Sunday, June 2, 2013

If you're going to live on a boat, you should know how to swim.

Makes sense doesn't it?  If you are going to live surrounded by water, might make sense to know how to swim.  Of course, my wife and I know how to swim (we are actually PADI certified divers) but our two dogs haven't been raised around water. So, how does one introduce dogs that don't even like baths to swimming?  Lessons, of course.

When our oldest dog had surgery on her leg a number of months back, the doctor recommended physical therapy and gave us the name of a place that actually does PT for pets.  They did conventional stretching and exercises and they also had water treadmills and a pool. We found that, in addition to their clinical work, they offered open swimming and private swims for dogs as well (like a public swimming pool for pets). So, while we work on other aspects of our plan, we figured that we might as well get them introduced to the water. This weekend we did just that...our dogs had their first swimming lesson.
The "lesson" was reserved private pool time with one of their employees. We weren't sure how the dogs would do.  Our oldest dog has had exposure to their water treadmills during her treatment and in general is more of an adventurous free spirit so we figured she might do OK.  Our other dog is very timid and we wondered if he would even get in the water at all.

So, we start off by just introducing them to the pool area.  It is an above ground pool with a ramp leading up to a deck that partially wraps around the pool. While I was walking our timid dog around the pool deck to get him comfortable and my wife was talking to the employee, we hear a splash and there was our older dog in the water flailing around. She didn't look happy and was trying to get out so  I run over and grab onto the handle of the life vest as the employee (wearing waders in the pool) comes over to get her.  The employee then leads her over to the ramp across the pool so she could easily get out on her own.  Not the best start, but at least she was swimming.  I can only presume she fell in, but I wonder what she was doing.  The employee thought maybe she was trying to sniff at the water and lost traction on the slippery edge of the soft sided pool.

We managed to coax our older dog into the pool a couple more times, and she was picking up the whole swimming thing pretty fast.  When she wants to head to the ramp to get out, she can swim faster than the employee can keep up walking in the waders.  Overall, I think it went well, at least she found out she can swim (and hopefully when to hold her breath).

Our younger, more timid dog was another case.  In the half hour we had the pool, it was all we could to to coax him to walk down the ramp towards the water.  We did manage to get him, of his own accord, to step into the water.  We consider this a win (did I mention that he's timid?).  I think it will be a few more lessons to get him comfortable, but hopefully he'll get there.

Overall I think it was a good thing to do. Introducing them to water and swimming in a reasonably safe and controlled environment seems like it should pay dividends down the road.

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