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Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Swims: Teaching Your Dog When it is Acceptable to Swim

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
© Carrie Boyko
Pool Times are Good Times

Tanner, my Golden Retriever, is fanatical about water. If he sees it, he immediately looks to me for permission to get in it. After a number of shivering swimming sessions--during which he did not learn that cold weather swimming isn't a good idea--I finally taught him to swim only when given permission.

© Carrie Boyko
Two years later, Tanner continues to abide by my rules. He'll play by the pool and look at it as if he's in love, but won't go in until his imploring looks through the windows at me finally get him his way. I like to know I can keep an eye on him while he swims, as well as limit his water time when the temperatures get chilly. 

My silly boy will continue to swim no matter how badly he is shivering. You'd think he would snuggle up to the towel basket to get warm, but he is so in love with the water that he continues to jump in and play like a kid in a candy store who can't stop eating, even after the stomach ache has become overwhelming.
© Carrie Boyko

A neighbor once asked how I taught him that the pool is off limits until I give permission. It's really a simple technique with Tanner. He always has a pool toy or two when he swims--floaty toys that make the activity that much more fun. I taught him the command SWIM just like every agility command, by associating it with the activity. He understands it is a verb. Aren't you impressed with my dog's command of English grammar? 

© Carrie Boyko
Drop It !
Since SWIM is always offered in conjunction with a toy, he waits for the toy to be tossed in. When SWIM time is over, I ask Tanner to SIT and DROP IT. I take the toy from the pool deck and place it on a shelf, where he can clearly see that his toys are all stored. This signals that swim time is over, as no toys are available. He understands the message and proceeds to the next step in the activity...

When Tanner understands that SWIM has ended, he meets me at the hose to be rinsed of pool water, and toweled off. This is an enjoyable massage for him, giving him another reason to love his SWIM time, which is fine with me. It's great exercise and good for calming his energy level and practicing his Fetch skills, while it is also easy on his joints.

© E. Glavin
Great Attention
We have no joint issues so far, yet we know that Golden Retrievers are prone to hip displaysia, so proactive measurements are in place. 

Today's lesson is a simple and effective way to teach a dog a behavior you desire--pair it with a toy he intensely enjoys and use that toy to signal when the behavior or activity is acceptable or not. 

The same technique works equally as well with a leash. Tanner understands that leaving the yard is unacceptable. But when a leash is attached to his collar, he will follow me eagerly off the property for a walk. Try pairing your dog's tools of the trade with his activities, to signal appropriate times for them. You'll find this makes your life with dog much more pleasant for both of you. Happy tails!

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop hosted by Confessions of the Plume, Life with Dogs and Two Little Cavaliers. Feel free to enjoy perusing the list below, and let me know if you find any great blogs out there. If you choose to link up your own blog, be sure to follow their rules, as stated on their sites. Happy hopping!


FANCY the Red Standard Poodle said...

Hi Y'all,

My Human just uses commands I know whenever she is trying to photograph birds or keep me from getting eaten my a 'gator.

I only swim when commanded to retrieve something. Like your idea of teaching "swim" as a command.

Wishing y'all a very merry Christmas!
Hawk aka BrownDog

Anonymous said...

I wish I had a pool to swim in - but at least I have my trails. Merry Christmas! -Bongo

Pet Opions said...

Nice pics and description. Merry Christmas!

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