Pawsome Tails: Doggy paddling

Vinkel and Koljander were definitely not natural swimmers and it took some time, patience and practice to get them used to water.


CERTAIN dog breeds, such as Labradors and golden retrievers, are natural swimmers and water lovers. They will easily jump into a body of water chasing after a stick or a ball. But not all dogs are natural swimmers or as easily prone to simply go for a swim on a hot, sunny day. Vinkel and Koljander were definitely not natural swimmers and it took some time, patience and practice to get them used to water.

Never, ever throw your dog into the water; this will only serve to frighten them, and while this is not only dangerous, the shock can put them off swimming for life. The trick is to entice them slowly into the water, patiently, praising them for every step they take towards becoming good swimmers.

When I taught Vinkel and Koljander to swim I started off in the shallow end, enticing them to take a step into the pool and get their paws wet. Being inside the pool myself, I gently called them towards me, often tempting them with objects like their favourite toys. I never forced them to go faster than their own pace, but got them interested in activities such as splashing and retrieving the ball. I always rewarded them for each small risk they took. Once they began paddling to stay afloat, I used my arms to provide extra support under their bellies. This also gave them the incentive to paddle with both their front and rear legs. I kept these sessions short so as not to overtire them.

Koljander giving swimming his all!

Safety precautions

Doggy life jackets

After doing some research I found out that there are doggy life jackets on the market. This is a wonderful product for pups learning to swim or for those that go out on boats. They do range in price and although some can be quite expensive, this is a great investment. The main thing about them is that they keep your doggy’s head above water and safe from drowning at all times. Most of them are designed to be comfortable for your dog to wear both in and out of the water. They have convenient handles to grab your dog by and ensure that your dog is safe at all times.


Supervise your dog’s swimming. Leaving them unattended, especially when they reach the stage of jumping into the swimming pool, could lead to injuries. Once the swimming bug bit Vinkel and Koljander it was almost impossible to keep them out of the pool, regardless of the weather or the time of year. From becoming cautious swimmers they would run and leap into the pool and go crazy. I quickly realised that, like any caring mom, I had to supervise their time in the pool.

Make sure that your dog knows which side of the pool to get out of, similarly a dam or any body of water. The last thing you want is for your dog to panic and not know how to get out.

Most dogs will not know the difference between when swimming is allowed and when it is not, and you might have some unwanted swimming should they have full-time access to your pool. This can become especially problematic if you have dogs who like to jump into the pool and attack the pool cleaner pipes, causing quite some damage. Should you have young children in the pool, be aware that those doggy paws can inflict sore scratches when a doggy paddles their way.

Learn how to properly administer artificial respiration and CPR on your dog. This is vital should your dog accidentally fall in your pool. Some animal shelters and animal organisations offer classes on the proper techniques.

Once they got the hang of they went wild.


Once Vinkel and Koljander became avid swimmers and had the opportunity to get into the pool or a dam, it was quite something to get them back out. I had created water-obsessed dogs, and at the park they need no enticement, such as throwing a stick or a ball, to go into the water – as soon as they see water they are in it. After a nice long swim I would get their towels and this became a sign for them that it was time to get out. I would usually give them a quick rinse-down with fresh water to get rid of any residual chemicals or algae and then cover them in a towel each. They love the extra attention of a nice rub-down and this ritual would come to an end with some fresh water and biscuits.

It’s always a good idea to take fresh water with you on swimming excursions to keep your dog from drinking too much pool or dam water that could upset their stomachs. And always make sure that the dam you let your pup splash in is clean!

Swimming quickly became one of their favourite pass times.



That’s it for this week, from me, Vinkel and Koljander. Paw five! Woof!

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