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Taking the Plunge

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: October 2, 2012

I realize that swimming season may be over in Chicago, but here in sunny Florida, we are still enjoying dips in the ocean and lakes. I’ve been working with my puppy Bosworth on swimming all summer and after a few months, I’m proud to say he has become a stellar swimmer.

It took some time, a lot of praise, waterlogged hot dogs and patience.

10-week-old Boz wasn’t interested in the water when I adopted him in May. But since I live on an island, I knew this had to change. I wanted a dog who was comfortable in the water, so that one day I could take him stand up paddle boarding and boating (Still looking for a friend with a boat. Anyone? Anyone?) and not have to worry if he fell into the water. Plus, having a dog swim with you is just fun.

I started in very shallow water and coaxed him in the water with treats. Still, after several times, he remained unsure and never ventured past his paws. I was beginning to think my terrier was destined to be only a land lover. Then one day, we ran into a neighbor walking his dog who I had seen swim before. I asked if Boz could watch Leopard (who happens to be a terrier, too) take a dip. She started swimming and Boz went right in after her! It was amazing; he just needed to follow an experienced dog.

Eventually, we worked up to me standing in deeper water and him swimming to me. It took a few tries until he understood he needed to kick his back legs too, so I’d hold him by the midsection and walk in the water with him until he got the hang of it. Now, I just toss a ball into the water and he eagerly fetches it and enjoys a dip. He’ll even swim out to boats if they are docked close to shore. Luckily, so far, everyone has been thrilled to have him board.

Swimming with your dog is great, but some dogs simply can’t swim and others may be afraid of the water.

Take an honest assessment of your dog’s preferences and skills before hitting the beach or the backyard pool.

There are no confirmed statistics on exactly how many dogs drown every year, but Pet MD estimates it could be as high as several hundred thousand. Simple vigilance can prevent most of these, as well as some basic steps you can take to make sure your canine friends stay safe in the water.

  • Never throw your dog into water. Not only is this dangerous, but you’re likely to cause him to fear the water. That can be really hard to undo.
  • If you have a pool and a dog, teach her to swim, even if you don’t want her swimming in the pool. That way, if she falls in, she won’t panic.
  • Teach your dog where the pool steps are and to be comfortable using them.
  • Use a floatation vest.
  • Not all beaches permit dogs; check local ordinances before heading out.  In Chicago, Montrose Beach is designated as a dog friendly area.


    1. […] had built a solid foundation last summer. After lots of work, Boz was a good swimmer and would follow me into the water with ease. But in order to be safe on the board, I had to […]

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