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Teaching your dog to Swim

I have a nine month old Brittany and I've been having trouble getting him to swim. At three months old he tried to jump from my boat to the dock and didn't even come close. He got a good soaking and the damage was done. Right after that it got cold for the winter so since last October, the only water exposure he's gotten is in the shower, which has happened at least once a week. I had him out with a Golden Retriever that loves the water and I tried live and dead ducks. On his own the closest he'll come is to stand on the bank and bark. I also took him out in a kayak about 30 yards from shore and gently put him in. He swims just fine and he'll get right back in the kayak with me at shore. I thought maybe he just needed to know he could do it. Do you have any ideas that I might try. He does not get excited about any kind of food. He does like birds/ducks but just won't chase one in the water. He'll walk right across any stream he can stand in........
Thanks for any help

Hi Chris,
What you describe is a common problem. He is very much like a child in this respect. If you remember, when you were a child, it took you a while before you had the courage to let go of the side and swim across water deeper than you were tall. He suffered a scary experience and has not gotten enough confidence to go back in over his head. As you see he is not afraid of water but of not being able to touch the bottom. You have a lot of time to get him over it. My best results on this have come with 2 methods combined.

The first one is to keep his prey drive high as in wanting to retrieve something that is in the water. Keep it close at first and let it gradually get farther out. His desire to retrieve will eventually overcome his fear. You will have to be careful that you always keep his drive peaked. If his drive starts to fall make it an easy retrieve and quit. your dog always has to end a session as a winner.

Second, and I am not afraid to say I have done this numerous times, is to go in the water with him. This gives you the double advantage of keeping his drive high as you are in front of him teasing with the object rather than behind him and you also have his desire to please you and be close to you. My dogs were both taught to jump off the edge of the pool, even though they prefer the steps, and swim to me. I then take them in my arms and hold them while I calm the kicking and thrashing, then relase them and allow them to climb out. Your dogs have to trust you when you order them to do something against their better judgement. When they learn you will never let them down you will be amazed at the fantastic feats they will perform for you.

Start slow and take your time. Gradually increase the difficulty and I will guarentee that when your dog is 2 this will be a fading memory

Terry Germany
JC&T Shooting Sports

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