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Swimming / Dumb questions

1702 Views 12 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Lauri & The Gang
Ok, this is dumb but I've been wondering. How do you know how far is to far when our dogs jump or run into the water ? Say at the lake or where ever really ? I mean is it just nature they know how to swim to get themselves back ?
I have a little pool for Duke but he hasn't jumped into our pool yet.
Can they drown ? And at what age is safe ?

You can laugh at me, really its ok LOL. My brain has been scattered all week so bear with me.
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I always thought swimming was something that ALL dogs knew how to do. Until I took my girl Neke's litter brother Ziggy to the dog park for the first time. He ran into the water and sank like a rock!! I had to go in and rescue him!!!

Small swims can be started as young as 8 weeks of age. Be sure to always be there for the dog in case they get too tired.

Neke and Riggs, in their younger days, could swim for HOURS and not be tired!
My feeling is "too far" is too far for me to jump in/swim out and get my dog and bring him in FAST if there's an issue. So if you're not a strong swimmer, if you're not willing to get into the water, if the water is cold (especially if the water is cold), the dog should wear a flotation device with a long line attached.

If there's any current at all (a river or strong stream), the dog should stay close to the banks, and you should stay close to your dog. It's easy for even the strongest swimmer to start floating away before you know it, and before he realizes it. My GSD has been swimming almost his whole life. The first week I got him, at 7 weeks old, he went swimming in an in-ground pool, and has done so every week since. He also plays/swims creeks, streams, and lake, and eddies of Class III-IV river. We were at another river, playing on the banks (not even in the water). It was a large Class I river (no white water at all), wide, large, barely moving. I threw the stick and it accidentally went into the water. He chased after it, and he was surprised by how much current there actually was. Fortunately, I was right there and went in after him. But even the strongest swimmers in the calmest rivers can get caught by surprise. I made a stupid mistake of assuming he wouldn't go deep into the water (he had stayed in the eddy of the Class III-IV river), and of not having him protected, as I have previously.

Dogs can drown. They will panic. It's not a matter of age. It's a matter of experience. Every body of water is a new body of water. Just because a dog is familiar with a kiddie pool doesn't mean he's familiar with an in-ground pool doesn't mean he's familiar with a lake, doesn't mean he's familiar with a creek, then stream, then river, and then ocean. They're all different, and we have to retrain our dogs each time. Take nothing for granted.

I did last month, and it was a colossal mistake I'll never make again.

ETA, I should add that we live in water country, and many of the dogs around here swim a lot. But as obvious "dog people," we're often being told about dogs that barely made it. The owners realized just in time that their dogs got tired, got caught on something, the water was too cold, etc, and jumped in to save them. So I probably do sound way more cautious than most people.
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Originally Posted By: 3K9MomSo I probably do sound way more cautious than most people.
You sound exactly like the way every dog owner should be when allowing their dogs to swim in any water, especially open waterways and oceans. That was a great response.
i like starting in pools because its easier for me to get in with the dogs, and the depth and conditions are controlled (as oppose to a river or lake). gia knew how to swim when i got her but tilden was a little more hesitant and doesnt always have the best coordination so we helped him by walking him into the pool - letting him stand on each step for as long as he needed to get used to the water level - then just pulled him out allowing him to swim with my hands under him... in small circles... always returning to the steps so that he realized thats how to get out. after a few circles i just released him and he swam along gia's side. now i can't control him - he's in the pool before i can get my bathing suit on. and where gia usually jumps in for a ball or to "save" me (she doesnt like when i jump in or swim) tilden just gets in to get in!

my best friends dobie on the other hand won't take to a pool at all and only prefers to walk in gradually at the ocean. so to a point, dogs figure it out on their own and what they're comfortable with.

to 3k9mom - i 2nd everything she said!
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Chopper seems to have a problem when he can't see to the bottom. I don't have a pool deep enough to swim in so we go to the local metro park to swim. I always pick spots that a deep enough for him to swim but shallow enough for me to walk in. Usually there just large puddle where the wter collects, and it's crystal clear. If he can see the bottom, he'll swim in it.
There was somebody here on the board whose dog swam out once and kept on going. It may have been at a lake, I don't remember, but it took awhile to get the dog back, and in the meantime they were freaked OUT!!!! I think Lynn_P may have been there, and it might have been G-Burg's dog who went for a swim - for some reason I'm thinking it was a Wildhaus pup, but I could be mistaken.

We don't have access to a pool, so my dogs learned to swim in the SF Bay. Because it's shallow for a long way out, and currents aren't really a factor, other than the very slow (over a period of several hours) tide changes, it's pretty safe. In a pinch I could easily wade out after them because even though it's deep enough that they have to swim it's not deep enough that I'd have to.

They like to play in the water near the edge and will only swim out if we throw a ball for them to retrieve. The only time I was ever concerned was one time with Keefer and his Jolly Ball. He picks it up off the ground by biting at it, which works just fine on dry land, but not so much in the water. He'd bite at it and it would duck underwater, and get pushed a little further out. He tried and tried and tried, but fortunately recognized that he was getting tired, and came back to shore.

This was the first time we brought the JB to the park and I was ready to give up and donate it to the Bay, but after panting a few minutes he decided he wasn't going to leave it behind and he swam back out. Again, it kept ducking underwater and getting pushed further out, he got tired, and came back. More panting, and then third time's a charm - he swam out again and finally got it by the rope, but now it's half full of water and weighs about 10 pounds! He towed that darned thing all the way back, silly boy, but by that time I was afraid he was going to drown himself trying!!!

Here he is, trying to get that ball

Bringing it back

They also swim in the ocean, but we were going to Fort Funston for over a year before they actually swam there for the first time. We'd just throw the ball along the beach, parallel to the water, and they'd splash around in the shallows. It wasn't until we saw other people throwing toys out for their dogs to swim for that we decided it would be okay to try it. We're careful NOT to heave the ball out as far as we can, just a short distance, and only at low tide when the waves are small. I'd never do it in larger waves and rough surf, and since unless we throw a ball they don't swim, we don't worry even if we're there and the conditions aren't conducive to swimming. But you can't count on that with every dog. We also know that if they lose the ball in the surf they won't kill themselves trying to find it. If they're out there looking around, we can call them back and they'll give up on the ball and come to shore.

They are very strong swimmers, much better than I am, but we try to be prudent about where and how they swim. Since I know Keefer is nuts for his Jolly Ball, we don't bring that to the beach. If I have to wade in and drag him out of shallow water in the Bay, I can, but I couldn't do that if he gets in trouble in the ocean. You really have to know your own dog, and better safe than sorry.
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Dynamo once swam out and kept going (I don't think it was me who posted, though, this was years ago). It was a BIG lake. I'll swim across alot of lakes, but this ones far shore was a line. We did some fast swimming and got her to turn back once we figured out what was going on.
My guess, is that a dog can get scared while swimming outwards, and panic and start heading to the nearest land they can "see". That would be the opposite shore however distant. A good recall would help big time, and call them back as soon as you notice something odd. Swimming faster and faster to get a stick or ball is a good thing. Swimming like that away from shore for no apparent reason is something you need to stop.
Swimming is great exercise and fun for dogs. Build up their confidence in shallow water, and near the shore. Don't throw toys too so far that they scare themselves to get it. Be a little prudent, bad things can happen, but have fun, please. We still have Dynamo, she still swims, etc.. A risk free life is no life at all.
ps. when I grew up it was perfectly okay to let the kids swim alone. I swam across the lake and to an island, and to my friends cottage alone. I'm still swimming too. (I guess I just dated myself big time)
Relax and have fun.
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Not just a good recall, (which is VERY important!), but I think having dogs that are so conditioned to chase a toy and bring it back that it's second nature to do so, no matter where they are or what's going on around them, is helpful too. It becomes sort of a built-in recall when playing with them.

And I totally agree with Ingrid that starting slow and building confidence is really important.
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All of my dogs have had very good sense about how far they can swim. My summer cottage is up on Lake Huron. I train my dogs to swim by throwing toys or calling them into the water with me. I trained Chama to follow me when I was kayaking. When she was tired she would swim out to me and I'd pull her into the kayak (I also trained her to ride in the kayak). She is also trained to swim to me and allow me to hold her in my arms if she needs a rest. She is an extremely strong swimmer but is now very arthritic and has lung problems. She has only gone swimming once this summer when I swam out to a raft with Rafi and left her on shore. It is clear that she no longer feels comfortable swimming so she chooses to wade and not swim anymore.

I only had one scary incident. My ex was water skiing and Chama and I were in the motorboat. Basu, who rarely swam but was an excellent swimmer, decided to swim out after us!
Luckily some friends on the shore saw him and headed out in a kayak and herded him back into shore. Otherwise my dogs have always turned around when they got tired.
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Originally Posted By: Cassidys MomNot just a good recall, (which is VERY important!), but I think having dogs that are so conditioned to chase a toy and bring it back that it's second nature to do so, no matter where they are or what's going on around them, is helpful too. It becomes sort of a built-in recall when playing with them.
That's what I do with Lily. She loves to play fetch and knows she must bring it right back if she wants the game to continue. One person even noted to me that Lily is just as excited to return the ball as she is to chase it.

I also made sure she followed commands out in the water before letting her swim too far (especially come and leave it). One time we were at a local lake and I threw a ball out for Lily. This moron next to me thought it would be funny to throw another ball out there super far to see if she could get it. So she gets the ball I threw and then proceeded to try to get the second one. But as a little puppy she could only get one ball in her mouth at a time and was swimming in circles to get the second one, and practically diving under water because she was pushing the ball under each time she tried to grab the second one. I gave her the leave it command so she sat there paddling in one place just staring at the other ball!
But once I gave her the come command she came right back to shore.

If she wasn't conditioned to listening to my commands no matter where she was, I would have been taking a swim in the lake that day!
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Good girl Lily!
I know what you mean about being excited to return the ball - mine are the same way. They run back with it almost as fast as they go after the ball, and the only reason it's not quite as fast is because they're so competitive and are racing each other to get it, but once somebody has the ball there's not so much hurry. But still, they're running, not just trotting back.

We can throw a ball towards a herd of cows (and HAVE!) and they'll ignore the cows and bring back the ball!
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Sometimes that ball drive can be dangerous.

Winnie, our Corgi mix, loves tennis balls. She also loves to swim. We took her to the lake at the dog park and tossed the ball out for her to fetch. She swam out fine, grabbed the ball and started to head back towards shore.

But she was having problems keeping the ball out of the water - so she tilted her head up a bit. Not enough, so she tilted it up more. She kept this up until she had the ball up out of the water enough to suit her.

Problem was she is much longer than she is tall. All that head tilting caused her rear end to sink lower and lower. By the time she had the ball up higher enough she was almost vertical in the water.

And under she went.

I waited a few seconds, expecting to see her pop to the surface without the ball. But nothing.

Imagine a women rushing into a lake yelling "WINNIE - DROP IT!!!" to a dog under water!!

Luckily she wasn't that far from shore so I got to her quickly and hoisted her up ... and found she still that that tennis ball clamped in her jaws!!

Now, if we take winnie to the lake she is NOT allowed to fetch anything!! Goofy dog!!
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