Often our idea of summer in Muskoka includes our dog swimming in the lake. While some dogs take to water naturally, others may take some time to get used to the idea, some may prefer not to swim but to wade and other may have a body type that makes swimming challenging.
If you would like your dog to enjoy the water, then key is planning a gradual introduction, allowing your dog to choose if they want to go in or not, and associating the water and/or swimming with something they enjoy.
Falling into the lake can be quite startling, scary and potentially dangerous, so it is best to find a dog-friendly beach or shallow water where your dog can practice walking into the water without immediately sinking. A poor first experience around water can cause some dogs to be quite leery of it in the future.
The Power of Choice
Having the ability to choose whether or not to do something is very empowering to our dogs. It can be hard for us to have the patience to let them explore and decide, however, allowing your dog to enter the water or start swimming when they feel comfortable can actually be faster than trying to get them started by putting them in the water yourself. Some dogs will not only avoid coming near the water if you do that, but will also start avoiding coming near you when you are near the water in case you are going to put them in again.
If your dog doesn't find retrieving inherently fun on it's own, you can teach swimming using treats, in fact, that's how I taught my beagle Reese to swim.
If you are heading into a large body of water on a boat, canoe or kayak with your dog, a life jacket is a good idea for them as well. In addition, some dogs find their body shape a little less conducive to swimming, or are afraid to try, and a life jacket can help them enjoy the water safely by adding a little more buoyancy to them.