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The majority of dogs can swim and they love it, like Zoey, a member of the AKC Canine Partners community, who is modeling her life jacket as she captains owner Paula Harting’s kayak.

But not all dogs are natural swimmers and some dogs hate to get wet! If you plan to head to the beach, pool or lake with your canine pal over the Memorial Day weekend, remember that dogs entering the water for the first time should be tested.

Here are some important tips for teaching your dog how to swim and safety tips for seasoned swimmers too:

  • Never throw your dog into the water.
  • Start in shallow water, and call your dog’s name. You can also try to coax him in with a treat or toy — but always keep your dog within reach. Keeping your dog on a leash to keep him from swimming too far and within reach is a good idea when introducing your pup to the water.
  • A floatation device (doggie life jacket) is a good idea as a safety precaution for new swimmers – and can even be a good idea for seasoned swimmers to keep them afloat in the event they get tired.
  • Another way to introduce your dog to the water is with a dog that already swims and is friendly with your dog. Let your dog follow his friend.
  • If your dog begins to doggy-paddle with his front legs only, lift his hind legs and help him float. He should quickly catch on and will then keep his back end up.If your dog starts to panic, quickly move back into shallow water – or take a break – and let them calm down. Be encouraging and calm.
  • Swimming is a great form of exercise, but don’t let your dog overdo it. He will be using new muscles and may tire quickly. Make your dog take breaks and also make sure they are not ingesting too much water. If your dog likes to retrieve in the water, flatter toys are better than round as the dog keeps their mouths more closed when carrying a flat toy than round toy, like a ball, so they take in less water.
  • Be careful of strong tides that are hazardous for even the best swimmers.
  • Teach your dog how to safely exit the pool or pond and rinse them with fresh water when finished to get rid of any chemicals or pond algae that might be in their coats.
  • Never leave your dog unattended! You should always be in a position to help him get out of the water.

Get information on joining the AKC Canine Partners community and getting many more great canine care tips.