January 8, 2015

Teaching Toby How To Swim

Posted in: Dog


Our new life here in Adelaide consists of Toby and I going to the beach every morning and spending 2 hours there. We walk along the shore, swim in the water and sit and people watch. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the world. As I watch people playing in the water, swimming with their dogs, paddle boarding and running along the beach in next to nothing, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to spend every morning here.

One thing I adore is spending time in the water with Toby. His swimming technique cracks me up. He is what you would call an uncoordinated swimmer. What he lacks in grace, he makes up with in determination. He is determined to swim with us and stay in the water as long as he can. He does struggle swimming, at times, and will swim back to shore to rest or swim into our arms until he regains strength. I always say to him, ‘If only you could take off your fur coat, you would be able to swim much better.’

On the beach I have noticed there are 3 types of dogs, water lovers, paw dippers and ‘I hate water!’ dogs.

When training your dog to love the water, you need time and patience and be ready to except the fact that some dogs aren’t suited for the water. Dogs that aren’t great candidates for swimming are young puppies, senior dogs, overweight dogs, dogs who tend to overexert themselves, double-coated dogs, snub-nose dogs, short-legged dogs, dogs with large heads and barrel chests, dogs who are ill, have a medical problem, or are on medication.

When we taught Toby how to swim, we started off at a safe place, Brighton Dog Beach in Melbourne. Brighton Dog Beach has calm, shallow water. We didn’t want to teach him in a fast flowing river or water that was murky and contained plants or seaweed that could catch his paws.

We packed a ball and some treats to lure him into the water but found all we had to do was walk into the water and reluctantly he would follow us. He would splash around like crazy, his eyes closed, nose in the air and breathing very heavily.


^Toby reluctantly following me into the water

He would swim up to us and grab onto our legs and hold on as tight as possible, not letting us go.


^Dad I’m scared, I’m never letting go!


^I’m serious! Never!

We could see that he wasn’t enjoying himself and decided we should get him used to the water before trying to swim. We played fetch with his ball and let him chase after us in shallow parts.


^Playing in the shallow parts of the water

After a while we threw a stick into the water, not too far, and rewarded him with a treat when he went to retrieve it. We repeated this until both Andrew and I, as well as Toby, were over it.


^Retrieving a stick in water that he can stand up in


After our fun, we walked back into deeper water and called for him to come.

He would swim up to us and we would shower him with praise.


Once he was close to us, we provided him with the opportunity to rest by either holding his front paws up or picking him up out of the water.

^Showing more confidence

We repeated this exercise over and over again each time we went to the beach until we saw an increase in confidence and swimming ability.

These days Toby is a very confident but clumsy swimmer who is happy to get into the water to retrieve his ball or swim with us. As it has been so hot here in Adelaide, I have been spending a lot of time in the ocean and Toby is more than happy to come and hang out with me. He understands his limitations and will swim back to shore and rest before swimming back to me.


^Hi, I’m Toby Wigglebottom and I am the most confident swimmer there is!

8March40^Retrieving balls from deep water

Videos {press play}

What Toby’s swimming technique looks like today…lots of splashing about!

{video: press play} Splash, Splash.

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A true champion, swimming with the waves to retrieve his ball

Vifeo🎥: mum has surprised me with one last swim in the ocean before we set off. I'll miss this place.

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To recap how to teach your pooch to swim:

-First make sure they are suitable for the water

-Have fun in shallow areas before teaching them how to swim by playing fetch or chasing each other

-Once they are happy playing in water, slowly go deeper in and reward your pooch with treats or praise if they follow you

-Provide them with rest if they need by holding them up

-Walk or swim back to shore and let them follow you by swimming next to you

-Once you are back on shore, reward them

-Repeat this as many times as you need to