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Discussion Starter #1
Chloe is a Nova Scotia Ducktolling Retriever.
She is our third. The first just ran in the water the first time he saw it. The second was scared of it, so I carried her into the lake and put her in. She was very frightened, but as soon as she realized she could swim, she loved it.

I carried Chloe out when she was 5 months old. She was trembly, but not as bad as the second dog. She swam back and made it clear she didn't like the water. I did it again with the same result. Tried it a week later without improvement.

It is now 2 months later. We went out to the breeders house, and met her sister Mikka there. Mikka will go in a few inches of water (which is better than Chloe) but no further. Our hopes were that the breeder, with help from an older sister from an earlier litter, could get them to swim in the breeder's small pond. (we thought perhaps they were spooked by the large lake we live on). It didn't help; neither really improved.

The question is what to do now. I see two options.
1) Do nothing this year, and hope she is better next year. That risks that she will be an established non-swimmer and will never swim.
2) Take her into the lake frequently this year. She has gotten accustomed to things she was scared of (like a dog door) with frequent exposure. This runs the risk of making hate the water so much that she will never swim.

Opinions? Other options?

I know some will say that there is nothing wrong with a dog that will not swim and we should just accept that. Well... we live on a lake and own a retriever. Not swimming is a very big deal.
It is even worse for Mikka. They bought her as a hunting dog; if she won't go in the water that is a huge liability.
 

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Have you tried getting her into the water with a life vest on? I have vests from Outward Hound that were pretty cheap but still pretty good quality, used them to take my dog Eva swimming on a vacation a few years ago where I knew we wouldn't have time to acclimate her to the river but still wanted her to enjoy it (and be safe). Helped a lot. It made it a lot less scary when her feet left the ground for the first time as the water got deeper.

Edit to add: When I say "no time to acclimate" wasn't referring to a fearful dog or just tossing her in; she'd been in lakes and ponds before but never in flowing water. So the first day, we started in the creek before heading to the river the next day. Basically, you still want to go step-by-step but a life vest can be a tool for easing those steps together
 

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The best success I have had in acclimating a dog to water and making swimming enjoyable is with YOU (the owner) going in very slowly, treating for any progress into the water, and allowing the dog to retreat at will. Note: This isn't the same as you carrying them in, but rather luring them to come in - an inch, two inches, a foot and so on - on their own following you and being praised and given high value rewards for it .

Carried into something scary and 'escaping it' doesn't really build confidence the way exploring, going in, finding it rewarding does and can increase fear.

And honestly asking a puppy/dog to go swim away from you when most of their 'out' time is sticking close can be a problem/leap for them to make mentally and uncomfortable on its own.

Wait until next year, plan a day or two a week for the summer where you work in short sessions with you in the water and her coming to you to get a reward.

Highly, HIGHLY, confident puppy after a couple of months of work - and he's coming TO me and being caught, held/support, rewarded, and then allowed to swim back to shore and come back and forth as he wants. Every time out? Food and love.
 

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The first time my dog went swimming he was trying to chase a goose. It was also very hot out, so he probably found the water refreshing and cool, so he just kind of hung out in there. Now every time we go past any sort of body of water, he has to go sit in it.

So, perhaps not make it clear you're trying to get her to go in the water, but play with her near it. Throw a ball near the water, then a little deeper. She may explore it herself and learn that water really isn't that scary.
 

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Please stop comparing her to your previous dogs. She is who she is. NOT any other dog, related or not. Such comparisons will doom her to failure & you to frustration.

That said, SOME dogs can handle the flooding/forcing method you've had previous success with, but the vast majority of them can not. Carrying her into the water & making her 'sink or swim' could very well ruin her for swimming (if it hasn't already done so)

I agree with getting her a life vest. It may help boost her confidence if she feels the help of buoyancy it provides. Also, Lillith's idea of playing some fetch/toy game near, or at the edge of, the lake is wonderful! (One of my best swimmers also discovered his 'ability' in hot pursuit of a duck! lol He now LOVES 'dock diving', but he won't swim unless a toy is involved)

But in the end, I will ask you - point blank - if this dog in some way fails to live up to YOUR preconceived notions of what she should do/be, what then? You've posted on more than one occasion to *your* disappointment that she isn't more dog social than she is. Will this 'lack of swimming ability/drive' be one more thing to disappoint you? Are you willing to STOP judging her for who & what you WANT her to be & love the dog that she IS? She's only a PUPPY, still developing in mind & body. Will you love her & allow her to grow into the dog she is meant to be (while helping to **gently** mold/socialize her)?

If so, the longer you continue to push, shove, force & demand she fit into your 'ideal', the less likely you're going to see any approximation of what you actually want.
 

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The question is what to do now. I see two options.
1) Do nothing this year, and hope she is better next year. That risks that she will be an established non-swimmer and will never swim.
2) Take her into the lake frequently this year. She has gotten accustomed to things she was scared of (like a dog door) with frequent exposure. This runs the risk of making hate the water so much that she will never swim.
Additional thoughts--
First, doing nothing this year is better than doing something stressful. Lack of exposure is generally less harmful in the long run than negative exposure. So Option #1 isn't all that bad as long as you start SLOWLY next spring and ease her into water. Even using a hard plastic baby pool with a toy tossed into it for example. Adult dogs of many breeds can learn to like water and learn to swim given the right chances and confidence building.

Second, option #2 is a form of "flooding" and it can definitely backfire. ("Flooding" being a training term and not related to the water/lake context)
My male dog Chester is an example of this although not really through any training mistake but just bad luck. About 7 years ago, he was hiking with my dad in the winter. They were near a frozen lake but thought the ground went farther out than it did. Chester fell through the ice and while thankfully on a harness that allowed my dad to haul him out of the lake, was distinctly traumatized by the experience. I then spent the next 3 years or so gradually rehabbing him with being OK with being in water. He will never be a water dog but I doubt he would have been before that either, however, he comfortable wades into lakes up to his chest and enjoys a bit of splashing on a hot day.
This is him two years ago-


This was one of the steps to get him there
 

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As said above, making the water rewarding is going to give you the best success, IF she is going to swim. Don't make it scarier.

But also know it might take a long time, or it may never happen. Quill spent basically every day of the summer last summer and this summer at the lake because he loves playing in the water, but didn't swim for the longest time. He just swam for the first time in August, right before he turned two years old.
 

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The best success I have had in acclimating a dog to water and making swimming enjoyable is with YOU (the owner) going in very slowly, treating for any progress into the water, and allowing the dog to retreat at will. Note: This isn't the same as you carrying them in, but rather luring them to come in - an inch, two inches, a foot and so on - on their own following you and being praised and given high value rewards for it .
This is how I've taught all of my puppies/dogs to swim, and I've had great success.

Then again, I've only started working on swimming after my dogs and I have developed a bond and a feeling of trust. I think that you have repeatedly violated your puppy's trust in you (both with this exercise and with other things you've posted). I'd suggest taking the rest of the year off to really develop a training bond with your puppy and to show her that you're not going to force her to do things she's scared of. Then after you've built that relationship, work on luring her out into the water over a few days time next spring/summer when the weather permits.
 

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I also really have to say I agree with some others. Your absolute refusal to deal with this puppy as an individual - a softer, more sensitive one than your last dog - and adapting your methods is likely the source of about... Oh, 80% of her issues with water and not wanting to walk.

Stop flooding her and shutting her down. Support and encourage her and you'll get somewhere. That just can't happen when you're getting frustrated and doing stupid stuff like carrying her out into the lake when she's uncomfortable. That works on a few dogs. That IS NOT going to work on this one.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I have tried standing in the water and trying to get her to come to both treats and toys. She will stand AT the water and strain to try to reach them, but won't touch the water.

I don't think a life vest will help. After all, she won't go in the water. She has no way of knowing that a life vest will make her more secure IN the water, if she doesn't go in it. (nor do we know that she feels insecure in the water; she swims just fine when I put her in. She will even turn to get a ball on her way to shore.) I would gladly spend the $30 if it had a shot at success; but I would have to put her in the water wearing a vest for it to matter, and I doubt anyone is in favor of that.

I have two Tollers, neither of which will swim. The 16 year old swam well last year, but this year is just too much. She is extremely driven to please so I am sure she would jump in if I urged her to, but since she obviously doesn't want to....
 

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Start with giving her the treats and toys at the edge of the water, then. If you need to do that for a week, do it for a week. Then mark/reward if she gets even one toe in. Build from there.

I know it's really hard when you end up with a dog you didn't expect, but with patience and GENTLE persistence, most things will come along.
 

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When we adopted a large 4-year-old lab, I don't think he'd had an opportunity to swim. When we brought him to a Lake Michigan beach for the first, it wasn't so much that he was afraid. He just wasn't interested. But he was interested in chasing sticks and tennis balls, so I threw one or the other a short way out and he went out and picked it up. Each throw went a little further and pretty soon I was throwing tennis balls with a Chuckit as far as I could and he was hunting them down and bringing them back. He started body-surfing in the 3-4 foot waves. From that day on, he would start whining when we got about 12 miles form the lake. So retrieving became his motivation for swimming, though he would swim whether or not there was anything to retrieve.

Molly, a likely lab/weim mix, seemed afraid of the lake. But she wanted to keep up with Esther, so she started following her into the lake. Pretty soon she was retrieving tennis balls. She still swims with an awkward dog-paddle but she keeps up with Esther, who swims with an effortless grace. If your dog has a dog friend who likes the water, maybe try the buddy system.

None of the water dogs I've had would jump into a pool or off a dock or go in if there wasn't an obvious means of exit. The Lake Michigan beaches we go to are ideal because there is a very gradual drop-off. They can wade out quite a distance before they really have to swim.
 

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I have tried standing in the water and trying to get her to come to both treats and toys. She will stand AT the water and strain to try to reach them, but won't touch the water.
Try SITTING in the water, similar to the way Shell was doing in the picture. Standing (and looking at the dog) puts pressure on the dog and gives the distinct impression of a so-called booby trap. Especially considering the negative history here already.

You'll need a shoreline where the water level has a very gradual slope as RonE mentioned. Sit at the water's edge and FACE AWAY, looking out at the water. Let her come to you, by quietly luring and treating at your side or even behind you, or whatever method makes her the most comfortable. Allow her to have an escape hatch if she feels the need to retreat. Also as mentioned previously- take baby steps.

Again considering the history I might be inclined to begin by sitting myself in 3/4 deflated kiddie pool containing a very minimal water level, as a prelude to the shoreline itself, and to help restore lost confidence away from the context of the lake. Something just deep enough to create the sensation of water which also provides a super easy way in and out for her.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
From that day on, he would start whining when we got about 12 miles form the lake. So retrieving became his motivation for swimming, though he would swim whether or not there was anything to retrieve.
My first dog would only go in the water because he wanted/needed to retrieve. Second dog went in because she enjoyed swimming.
Third dog retrieves, but not with the passion of the other two. As others have pointed out, she is a very different dog than the first two.
Molly, a likely lab/weim mix, seemed afraid of the lake. But she wanted to keep up with Esther, so she started following her into the lake. Pretty soon she was retrieving tennis balls. She still swims with an awkward dog-paddle but she keeps up with Esther, who swims with an effortless grace. If your dog has a dog friend who likes the water, maybe try the buddy system.
That was the breeders thought behind getting them out with their older sister. Didn't work. But I am still hoping her littermate, who will stand in the water, will learn to swim. I think Chloe would go in after Mikka.

I will take her down to the water a couple times a day and entice her with a treat. Seems like a better plan then carrying her in again.
 

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Great advice given, for sure. I just wanted to chime in and reiterate that if she doesn't swim this year, that definitely doesn't mean she can't next year. Atlas didn't do any swimming last year as he was pretty young, but has picked it up this year (at a year), and very much enjoys retrieving sticks from the lake. I will say, he's not one to fetch most of the time (sometimes in the house), but I think he likes chewing on the sticks, so will go out and get one to bring back and chew. We usually let him have a few chomps on it before tossing it again.

Something to keep in mind, as you work with her - sometimes seemingly silly things might just make her unsure again. For Atlas, that is larger waves coming off the wake of a boat - though after our holiday he was less concerned about the suddenly larger waves coming in. And he also is VERY unsure if someone tosses rocks into the water near him - he can't understand what made the noise/splash, and where that thing went, and it will freak him out to the point he will get out of the water and won't go in without encouragement and building him back up to it. (I know this, because the boyfriend thought it was funny, then didn't really want to believe me when I told him to knock it off... After the second go around with this over a couple days, he has now realized that it actually scares him and won't do it anymore.) Of course, now rocks sticking out of the water (lake or river) are viewed with extreme suspicion.

So, slow and steady, and you never know, she may surprise you next year by being that much older and that much braver about it, as long as you continue with positive associations. :)
 

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Honestly, I'd just start with puddles. Play ball in water that is, at most, ankle deep. Let her get used to the feeling and the fun of playing with her ball before making her go in any deeper.

My terrier mix HATED water, but she learned that she loved fetch more than she hated being wet. We started in our creek, which is usually very shallow, and moved up from there. She'll now go in very deep to fetch her toys, though she still doesn't like it when she can't touch the ground, even with a life jacket on.

That said, my Cocker Spaniel, a water-loving breed, hates water. He'll go in about ankle deep, no more. He just really doesn't care for it, and he's got a lot of fear issues besides. Yeah, it's more fun when they like to swim, but you work with what you've got.
 

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I wouldn't put too much stress on getting in the water. With my more sensitive dogs I know if I put too much emphasis on doing something they are more likely to get more anxious about it. I've had the best luck with teaching dogs to swim by just letting them figure it out on their own. Take them on walks around water, let them hang out by the water with a water loving dog friend.. if they get in, great give them praise. If they don't get in don't worry about it, and don't show that you are frustrated or upset that they won't swim. My youngest pup just turned a year old and has been the most insecure about swimming of all my dogs. I live on a pond and she has spent the summer watching the older dogs swim every day. She started out just running along the bank when the others would dive in after toys and then she would wade in. Eventually she would swim a little and I praised big time. Just this week she finally dived right in and retrieved a toy! Just give your pup time and good experiences with water.
 

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just an observation ,, you have a lot of post of stuff going wrong... have you considered it's a snow ball effect.... the first situation isn't going right that you trying to work with, then the next , then the next , then the next and now here with this one.. Think it was shell that suggested to relax and let things go for awhile... I would just do things that your new pup enjoys no matter how limiting it is right now... just do those things they openly can do and enjoy repeating them and getting better at them..... lots of little team work and communication skills can be developed together, that will help you with the other areas when it's time to re introduce them...
 

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She's a pretty purebred puppy with a nice temperament and good heath. If you dislike her so much and are so disappointed in her, which is the message all your posts about this dog convey, you should easily be able to find her some good new owners. She's not magically going to become the clone of your old dog, or your Platonic ideal of a Toller. If you can't reconcile yourself to that and find a humane way of interacting with her, it's really time to think about responsible rehoming.
 

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i dont know what your looking for a hunting dog or a dog to swim with? if hunting train on land first if you are looking for a swimming buddy rehome
 
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