By: Kristy Fike
This is the time of year that gun dog owners take advantage of the warm weather and do some water work with their dogs. This is also a perfect time of year to introduce your pup to water.
Getting the pup into the water and letting it learn to swim and retrieve confidently is vital for the rest of the pup’s career.
Here are a few tips to help get your pup into the water.
When introducing pups to water, do it at a time when the water is warm.
The pup will be less likely to want to play in the water if it’s cold. Like people, most of us don’t like to jump into a freezing cold pool.
Calm and Shallow Waters
It’s important to introduce your pup to bodies of water that are calm.
You don’t want to take him to a place where there are waves crashing at him when he is trying to get in the water. Rough waters can be intimidating to the pup.
Find a shallow part of water where the pup can just wade out in the water and still touch the bottom with its feet. Pups tend to get intimidated when their feet can’t touch the bottom of the water.
Encourage and Help the Pup
Part of your job when introducing your pup to water is to encourage and help them into the water.
Use positive tones in your voice. Get into the water yourself using tall waterproof boots or water shoes and encourage him/her in.
You can entice them with one of their favorite toys or bumpers; once they get in the water, praise them.
Helping the pup into the water does not mean throwing them into the water or forcing them to stay in the water. If you do, you will be hurting more than helping.
When the pup gets in the water, don’t make them stay in the water; if they wade out and run back out of the water that is okay.
Still praise them if they do that and most pups do. Depending on the pup, this can take as little as five minutes or it can take longer to introduce the pup to water.
Once your pup seems to do well in the shallow waters you can encourage them to swim out farther and farther.
It’s a great idea if you have another dog to work him in the water first and let your pup watch.
Pups look up to the older dogs and will see that water is safe for them to venture into. For some pups this is all it takes for them to get into the water.
Some pups will also get jealous if they see the other dog retrieving bumpers from the water while you praise them.
Water activities should be fun for you and your dog, so when introducing your pup to water, make it fun.
Don’t be embarrassed to use that crazy high-pitched voice that you hear the local crazy dog lady use to tell them how good they are if they respond to that.
Give the pup a little more freedom than you normally do. Bring and use their favorite toys and bumpers as mentioned before.
Don’t Be Discouraged
If your pup is just not taking to the water, don’t get discouraged.
Some gun dog breeds that were bred for water work may be more willing than others to jump in the water.
If your pup seems scared and is refusing, try again another time. Put a few days in between the times that you try to introduce the pup to water, that will ensure a fresh start.
Don’t be afraid to ask other people for advice and help with your pup.
Sometimes when teaching or training dogs it’s great to have someone look at your situation from the outside.
Keep these sessions safe as well.
If the pup really seems like it’s struggling to swim, get him out of the water. Pups, like people, can easily get exhausted in the water, especially if their muscles are not conditioned to the exercise.
If the weather turns stormy it’s best to pack it up and call it a day.
If you and your pup are out at the river, watch to make sure he or she does not get caught in the strong current.
Don’t let the pup drink the saltwater, because this can cause dehydration and an upset stomach.
These tips can also be applied to older dogs that have never been in the water before. Once your pups learn to love the water, good luck trying to keep them out!