Summer is the time to get out with your dog for fun, socialization, and swimming! Not all Labradors love the water and that is likely from having a bad first experience at the lake or in the pool. You can show your dog that the water is a fun and safe place to cool off and relax. My tips will show you how to easily accustom your dog to enjoy swimming with you for a lifetime!
First experiences are critical! The proper terminology is behavioral imprint and what we mean is the first time the dog experiences something he is ‘imprinted’ with that first memory. If that first memory is pleasant he will repeat the behavior in the future with ease. If he was scared at the time or something bad happened to him, hesitation to repeat that behavior will be even greater the next time he is presented with that opportunity.
Second, set your dog up for success. Chose a slow-moving creek or quiet pond where you will be alone, or a lake large enough that you will have your own space. Lifejackets are not necessary but do add a sense of security for dogs used to wearing them by helping them float and by adding deep pressure sensation (ex. the anti-anxiety Thunder Shirt wrap). Use a long line of 15 feet and a harness so the lead stays behind the dog. You do not want your dog to become tangled and panicked! Chose his favorite floating toy to bring along.
Third, motivate your dog to enter the water, never ever force him. Even pulling on the leash towards the water will result in a not-so-positive first-time experience. Accept that the first trip to the water is most likely not going to end with him swimming laps and refusing to come out. Encourage your dog to move towards the water with happy talk, treats and play with his favorite toy. When your dog is readily approaching the water, you toss his toy along the shore so that he can grab it without going in.
Trainer’s Tip: Throw the toy parallel to the shore. Tossing the toy straight out creates a barrier (the water) whereas going parallel the dog maintains the security of being close to land.
Lastly, make sure your dog has confidence in you. Show him that you will never force, tug or pull him to the water. Build trust by tossing his toy only the distance he is willing to go in, increasing the distance very slowly over many different swimming trips. Never suggest or allow your dog to enter fast moving water. If you can, bring a friend and go to a swimming spot that you can both enjoy! Your dog is even more likely to want to swim if you are in there with him!
Make going home a breeze by bringing a few extra dog towels and allowing 30 minutes of drying time before leaving. If the dog is crated, even less mess in the car! Go, get out, and have an amazing summer with your best pal!
Preparing for Baby includes preparations for your dog. Just as everything in your life will change drastically in a moment, so will the dogs’. Help your dog transition to this new routine to ensure an enjoyable companionship between baby and pup!
1. Act out the new routine before the baby arrives. Picture how the dog’s routine will change and start doing those things with him or her now. You may move his crate out of your bedroom, stop allowing him on the couch, and take him on walks early instead of late. Now is a great time to curb any barking, jumping or nuisance behavior that causes stress in the household.
2. Use a doll in the home and treat it as you would your own bundle of joy in a few months. Teach the dog rules such as sniffing but no touching. I like to teach the dog that a small blanket on the floor is off limits and on the blanket the baby can lay or play. Children, especially babies, must always be supervised even with well socialized, calm dogs. If this is your first baby then you do not know how your dog will react under the added stress and every precaution must be taken to ensure safety.
3. Sounds from a baby can frighten a dog. Expose your dog to children and babies by playing a recording of children’s’ noises such as a baby’s cry or child’s screech. The first exposures should be played at a low volume for only a few seconds while the dog eats or is fed treats. Very gradually increase the volume and duration of the children’s noises over several weeks. Find friends and family members with children and babies which you can socialize your dog with. Always keep the dog on a leash at a safe distance from a child and separate the dog if he or she becomes stressed, agitated, or shows any signs of aggression.
4. Teach your dog basic obedience commands sit, down, stay, place, come and heel. This will provide you with control over your dog’s behavior and allow you to direct him more easily when your arms are full.
5. Expose your dog to all the cool baby gear that will be in your home. Put the baby cradles, swings and play centers out and turn them on. Walk your dog with the stroller, teaching him to heel next to you. Purchase baby gates and practice keeping your dog in a room separate from you. If you do not already have a crate invest in one and start conditioning your dog to enjoying the safety and comfort of his very own space.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Take the time it takes to socialize and expose your dog gradually to babies and children. Consult a well-qualified dog trainer early so you can train your dog with obedience commands and learn how to avoid and prevent socialization shortfalls. Congratulations on your new journey with baby and dog!
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.