Labs are sometimes referred to as “land seals”…and no wonder: their toes are webbed, their bodies are buoyant, their tails act like rudders, and water runs off their back like, well…a seal!

It is not uncommon to hear stories of dogs plunging four-paws forward into deep waters before they’ve even experienced their first bath.  But for every “land seal”, there is a land-bound dog—one that is hesitant to enter this mysterious, liquid-filled world.

A good first experience with water can be key to turning your sand crab into a land seal.  Here are a few tips for a successful dog/water initiation:

  1. Choose a calm location. Lakes, ponds, pools, and other calm waters – free of currents, waves, and motorboat traffic – are great places to introduce your dog to water.
  2. Consider crowds. For first-time introductions, choose a calm, quiet waterway where the dog is free to explore without distractions from other dogs, people, or water traffic.
  3. Start at the shallow end. Easy access in and out of the water builds confidence and encourages your dog to move into deeper water at their own pace.
  4. Make it fun. If your dog’s natural curiosity doesn’t spur them to enter the water and splash around on their own, floating toys and treats come in handy for some extra encouragement.
  5. Praise enthusiastically.  As your dog makes their way into the shallow waters, praise them enthusiastically.  It may take multiple water outings before your dog begins to feel comfortable entering the water on their own.
  6. Toss time. As they get more comfortable in the shallow water, throw a toy a little farther, praising loudly as they begin to tread water.  Repeat over and over until dog is comfortably swimming.
  7. A little extra float. As your dog’s skill level increases, you may find it hard to get them out of the water.  Introducing a canine float coat is not only great for teaching your dog to swim, but also provides assistance for dogs that can tire themselves from swimming too much.
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