While cats are known for hating water, it is not at all uncommon for dogs to share their dislike. Your dog might be afraid of water for a number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with you. It’s possible that your dog has had limited or no experience with water.
Consider this, if your dog is adopted, they may have gone to the bathroom under covered runs with concrete floors. In this case, your dog may not be familiar with the feeling of wet grass on his paws or rain hitting his back. In another scenario, your dog’s only experience with water may be baths. If your dog doesn’t like baths, he will associate those feelings with water in general.
The primary sign that your dog fears or dislikes water is a general avoidance of it. If a sprinkler is on a lawn as you walk by on your daily walk and he pulls to avoid the spray, if you go to a beach and he refuses to approach, or if taking a bath is a struggle, your dog is likely afraid of water. The good news is that many dogs can overcome this fear with your help.
Helping Your Dog Overcome His Fear of Water
As you get started, do not assume your dog’s fear is based on his breed. All dog breeds can develop a fear of water and, as mentioned, it is more likely to be based on past experiences.
When you first try to introduce your pup to the water, you will want to look for a water source that allows your dog to enter gradually, rather than jumping in all at once. This helps your dog ease into the experience without too much stress. You will also want to find warm water temperatures as that is more inviting to your pup. A great option is a kiddie pool that you can gradually add water to and create a small ramp to allow your dog to enter easily.
Finally, depending on your dog’s behavior, you may want to have a dog life jacket to help him when first learning to swim. Contrary to popular belief, the instinct to swim isn’t quite as natural as you might believe and having a life jacket could help your dog feel safer. Toys and treats can also be helpful in helping your dog to overcome his fear.
And remember: take it slow! You want your dog to feel comfortable on his own, don’t rush him.
Steps to Help Your Dog
Once you have everything set, follow the steps below to gradually help your dog overcome his fear of water.
- Get Him Near Water: Take some treats, or a toy if your dog prefers that, into or near the water. When your dog approaches the water, reward him with a treat. It’s ok if he takes the treat and then steps back a bit, this is normal behavior when a dog is unsure of something.
- Get Him in the Water: Once your dog is coming all the way to the edge of the water and he seems comfortable, it’s time to get in. At this point one of two things will happen. He will either jump all the way in, realizing there is nothing to fear, or you will have to help him. In the latter scenario, gently wrap your arms around him and slowly lower him into the water. Be sure to support his head and back above the water.
- Allow Him to Escape: After a few seconds of being in the water, take your dog back to the ramp so he knows that is the escape. It is important for your dog to know how to get out of the water too. Give him a treat or two to reward him.
- Repeat Until Comfortable: Continue taking your dog in and out of the water until he seems comfortable. Allow him to try swimming, staying nearby in case he is unable.
As you work with your dog remember to be patient and your pup will be enjoying the water in no time at all!