Swimming for Dogs – Fun and Healthy!

Many of us love to take our dogs out to swim whether in a lake, pond or pool just for that purpose.  A good percentage of dogs, regardless of breed, simply love to swim, splash and play in just about any body of water.  While absolutely fun for our canine companions, swimming also has many practical applications that can help our dogs to stay healthy, lose weight or help them to recover from injury and illness.

The first thing that people think of when they think of their dog swimming is FUN!  That’s okay – it is fun!  Swimming is a great way to play with your dog.  Taking them to a pond, lake, the ocean or a doggy swimming pool is a great summer activity that everyone in the family can partake in.   Throwing a toy out into the water and watching the absolute joy on your dog’s face as he plunges in to get it is enough to make even the biggest stresses go away.  Plenty of dogs don’t even need a toy -they just splash and play for the sheer love of it.

There are even more reasons, though, for swimming our dogs – though pure joy is a pretty good one we would have to admit.  Swimming is, in reality, one of the healthiest activities that your dog can partake of.  Just as for humans, swimming is a great exercise.  The resistance of the water means that your dog is constantly working whether running along the shore in knee deep surf or swimming out to retrieve a ball or stick.  He doesn’t even realize how much work it is since he’s having a blast but work it is!  Swimming is a gentle and safe way to get weight off of your dog and replace that flab with muscle.  Taking long walks, while interesting and enjoyable for most dogs, can get a little monotonous and without the resistance of the water, takes far longer to burn the same number of calories.  Swimming is an excellent way to not only lose the weight but to replace the fat with lean muscle.  Being overweight often makes it difficult for a dog to even take walks.  The extra stress on the joints makes it highly likely that your dog will actually injure himself as you are attempting to walk off the pounds.  Swimming negates this risk by being a low impact way to gently fight the battle of the bulge.  Take any overweight dog and if you feed a sensible diet and swim them regularly, you will find you have a lean mean licking machine in no time flat!

Swimming is also a fantastic rehabilitation tool.  Dogs who suffer from diseases and injuries affecting joints such as elbow and hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament ruptures, degenerative myelopathy, arthritis or paralysis, can greatly benefit from the gentle stimulation and exercise that swimming provides.  The buoyancy of the water takes all the stress off of the joints and muscles giving greater freedom of movement without pain.  This strengthens the muscles which helps with mobility and pain management after swimming is done.  The fact that the exercise occurs in water means that there is far less impact on the joints and body as a whole than there would be if you exercised your dog on land.  This means, if done correctly and with common sense, swimming is not likely to cause further injury. In fact, swimming will help to build muscle which will help your dog to compensate for his disease or injury making injury or exacerbation of an existing injury or disease, less likely once out of the water.

Ah, but you say that your dog simply won’t swim – hates the water, hates a lake, hates a pool, hates a pond.  Certainly there are diehard water haters out there….but then again, are they?  Perhaps they just need the right sort of encouragement.  Perhaps your dog would be more willing to try the water out if you swim first!  Pick a lake with easy water access – a gentle bank that won’t make your dog nervous.  Wade in first and encourage your pup to follow.  You’d be surprised at how often this method can work – after all, your dog wants nothing more than to be with his person!  Sometimes having another canine companion along for the day can help as well – so long as it is one proficient in the how to’s of swimming already.  If a reluctant dog sees another dog thoroughly enjoying himself in the water, the urge to see what all the fun is about might just be too much for him to bear!  Have a dog who LOVES to eat?  Try his favorite treats – take them out in the water with you as an added incentive or let them float close to the shore so that your dog has to at least get his feet wet in order to gobble them up.  Slowly move them further and further, gently enticing your dog to submerge himself further and further.  Before he knows it he’s all wet and having a grand time!  Always watch your dog closely – not all dogs are strong or talented swimmers.  Never panic – even if your dog does – and make sure you can calmly help him if he seems to need it.  Most dogs will eventually take to the water like they have loved it their whole lives, some will be more reluctant.  Some will prefer a pond or a lake while others love a pool.  Whichever body of water becomes your dog’s favorite, getting them to swim and to swim happily is well worth any work involved.

Swimming –  it will always be about fun in the sun but now you know that it is really so much more!