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Introducing your Puppy to Water


I have a 4 month old German Shorthair. He's a great puppy (but irritating at this point), extremely smart and stubborn. At any rate, I took him to swim yesterday, and he was extremely reluctant to go into the water. I did not force him, but we left with him only getting in to his chest level. Is this normal, is there any way to get a dog to swim? We live in the country, and will probably not use the dog for hunting, but we spend a great deal of time with him, and love sporting dogs. We previously had a Chesapeake Retriever (great dog!). Thanks for your help and interest,


Don't be discouraged. A puppy at that age confronting water for the first time without other more mature dogs present in the water is doing all right. I'll list three ways I've found to speed this process along.
  1. One thing that you didn't say is whether you or anyone else was in the water to encourage him. If you've developed good report with the puppy, you being in the water with him would probably go a long way towards beefing up his confidence.
  2. If he is retrieving well, you might also play fetch gradually increasing the distance from shore until he is swimming withou even realizing it. (I emphasize play because positive reinforcement frees a dogs mind to learn whereas most negative reinforcement results in the converse.)
  3. I try to introduce puppies to water in the presence of older dogs that love to swim. If you know someone that has a dog that already loves the water, try to go with them to play around a pond or lake. I would also discourage you from introducing a puppy to any form of moving water. We want to keep it as simple as possible, and minimizing distractions will also speed the process along.
Good luck and let us know how he is doing!

Jon Oyler

For more information on introducing water, try:
Introducing your Puppy to Water II by Bill Corcoran

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