chitter, chatter teeth
shiver, shake, goosebumps
pale, white skin
red, burning eyes
wrinkled, prune-like fingers reach for hot chocolate
We counted the weeks and finally, the days until school would be done for the summer. It seemed cruel that, our parents would wake us early in those first few weeks, and drive us into town where we were made to jump into a cold, busy swimming pool and then stand, becoming colder, along the side waiting for our turn to demonstrate our abilities.
After the lessons, we would quickly change and run out to whichever parent was there to collect us. My siblings and our friends would sit in the back of the vehicle, our goosebumps jostling together like sandpaper as we awaited our after lesson treat.
I’m sure my pups, Henry and Reese feel the same way about being carried out and placed in cold lake water. My dogs do not enjoy swimming. Before becoming their mom, I didn’t know such dogs existed – I thought all dogs loved to swim!
My husband and I both enjoy the water; we also love spending time with the furkids. It seemed a shame we were unable to enjoy the water with the furkids.
I booked a training session with Henry’s agility trainer – Veronica also does ‘Dock Diving,’ water sports for dogs so I figured if anyone could help my guys overcome their fear, and hopefully enjoy the water, it would be Veronica.
We met at a large park, with a section of beach designated for dogs to play (or have swimming lessons). Veronica, Henry, Reese and I headed over to the lake and almost immediately, the level of excitement at being in the park for a walk, became noticeably diminished as we arrived at the shore. It was a beautiful, sunny day and yet, Henry and Reese (still completely dry at this stage), shivered and shook as if they’d just done a polar dip.
Veronica and I waded into the water, a pup each in our arms. Once the two had relaxed, we placed them in the water and allowed them to swim to shore. The leads attached so no one could make an escape!
We let Henry and Reese stand at the waters edge and splash about with their paws before our second and third attempts. The fourth time, we changed it up on them; instead of allowing their compass (tail) to point straight to shore, Veronica and I took turns passing the leads back and forth, encouraging Henry and Reese to swim parallel to the shoreline. Although they were inclined to turn towards the beach, we guided them back and forth the few feet between us human markers. “Bums up, little dogs.” In order to cut down on the ‘thrashing’ and make the exercise more fluent, Veronica had me support Henry, low under his abdomen in ‘swimming position’ so his back end wasn’t much lower than his head.
Reese is a good little swimmer, and I think if Henry learns that it’s not just a means of survival and enjoys a little paddle she will too. Reese loves indoor fetch; who knows, maybe she will be a little ‘dock diver’ one day.
Reminders (from Veronica)…
When you have the dogs swimming keep them on a leash at this point. Wait for a moment of relaxation, and then let them swim to shore.
Keep the leash held low (not lifting head up) so that the swim position is better and they don’t “thrash”. If need be, you can put your arm under the pelvic area to support them to keep the bum high.
Do not pull the dogs into the water. When you pull the dog’s opposition reflex kicks in, and they resist (and pullback) even more.
Pick them up, carry them in the water. Stand for a bit, then place them in the water in the swimming position (i.e., head level with bum). Let them swim in circles a bit then when YOU are ready (not the dog) allow them to swim back to shore.
Keep your tone positive at all times. No coddling insecure moments.
(Sadie says: Pffffff. Who me? As if!)
Permission for use of photographs kindly given my Glenn Wilcox of Glenn Willcox Photography