Is Your Dog a Puddle Jumper?

By Lisa Norris

Ok, so you’re looking at your best friend wondering if he can make a splash even though he doesn’t have webbed feet or 6 generations of field work in his bloodlines.

Yes, any dog can learn and benefit from water work and swimming. Water play between dog & handler makes for great fun and a terrific way to escape mid-summer heat while continuing to build your teamwork, trust and confidence in each other. I frequently have to encourage leery rescue dogs that the baby pools in our yard really are fun!

If your dog thinks water should only be lapped from a bowl, here are a few ways to introduce your next partner for synchronized swimming right in your backyard.

To start, you’ll need:

A bag full of his Most favorite treats - sliced Hot Dog or chopped steak work well as they don’t get too gooey in water;

A Target such as an Ally Oop (heavy base will sit submerged in shallow water - base can be removed & replaced with a sponge to create a floating target);

Your clicker or cheerful YES;

Favorite motivational Toys to party big success with. I also teach my dogs to tug with a piece of garden hose. ((Thankfully, Sears offers Lifetime warranty on their garden hose));

Large plastic baby pool, empty.

Begin on dry land simply shaping & rewarding dog for touching the target and moving towards it. Once he is eagerly targeting, you can introduce the dog to a small pool.

Place Target in an empty baby pool on a grassy area - empty pool on hard surfaces may rattle & spook a nervous dog. If dog hesitates or spooks away from the pool, wait him out and reward him for approaching & investigating the pool, and intersperse with good rousing play sessions to relieve stress. Click/reward dog for entering pool, touching target & any successful offers in between. Toss food/toy rewards into bottom of the pool for dog to pick up, or even sit yourself down in the empty pool to be a target too. Keep it fun and light, and don’t force him in any way.

Next, add a bucketful of water to pool, just enough to dampen the bottom and get him accustomed to wet on his feet. Progress thru above steps and be very generous with rewards when he gets his feet wet. Gradually add more water to pool and play favorite games with your dog in pool. Leave the hose draped into the pool and turned onto a trickle so as not to raise the water level too quickly. Keep sessions short & very upbeat.

I keep a length of “Dog Hose” for use as tug toy in the pool; it also comes in handy as a spray/mister hose. This game has really become a favorite of both of my dogs, and it serves to be the ultimate reward for them after an agility run in summer months. Be creative & positive and you can easily convince your best friend to have a Splash!!     (c) 2004 Norris