Do dogs swim naturally?

Or do you have to teach them to swim?

When the weather turns warm and you introduce your pup to water, don't force the issue. Never throw your pup into the water, or push him out of a boat. This is not the way to get him to love the water! One of the most effective methods of introducing a puppy to water is to bring along an older, water-loving dog as a demonstration tool. (as long as you supervise and make sure the older dog does not play rough) Puppies will generally follow the leads of their elders, and will be reassured to see that the strange, wet stuff doesn't seem to hurt their friends. But in the absence of an older dog you will do the trick. Wade out into the water yourself. Chances are your pup will want to follow you. Use a favorite toy and throw it parallel to the shore once he is in the water up to his belly. Don't throw the object out into deep water the first time. Let him get used to the feel of the water.

The most important thing to avoid, is to allow your puppy to have a ďbad experienceĒ when introduced to water. Make sure the water is warm enough the first time. (water temperature over 50 degrees)

You may want to get a child's wading pool and throw some floatable toys in it for the pup. Place a non slip tub mat in the bottom if it is real slick.

Don't take the pup in the first time to a body of water with steep drop offs or water that has lots of "scary" objects. Remember your pup may be going through a fear stage, and submerged logs or stumps may give throw him off.

If the breeder has not already done so, you will need to introduce your puppy to water. While an early introduction to water usually ensures that your pup will swim well and not be one of those rare individuals who struggles to learn to swim, it is absolutely critical that you wait until the water is warm (60 degrees or above). With many puppies, all you need to do is wade out into the water and encourage them to follow. Some retriever pups are more hesitant. We recommend that you not force the issue. Wait a couple of weeks and try again. If your puppy will go belly-deep, try throwing a dummy parallel to shore to introduce retrieving in water. Frequently it is easy to switch to throws where the pup needs to swim just a couple of feet, and then lengthen the swimming distance.

If this fails repeatedly and your puppy gets to four or five months without taking to the water, try wading out, carrying the puppy and a dummy. Set the puppy down in water deep enough that it will have to swim. Probably it will swim straight to shore. Try calling it; if it doesnít come, go get it and wade out again. Tease it with the dummy, try to get it swimming after the dummy, and toss the dummy a few feet in front of the pup, towards the middle of the lake. After doing a few short retrieves when it is already swimming, your puppy will soon be able to retrieve in the water from shore. Do not be discouraged if your puppy needs extra work to get going in the water. Many dogs who are initially hesitant become good water dogs.

Not all retrievers come with the innate ability to swim.

There are safe ways to introduce pup to water to be sure that the experience is fun and he develops confidence

Pup should see water when it is warm and in an area that has a gradual slope to the bottom. You need to be prepared to get wet with pup.

Avoid the temptation to bring older dogs with to "get pup in the water". Pup could attempt to follow his buddy out in water way beyond his skills and cause fear.

Just you and pup, quiet warm lake....let him play, snort around and wade. Have a bumper for him to push around in the shallows.

As he gains confidence you can walk out a bit deeper and encourage him to follow. Go slow, if he panics he could use your legs as a scratching post.

Keep is fun, don't push him. He may just jump in and swim like a trooper, great.

If it takes a bit, don't worry. Some dogs have a time figuring out how to get the "rear end' to plane. Help him a bit, gently supporting his tummy till he gets the idea.

The puppy splash paddling is very common, they will out grow it has the skills improve.

Do not let pup jump off docks until he is sure of his swimming ability, many a fine swimmer was scared by this too soon and became fearful of water.

If a dog sinks, they DO NOT come back up, there is no "third time down". Be ready to get to pup within seconds.

In my "dog days" I have had pups that just get out there and swim like they have been doing it all their lives and others sank. You can't tell until they try to swim.

Avoid swimming in water over you head with a dog, he may attempt to "climb aboard", swimmers have been drowned by their dogs.

Kris Altenbernd

Water Training

Retrievers are born loving the water, the trainerís job is to insure that the trainer doesnít teach them not to love it. The best philosophy is to get pup trained on land where you can control the outcome. After pup is reliable on land, then go to the water. Basically the main learning requirement for pup in the water is developing his confidence. If you train pup well on land, and develop his confidence in the water, then those trained behaviors will operate in the water.

Introduction to Water

The easiest water introduction for puppies occurs when you have a whole litter that is seven to eight weeks old and it is summertime. Find part of the lake or pond where the bank gently slopes into the water. Put on your boots or tennis shoes and take the litter of puppies for a walk. Walk them around on land for a while so that they get very warm. Then walk into the water. They will follow you and probably automatically swim without ever missing a stroke. Puppies at this age have a natural inclination to swim and will do it automatically. However, be very careful not to try this in the winter. Putting a small puppy into cold water will simply teach him not to like it.

If pup is born in fall or winter he may be several months old before you introduce him to the water, or you may have acquired an older puppy who has missed a young introduction to the water, or you may have acquired a pup who has had a bad introduction to the water. In any case the rules for pupís introduction to water are the same:

Pick a gently sloping bank
Do it in warm weather
If you are throwing a dummy, make the first toss only just long enough that pup can get it by putting only his front feet in the water the first time. Then lengthen the toss a foot at a time until he is swimming.
Let pup go in at his pace. Reward whatever small piece of behavior that occurs. This is not a test and there is no time limit. If pup sticks one foot in praise him. If he continues to be uneasy in the water, wade in with him. The object of initial water training is to do what is needed for pup to learn that water is fun.

Occasionally you encounter a pup that has missed the age window of activation for the swimming instinct and who has a lot of trouble learning to swim. They keep trying to climb out. They persist in slapping the water with their front feet while their rear feet donít do much paddling. The solution is to get their front end down which levels them out and they will then swim naturally.

One great trick that helps is the large plastic dummies. These are heavy enough that pup tires more quickly and gets that front end down so that he begins swimming naturally. Another strategy is to wade into the water with pup and gently hold him by the collar while putting an arm under his belly to keep the rear end up. After theyíve made a few strokes in proper level orientation, the swimming instinct will usually kick in.

Teaching Puppies To Swim
Written by Butch Goodwin

Rowdy was a big boy for his age. Even as far as the average Chesapeake goes, Rowdy was a horse. When he came to my kennel for training at about seven months old, he already tipped the scales at well over 85 pounds. Rowdy was smart and athletic, and it was obvious that his owner had spent a lot of time working with him on his retrieving and obedience skills. The dog was well-socialized, eager to work, and caught on to training quite quickly.

After putting Rowdy through some basic obedience and work on delivering bumpers and frozen birds to hand, I was more than satisfied with his initial progress; so we took him to the water to see how he performed. I had no reason to expect any problems - this was one of the most athletic dogs I had ever worked with. My helper threw a bumper into the pond about 50 yards or so, and, just as I had expected, Rowdy took a run and exploded into the water with an impressive water-spraying leap. Then, he completely disappeared; no part of him could be seen. When he surfaced, with legs flailing in all directions, he went over backward and disappeared again under the water. I had never seen a dog with so little fear, yet no clue of how to swim.

We watched this display for several minutes, and when it was evident that he had no idea how to move in the water or even stay afloat, we had no choice but to wade in and rescue him. He was tiring quickly and making no progress toward shore. The time that he spent submerged was lengthening, and he was only coming up long enough to gasp for air, beat the water to a froth with his front feet, and then roll over backward and disappear under the surface again. This had turned into a tense situation such as I had never experienced before.

After rescuing the dog and returning to the kennel, I immediately called Rowdyís owner and asked why he had not taught the dog to swim at an age when his size would have made him much more manageable. Of course, the owner had a million excuses why he hadnít worked with the dog on his swimming, but I think it boiled down to, Heís a retriever - he should know how to swim. After all, donít all dogs know how to swim? And, since I was going to send him off for training, let the trainer deal with it.

Sorry, folks; I hate to have to be the one to break the news, but it doesnít necessarily work that way! Just because a dogís last name is ďretrieverĒ Labrador retriever, golden retriever, or Chesapeake Bay retriever, etc. - it doesnít mean that he comes from the womb knowing how to swim! And, as the dogís size gets bigger, the tougher it gets to teach this most basic of all skills necessary to the retrieverís life work.

Think about something for a moment: Retrievers, of any breed, that are beyond six months or so of age can usually stand on their hind legs and put their front feet above your waist or on your chest. So, if you take them into the water at this age and have any trouble at all teaching the dog to get their rear end up in order to level out and swim correctly, they will likely be able to plant their back feet on the pond bottom and climb up on you with their front feet. This is a real pain and usually results in both a wet dog and trainer!

With one hand under his belly and the other holding his rear end up by the tail, face the pup toward the shore. You'll notice his legs instinctively start paddling.

Sure, there are ways of teaching a large dog to swim where he canít try to drown you; you can do as we did with Rowdy for the next six weeks (it took six weeks of our training time and the ownerís money to teach him to swim efficiently and get him to the same level of skill that he demonstrated on land). Day after day, we put him on a rope behind a rowboat, like a fish on a stringer, and encouraged him, all the while towing him around the pond and forcing him to level out by getting his front down and his rear end up.

We also utilized a training trick that one of the old timers taught me: Stand out in the river current with the dog on a rope, where it is deep enough that his feet canít hit bottom. Hold on tight (and be careful of your footing) as you let him drift downstream on the end of the rope. By holding him against the flow of the river, the current pushes his rear end up as it forces him to swim against the current. Then, when the lesson is over, reel him in like a fish or work him toward shore.

Both of these tricks, followed by a good measure of ever-longer marks in deep water, worked quite effectively in developing Rowdyís swimming. But why should having to resort to these tricks have been necessary?

Like human babies, it is quite easy to teach pups to swim. And, at the age of two to five months, pups are still at a size where they are quite manageable. This is also the time when they should learn to feel as comfortable - and gain the same self-confidence - in the water as they do on land, finding it a pleasure to swim. After all, most of a retrieverís work will involve water.

Now, let me offer a very broad, fairly typical caveat here: Many pups take to water quite naturally and often jump right in and swim without any coaching after a little figuring out on their own. For the ones that need encouragement, it is quite simple to get them started. I cringe when I hear the stories some people tell about taking the dog out in a boat and pushing him overboard. If you want to increase the chances of mining a youngsterís love of water and having him be apprehensive about entering it throughout the rest of his life, tossing him in is one sure-fire way to indelibly etch that dread in his mind!

Actually, all it takes to begin to teach a pup to swim and not fear water is a warm day, a pond that is about knee- to waist-deep, a pair of shorts or waders, and a helper on the bank. Young pups donít have any reason to be apprehensive about water - they havenít learned to fear it. They have only recently mastered the thrill of walking and running; and, at this stage, swimming is simply another trick to learn, another environment to learn to move in.

With lots of hand clapping and encouragement from the helper on the bank, the pup will easily make it to shore.

Try this: Carry your young pup out into the pond in your arms to a distance of 10 yards or so. Place one hand under his belly, and with the other hand hold his rear end up by his tail so that he is level in the water. Face toward your helper on shore, and place the pup in the water. Watch his feet start to move as soon as you place him on the water. He will inherently start to paddle, even though he is being held anchored by your hands. If you donít believe it, pick him up out of the water and watch his feet still moving! When he is really paddling for all heís worth, take your hand from under his belly, and, for a few seconds, hold his rear end up by his tail to keep him level.

Then, with lots of hand clapping and encouragement from the helper on the bank, release his tail and watch him swim directly to your helper. Walk to the bank where the helper has gathered him up, take him back out in the pond, and do it again. Repeat the lesson several times, and call it a day. Come back and do the same exercise tomorrow. And the next day. Gradually increase the swimming distance day by day until you are satisfied that he understands the mechanics of correct swimming form. Itís that simple to develop a pupís basic swimming skills and confidence in the water.

Now it is time to encourage your pup to want to go into the water on his own. He is already confident and knows how to swim, but he will possibly have to be enticed to dive right in. I accomplish this by using live, wing-tied pigeons tossed a very short distance out in the pond. (If their wings arenít tied at the base and they are only wing-clipped, the bird can use his wings to propel himself quite quickly across the surface of the water.)

If your pupís burning desire for birds has been developed early on, he should dive right in after a live bird since he now has no fear of the water. If you donít have access to live birds and you have developed his desire for frozen birds or bumpers, he still should enter the water without hesitation. One note here, however: Always start your pup in shallow water where you can go out and help him if he gets into trouble, and always start him right on the edge of the water or even standing with his feet in the water. There is no reason to develop a bad habit of running down the bank after a bird or a bumper, a habit that if you let develop, will later have to be broken. So, influence him from the very start to enter straight into the water by not giving him the option of anywhere else to go; you can always back away from the edge as he progresses. Naturally, in all the instances Iíve discussed here, the water should not be chillingly cold; pups donít yet have the heat-producing mechanism that mature dogs possess.

Remember, ďretrieveĒ means retrieving anywhere, especially from the water where their assistance is the most vital for recovering game. Donít put this important developmental lesson off too long.

Order your copy of The Puppy Diary

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Cathy Lewandowski
8282 Soft Maple Road
Croghan NY 13327

About the Book

Follow a litter of puppies from birthday until they go to their new homes. The diary contains lots of pictures, tips on puppy rearing, some breed specific information, and lots of information on the care of any breed of dog.

I started doing an on-line puppy diary since many of the people that would be getting one of my pups would not be able to travel here to see the pups. I did not want to put a bunch of cute puppy pictures online, and encourage anyone to have a litter just because they wanted to see cute puppies! Breeding dogs, if done the right way, is a lot of work. Lost sleep and sometimes heartache. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to raise a litter of puppies. Once I started doing The Puppy Diary, I realized I had a captive audience. These people logged on every day to see the pictures, and read what was happening. I used this opportunity to cram as much education into each day as I could. Health, Coat issues, grooming, feeding, socializing, vet care, puppy evaluations, shipping puppies.... you name it! I tried to put it in The Diary. It was suggested that I make it into a book. Well here it is! There are 560 pictures and over 300 pages of living with and watching one litter grow up.

I am sure may conscientious, caring breeders raise litters similar to the way I do. Its is a good look into the time, money, commitment it takes to bring up a litter of pups. Some of the things that go on behind the scenes, that the eventual puppies owners (family), never realize go into the litter. Enjoy my litter as I see them. Day to day


Chapter One (Week One) ... Page 1

Seger comes into season
Happy Birthday!
Removing the Dewclaws
Start of the Bio Sensor program

Chapter Two (Week Two) ... Page 48
Coat issues.
Tail Gland Hyperplasia
Do Curlies Shed?

Chapter Three (Week Three) ... Page 94
End of Bio Sensor Exercises
Worming The puppies
Eyes are open
First pup escapes from the box

Chapter Four (Week Four) ... Page 130
Weaning. The great food fight!
Introduction to the puppy play room
Shark Cage

Chapter Five (Week Five) ... Page 156
Field dog? Show Dog? CPE?
Happy Mothers Day!
First Stacked pictures

Chapter Six (Week Six) ... Page 195
Toys! Toys! Toys!
Whatís In A Name?
Kids and Dogs
Introduction to Wings

Chapter Seven (Week Seven) ... Page 236
About Puppies and Retrieving
Socialize your puppy
First Shots & Vet Visit
Splish Splash, first bath!

Chapter Eight (Week Eight) ... Page 286
Shape up or ship out!
Requirements to ship puppies
See all the pups!

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