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Labrador Retriever swimming in pool

When a dog visits my home, whether a puppy or a guest, I immediately go into pool safety training mode. It goes without saying that dogs should be supervised in the pool area at all times. But there’s always the possibility that they could get into the pool area undetected. Falling in the pool could be disaster for a dog who has not been taught how to get out.

Here are some pointers for making sure your dog can make a graceful and lifesaving exit.

  • First, carry the dog into the pool, set him gently into the water, and help him swim to the steps. Then reward and repeat several times until he gets the idea. When he makes it to the steps easily, move to next exercise. Make sure to offer abundant rewards—praise or toys. You want the dog to view reaching the steps as a great cause for celebration.
  • Turn away from the steps and bring the dog into the pool and guide him lightly around and to the steps. After one or two times most dogs will aim for the steps naturally.  Some water-loving breeds may not want to get out, but all dogs need to know how to exit. So be persistent in getting them to reach the goal before you let them free to swim joyously!
  • Teach the dog to reach the step from anywhere in the pool by putting him in the water at different points and guiding him to the exit.  This is something dogs pick up quickly. The steps are the reward now! Knowing where the steps are eliminates a panic if the dog falls or is knocked into the pool while playing.

Of course, you should always supervise your dogs around water, but by following these easy exercises, you can make sure that your pool parties will be occasions for a lot of wagging, wet tails.

Barbara H. Ohmann is the AKC’s Director of Club Education.

For more information on training, visit the Canine Good Citizen section of the AKC website.

If your dog has mastered swimming safety, check out the video below to learn about dock diving.
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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title.
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