READY TO GET WET?
Dogs love water, however they do not like being sprayed with water. Almost all dogs enjoy a dip in a pond, lake, stream, or pool on a warm summer day. Trying to force a young dog into water can create problems that may last a lifetime.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a NAVHDA training day where there were several stations setup for different disciplines and levels of dog work. I noticed the station that was least busy was the puppy water introduction station. I found this a bit unusual as versatile hunting dogs have to swim at all test levels in NAVHDA, be it the NA, UPT, UT, or the prestigious Invitational. The volunteer there was very helpful in getting young dogs swiftly entering, swimming, and retrieving bumpers. Here follows some of the things he suggested to the handlers.
Be playful with the dog around the water to increase his comfort level and confidence.
Get the dog interested about the bumper. Spin it, twirl it, and toss it, anything to get him fired up.
Once excited about the bumper, toss it to chest high depth water that allows the dog to easily go out and grab the bumper.
Give your dog lots of praise every time he comes out of the water.
Each time toss the bumper just a few inches further than the previous toss.
Continue to toss the bumper to a point where it is just out of reach and to where eventually he will be forced to swim.
Common mistakes to avoid:
Do not drag the dog into the water with a leash.
Do not toss the dog into the water forcing him to swim.
Do no lengthen the toss too rapidly.
Water that is too cold (below 60 degrees) or water that is too swift.
Water area with steep entry points.
Getting upset if your dog does not enter the water.
Overdoing it, rushing any of the steps.
Not stopping if the dog gets bored.
Keep positive and playful around the water.
Warmer days and warmer water (60 degrees and above) helps.
Start in shallow water with gently sloping banks.
Get in the water with him. Your presence in the water will likely reassure him of any fear he may have of the water.
Bring another dog along that is an experienced swimmer. Your dog may be influenced to follow another dog into the water. Having another dog creates competition and excites them. They will think more about play and less about the fear of the unknown.