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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My dog seems to be utterly convinced that she's incapable of doing the doggy paddle. But she LOVES water.

The typical visit to the river generally goes something like this:

Me: Taunts dog with ball to get her interested. Throws ball into water deep enough that dog will have to swim to get it.

Dog: Is so ball obsessed that not retrieving the ball is not an option. Takes a much longer path to the ball than necessary, simply to avoid swimming. Stays in shallow water and hops like a bunny rabbit instead.

Onlookers: Find this highly entertaining. I have to admit - it's pretty cute.

Dog: Once close to the ball, will weigh options and grudgingly go deeper to fetch ball. Usually inhales some water and coughs, but always brings the ball back, come hell or high water (no pun intended - haha).

My question: Is there any way for me to show my dog that she's a dog and can therefore do the doggy paddle? Should I not even be trying, since she sometimes inhales water? Should we only go to the river if I'm prepared to go in after her if she's in trouble?

Side note: the river is pretty slow-moving and we choose a somewhat protected area frequented by many a dog, so there's no chance of her getting swept into a current.
 

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First off, welcome to the forum fellow Oregonian :)

To answer your question though, everything I've read about helping dogs learn to swim basically says to do what you're doing; not forcing her in, but luring her with a toy. I might suggest using a harness with a long lead that floats, just in to make sure she can't get pulled downstream, but I don't know if that is actually practical or not :/ Other members may have better suggestions though.
 

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They do have life jackets for dogs that boaters often use. Maybe you could get one for her and use while she's learning to swim and building her confidence.
 

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I agree with the lifejacket suggestion. I also think it would help to just throw the ball into the shallow end at first. Just to get her used to the idea that being in the water can be fun. Don't make her venture into the deep end yet. It's a little freaky for her not to feel the ground under her feet.
 

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Some dogs actually can't swim.
 

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What breed of dog do you have. Like RonE said, some dogs can't swim and some dogs should not be swimming in the first place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
She's a 40 lb. border collie mix. She's got webbed toes, so she's mixed with some kind of water dog, I think. Pointer, maybe?
Like I said, she loves water and I don't want to give up on the swimming. Maybe we'll try a life jacket if I can find one for cheap. Thanks for the suggestions!
 

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Maybe try to get in the water and let her swim to you? Thats how most of mine have learned when all else failed.

I know what you mean about not wanting her to give up. There is something wonderful about a dog that loves to frolic in the water.
 

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Some dogs actually can't swim.
When I was a kid, we had a standard Poodle who did not know how to swim but loved the water. We decided to teach Pip to swim.

We went for a week to a place with a dock and we would walk out into the water. We would be encouraging Pip and because he was agreeable to anything we wanted to do he would let us hold him up in the water while he practiced his dog paddle.

As he got better at it, we would support him under his body less and less and one day he was swimming. I might add this was something my Mom didn't appreciate as much as us kids because now any water that was swimmable depth, in went Pip. If the water was scummy and smelled bad, HE didn't care.... Caused us to have to give him a bath...

I am not suggesting this is the way to teach a dog to swim. We were kids and Pip was a Standard poodle.. genius of the dog world and ALWAYS up for a game of any kind. I am just pointing out that not all dogs are born knowing how to swim and some can be taught.

I am just as sure that are some dogs (maybe Pugs or Dachshunds??) that might just sink like stones... and you don't want to risk that. Not ever.
 

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Try letting the dog get used to swimming in some place with NO current or waves of any kind, warmer water if possible, and a smooth even bottom free of large rocks, branches, mud, or anything else that might make the dog lose footing and freak them out. Even if you're going to a relatively calm spot in the river, the little bit of current, the water being too cold, or an uneven bottom that's hard to walk on could be freaking the dog out.

When I was young we had a dog who acted like this and was scared to swim into deeper water at the river. We took her to a nice swimming area at the lake a couple of times and were able to coax her in. The lake had warmer water and no current. After she got comfortable with swimming at the lake she'd jump right into the river with no problem.
 

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When I was young we had a dog who acted like this and was scared to swim into deeper water at the river. We took her to a nice swimming area at the lake a couple of times and were able to coax her in. The lake had warmer water and no current. After she got comfortable with swimming at the lake she'd jump right into the river with no problem.
Yup a lake or large pond would be my choice. A place where it's obvious running around gains nothing, with calm water and a gentle sloping bank.

Lots of dogs act that way until they have more experience swimming.

Most of mine have at first, and usually ended up in the end jumping/diving at full speed as far out into the water as they could just to get out there faster.
 

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My boyfriends dog cant swim but thinks he can! We let him in our pool and hold him while he does these huge dramatic arm movements that resemble a doggy paddle! He splashes so much and tries to drink the water at the same time!

Its quite a sight!

Jenna
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the replies everybody!

I found a great life jacket on CL that fits her perfectly, so we'll be trying that out next time we go swimming.

I can think of one lake nearby that might be suitable for our needs. I see plenty of dogs swimming there, although technically it's not off leash. Unfortunately, no human swimming is allowed (don't know why), so she'll have to do this one alone.
 

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This isn't based on experience just an observation: Life jackets are good for preventing drowning but probably counter productive if you are actually trying to have the dog learn to swim. He will just be learning to swim with a life jacket on, not with one not on. You also risk falsely building his confidence, he won't make the connection (I float with the life jacket, I sink without it).

I would just keep trying in baby steps as you are. Maybe try sometime with another dog which does swim.
 

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The first time I too Cracker to the lake she wouldn't even put her toes in. I rolled up my shorts far as they could go and waded in. Where Mum goes, Cracker goes. It was funny, she would wade out to me, touch me with her muzzle and go right back to shore..trying to lure ME back to land..lol. Finally, I went a bit farther and she came out and dogpaddled her way around me once or twice (each time going back to shore) and then finally just stayed. Now whenever we are near water she takes a flying leap (even if it's not appropriate..lol) into whatever water it is...it just took time for her to be comfortable.
In fact, she won't do a full retrieve at the park, only at the lake...water is now FUN!
 
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