the other dog has in the water, he’s more likely to join in the fun.

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