Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of summer for many people. Now that we are getting close to warmer weather, you need to consider how to entertain your pet during the “dog days of summer.” This week’s blog post will give you some great ideas for keeping your pet entertained and cool at the same time – with water! Keep reading to learn about some great water games to play with your pets. At the end we’ve listed a few awesome spots to take your pups for a wet and wild outing!
Not all dogs enjoy swimming. Not all dogs even like water. While swimming and water play are great ways to wear your dog out without letting them overheat, do not force your pup into the water. Take some time this summer to teach them to enjoy water, whether it’s splashing or swimming but if they are resistant, find another way to entertain and wear your pup out that doesn’t add stress. Training your pup to be a swimmer doesn’t happen overnight. Like any new skill, swimming takes preparation and practice but can give lifelong benefits. Follow the tips below provided by Fear Free Pets to get your pup comfortable with being in or near the water.
- Start on dry land. Use a kiddie pool filled with 1-2 inches of water and play with your pet around and near it. Once they are comfortable with the pool, toss the toys into it for your pup to go “bobbing for toys.” Allow them to hop in and out of the pool many times so they get used to splashing and being wet.
- Head to a pool or lake. Put your dog on a leash and walk into a shallow section of the water with your pup. Walk in and out several times so they learn that they can get out of the water whenever they are not comfortable or feeling overwhelmed. Use lots of verbal praise and a positive voice to encourage confidence in your pup. You can provide treats as your pup continues to walk next to you into the water, or toss a toy slightly ahead of your pup if he/she enjoys retrieving.
- Back your dog in. If your pup is nervous or if he/she has had a bad experience with water they may feel more comfortable backing into the water rather than going face first. In this case, start by teaching your dog how to back up on land before attempting it in the water. Always allow your dog to decide whether they’d like to participate or not.
- Go deeper. Once a puppy or dog becomes comfortable with being wet and splashing in the kiddie pool and shallow section, it’s time to ease them into swimming. This stage requires constant supervision for all dogs! Always use a life jacket on your pup, especially on their first few attempts, both for safety and for their comfort. Calmly and slowly introduce your pet to deeper water and encourage them to begin to lift their feet up and paddle.
- Provide support. Many dogs will lift their hind legs first while keeping their front legs planted, but will not paddle with the hind legs initially. Keep your hands under their belly for support and if they become scared at any point bring them back to land or shallower water where they can stand. Continue to encourage them to paddle with all four legs. If your dog only uses the front legs to paddle they will quickly become tired. Keep the first full-body swim lesson short so as not to overtire or overwhelm your pup.
- Provide a role model. Other dogs who are confident swimmers may help you encourage your dog to spread his wings, or webbed feet as the case may be! If you don’t have another dog who likes to swim, try looking into group classes with an instructor.
- End on a good note. When water training your dog, just like with all training, it’s important to end on a good note, with something that your pet does well, to build their confidence. Even if your pup only gets his feet wet that first attempt, end with one of their favorite tricks near the water and give them a big reward. Make water a good association!
- Safety considerations: once your pup becomes a swimmer, be sure to follow these safety instructions to keep your pup safe.
- Check local health department warnings about toxic algae or high levels of E.coli bacteria in lakes you may be visiting.
- Make sure currents are not running too swiftly (especially during spring when there could be snow melt and runoff) in rivers or riptides too strong in oceans.
- Keep an eye out for submerged hazards like boulders, stumps, or manmade obstructions.
- Always carry a canine life jacket on your boat when you bring your dog out.
- Never toss your dog over the side of the boat or pool, they could drown.
- Bobbing for toys or ice cubes – dump some toys that float (or those that don’t) into the pool. If that doesn’t float your pup’s boat, try dumping some ice cubes or carrot sticks into the water and watch your pup chase them around, it’s a guaranteed belly laugh!
- Ice bucket challenge – no this isn’t what you think! Take a small bucket and fill it about 1/2-2/3 full (you can add a small amount of low sodium chicken broth for flavor). Toss in treats, baby carrrots, cut up fruit, whatever your dog may like and freeze overnight. Then pop the giant ice cube out of the bucket and let your pup lick away to get to the tasty treats!
- Pool fetch – for pups that enjoy swimming, toss bumpers or something that floats across the pool or into the lake so that they must swim out to get it
- Raft rides – if you have a pool, consider buying your pup a raft (designed to withstand dog nails) to join you in relaxing on the water
- Sprinkler play – set up your sprinkler and let your pup bounce and splash through it, or in the case of my pup, attack the water fiercely and soak her face. If you don’t have a sprinkler you can use a hose or even a larger water gun (just be sure not to spray your dog in the face)!
- Boating – a day on the lake can involve your four legged friend, and be more fun as a result! Just make sure your dog is comfortable around water and that you have a canine life jacket in the boat. For more of a workout for you, try canoeing or kayaking with your pup!
More skill required
- Keep away – requires 2 people, stand on either side of a pool or a certain distance in a lake and toss a toy between you so your pup must swim back and forth. Make sure your pup gets the toy frequently so he stays engaged and keep an eye on his energy level. You don’t want to overtire your pup in the water!
- Catch me if you can – teach your pup a “catch me” or “get me” command and once they know it, use it in the water to get them to swim along behind you (you might be swimming or walking along the pool)
- Toy diving – For pups that don’t mind submerging their faces, you may find a toy that will sink to the bottom for them to swim down and fetch. Be sure your pool/lake isn’t too deep and the pup can see where the toy goes. You don’t want them under for too long! (To teach this, begin in shallow water where you dog can just reach down to get the toy, then slowly work toward deeper water where your dog must actually dive)
- Water hoops – there’s a land game where you teach your pup to jump through a hula hoop. If you already have that mastered try bringing the hoop into the water and hold it partially submerged for your pup to swim through or fully submerged for your pup to dive through! If your pup enjoys jumping into the water to fetch, you can incorporate a hoop into that exercise as well.
- Dock diving – dogs chase a bumper (floating toy) that is thrown off a simulated dock, awards go to the dog who jumps the farthest
- Surfing – make sure you are an experienced surfer and put a life jacket on your pup. Check out Tillman the surfing skateboarding bulldog for a good chuckle!
- Paddle boarding – stand-up paddle boarding can be a blast with your pup, but make sure that you are an experienced paddle boarder and always put a life jacket on your pup
Regardless of what you and your pup choose to do, make sure your follow any rules and restrictions, bring plenty of fresh water (you don’t want them drinking lake or pool water!), and rinse them clean after swim time.
Pools, Lakes, and Beaches – oh my!
Check out the links below for some fantastic water fun for your pups in the Twin Cities and surrounding area this summer:
- For the Love of Dogs: a training facility in Mendota Heights that offers dock diving classes, open swim, and private swimming lessons
- Woof Dah!: a daycare and boarding facility in Burnsville with an outdoor splash pad and an indoor swimming pool
- The Paw: a daycare and boarding facility in Mankato that offers private swim, open swim, and pool parties
- Channel 4: has a list of the best places to let your pup swim in Minnesota
- Sidewalk Dog: the ultimate site for fun things to do with your pup in the Twin Cities; check out their list of summer fun for great parks to let your dog swim