Take the plunge

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Dogs and water — a marriage made in heaven?

I’ve rescued quite a few dogs — all of which have not been, particularly, bothered about going in the water. All of these dogs came to love being in the swim. I’ll return to how this happened a little later.

So, why is having a splash so good for our dogs. First and foremost, it is HUGE fun for them. There is nothing quite like seeing a dog swimming, splashing and, generally, mucking about in the water. Add a human element and, it just gets better for them — doggie nirvana!

Swimming is also great for a dog’s health — it is a fantastic form of exercise. In fact, as your dog gets older and perhaps develop some degree of arthritis, swimming takes the weight of the joints and enables your dog to get relief from their pain, together with having some fun, to boot.

Now, we must accept that some dogs just do not like water — period. Well that’s OK as well. Although, in my experience over many years, there are not too many who don’t enjoy a romp in the wet stuff.

The question is how do we introduce our dogs to the pleasures of water?

As in all things, there is a right way and the wrong way. The wrong way — throwing a dog into the water or forcing it to go in by dragging it by it’s lead. Only fools and insensitive owners adopt this approach. This is, in my view, the best way to instil fear into a dog, for life with regards to water. This approach, simply, makes water a frightening place for your dog.

The right way/s. Here’s an example of learning, by accident, an effective approach. One of my earlier rescued dogs (described by my son as one of the goods guys) was Bert, a Labrador Cross. Bert was around eight years old when we rescued him. Bert would not put a paw in the water; he did, however, love to chase a stick. One day I waded into a deep stream to recover a stick for Bert. Imagine my surprise when I turned around and, there was Bert doggy paddling right behind me.

Bert enjoying a dip

Bert, for the rest of his long life, thoroughly enjoyed the water. He was happiest when swimming after a stick; he also loved the sea.

I have used the lesson I learnt from Bert with not only, his successors but, with other peoples dogs over the years. Readers of my ramblings will already know Ziggy, my current canine charge. Again, like Bert, she was not interested in water at all. I followed the approach taught to me by Bert with Ziggy. So, shorts on and into the water (me that is). After a couple of days of doing this and allowing Ziggy to gain confidence with water, in her own time; she is now a fully fledged water baby. There is, of course, one potential gotcha here — Ziggy loves me to be in the water with her! Well, hell, it’s fun — so what’s a bit of trench foot between friends?

Ziggy in the sea at  Holkham beach in Norfolk

Ziggy now enjoys the water so much, part of her daily routine is a visit to the river for some fun with Dad (me).

Another, effective way to help a dog get to know the water. Take a small treat in an open hand. Let the dog see it and step back a little into the water. The dog will, usually, pluck up the courage to paddle to you for the treat — praise the dog a repeat a few times, going a little deeper each time. It’s important not to overdue this and push the dog too much. If your dog is starting to show reluctance — stop. Go back another day — you will be amazed how effective this is.

Believe me, there is nothing quite like getting in the water with your dog and having some fun — I’m nearly 60 and I love it!

A word of caution — take care with where your dog goes in the water. Watch out for strong currents and potential dangers below the water such as sticks and branches that might impale a dog. Make sure the water is flowing — still or stagnant water can be a health hazard.

Taking care and applying your common sense will keep you and your canine buddy out of trouble but, it will allow you to give you dog some serious fun throughout it’s life with you.

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