Introducing Your Puppy to Water [Back to Monthly Pro Staff Articles]
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The love of the water is essential to your young gun dog's success! Introducing your new puppy to water is simple, but if the proper precautions aren't taken, you can be setting yourself up for failure. With these easy to follow steps, you will ensure your puppy will love the water for the rest of their life!
First, find a pond or calm lake with a shallow entry point. I never introduce a puppy in a lake that has waves rolling in or crashing onto shore because it can intimidate the puppy. I also stay away from rivers because the current can scare them. We want this to be as gentle and easy on the pup as possible! Bring hip boots, waders, or a swim suit and enter the water. Depending on the age of your pup, I like to keep a check cord on them in order to maintain control. Buck was very little when I introduced him, so I didn't have one on him, but if you're working with an older pup, it's a good idea!
Now, wade into the water and encourage the pup to join you. Use your "excited" voice and show them their puppy bumper. The pup will wade out to you, but will likely stop when their feet start coming off the ground. Continue to encourage them, praise them, entice them with the bumper, and back up slowly! Watch their body language and praise them for courage!
As the pup faces their fear and starts to swim towards you, elevate your excitement level! Cheer them on! When they get close to you, show them the bumper and give it a short toss into the deeper water. As they pick it up, praise them heavily, encourage them back to you, then receive the bumper, and toss it back out. Let them get used to being in the water and swimming, then return to shore after your second throw. Give them a minute to recover on land, shake off the water, praise them, and prepare to wade out again. Hopefully your pup will immediately follow you, but if they hesitate, repeat the process. Don't forget, always end your sessions on a positive note! Leave your young gun dog wanting more!
Side Note: I leave my older dogs at home or in the truck when I introduce a pup to water. I want it to be a bonding time with me and I want it to be a controlled setting. Some people would suggest that an older dog will show them how to swim and the pup will follow after them. I don't like that. I want the pup to follow me in and trust me. I also don't want a pup to be intimated by an older dog running and splashing them while they are testing things out.
If your follow this step by step process, you will have a puppy that loves the water!
Here are things to completely avoid!
- Cold water
- Never pull the puppy into the water
- Never carry the puppy in and place them in the water
- Never throw them in or toss them off a dock
- Never introduce them to water that is intimidating -- examples: waves, current
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