How to Get a Dog to Swim

Teaching your dog to swim may save his life.

Teaching your dog to swim may save his life.

Contrary to popular belief, not every dog knows how to swim. Some dogs take to water like ducks, swimming and splashing from a very young age. Other dogs must be introduced to water slowly and encouraged to swim at their own pace.

Find a quiet location with a body of water deep enough that the dog can’t touch the bottom. Many dogs become nervous when surrounded by noise and activity, so the quieter the place, the easier it will be for the dog to concentrate.

Place a collar and leash on the dog, and hold the leash at all times. This allows you to keep control of the dog, and keeps him from wandering into deep water.

Walk a few steps into the water and call the dog in an excited voice. Allow the dog to sniff and explore the water. Give the dog a treat as soon as she steps into the water.

Step further into the water, calling the dog to follow you. If he refuses to wade deeper or seems frightened, place your hands on either side of his shoulders for comfort.

Support the dog’s chest and hindquarters with your hands, and walk deeper into the water. The dog will start to paddle instinctively when his feet leave the bottom. Talk quietly to the dog, telling him “Good swim” to keep him calm.

Pull your hand away from his chest slowly, and stabilize his hindquarters as the starts swimming on his own. Release his rear end and let him swim forward, staying nearby in the event that he starts to sink.

Walk backward toward the shore, calling the dog as you walk. Keep your voice cheerful and upbeat to encourage the dog to follow you to dry land.

Praise the dog as soon as he walks out of the water. Give him another treat, and pet and pat him to reward him for a job well done.

Let the dog rest for a few minutes, and walk back into the water. Call the dog to you, and allow him to wade into deeper water unassisted. Allow the dog to swim for a few minutes before exiting the water.

Items you will need

  • Collar
  • Leash
  • Treats


  • Wash the dog as soon as you get home. Dry him thoroughly, including the inside of his ears to prevent ear infections.


  • Never throw a dog in the water. Even experienced swimmers may panic if thrown in deep water. Monitor your dog whenever he's near water and consider purchasing a canine flotation device for added safety.

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About the Author

Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.

Photo Credits

  • dog swiming to the bank image by Kostyantyn Ivanyshen from