Greencross Vets’ leading veterinarian, Dr. Adam Sternberg, gives us his top tips on helping pets overcome their fear of water.
A bad experience may have prompted your pet’s fear of water. One bad experience, like not being able to find the steps to get out of the pool might make your pet fearful to try again. Knowing what caused your pet’s fear of water can help with the training process.
2. Slow and steady
Introduce or reintroduce your pet to water in a slow and positive manner, whether this is a bath, pool or the beach. Start off at a distance from the water rewarding them for calm behaviour and slowly move forward towards the water. Provide them with a small amount of water to stand in, just enough to cover their paws, like a kiddie pool or bath. If you are near a body of water teach them how to get in and out. Always start and end on a positive note, treats and games help with this.
3. Make it fun
Water games can be fun for the entire family. Play games that involve water like fetch at the beach, running with them in the shallows or placing toys in a shallow kiddie’s pool. Always supervise your pet around water.
4. Don’t Force
Not all pets like going in the water. Never force your pet to do something they are uncomfortable with and don’t throw them into a body of water. If your pet decides they want to move away from the water, let them.
5. Teach them to swim
Contrary to popular belief not all dogs know how to swim, we need to teach them. Start swim training in bodies of water with a gentle slope where your dog can touch the ground and slowly go out further. Keep training sessions short by going out a little further at each session and always end with a reward. Once they are comfortable submerging their body they may start to paddle. Some dogs may need a little help. Floatation vests are available so your dog can feel supported.
If you’re concerned about your pet’s behaviour, speak with your Greencross Vets.