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Dog swimming in pool with tennis ball in mouth.
Pet Blog

Teaching Your Dog to Swim in the Pool the Fun and Safe Way

Want your dog to join you in the pool this summer? It’s a great way to beat the heat and get more hang time together! We’ve got advice on how to safely introduce your pooch to the pool.

Should You Introduce Your Dog to the Pool?

Okay, first things first: is it ok to let your dog swim in your pool? The short answer is yes, as long as you’re careful.

Before you do anything, consider if your dog wants to be in the water. Some dogs are fans of water from the get-go, leaping headfirst into any body of water they see. Others are a little more reluctant. Chunky, short-legged dogs might struggle to stay afloat, and some dogs simply find the water too scary to mess with. A life jacket and some good treats go a long way toward tempting them to swim, but consider their natural desire and aptitude to be in the water before you launch into swim lessons.

Next, think about how your dog could affect your pool. As much as we love our dogs, the simple truth is that they’re much messier than (most) humans! They bring fur, muddy paws, and possible bacteria into the pool with them. Fact: a single dog can add as much stress to your pool filter as three humans. You’ll have to be extra vigilant with pool cleaning if your pups are regular swimmers! You should also trim and file any long nails, as they can scratch plastic or vinyl pool liners and even other swimmers during vigorous doggy paddling.

If you’re prepared to spend some extra time with the pool skimmer and your pooch is ready to dip their toes in the water, it’s time to teach your dog to swim!

How to Teach Your Dog to Swim in a Pool

  1. Start small. The goal is to get your dog comfortable standing in the shallowest point of your pool, which is typically the top step of the stairs. Sit there with them and make it fun by tempting them with treats, toys, and praise. Teach them to get in and out of the pool and repeat the process many times so they know where the exit is to get out whenever they want.
  2. One step at a time—literally. Once your dog is comfortable on the top step, encourage them to hop down to the next step, and the next, and so on. If you have a small or short-legged dog who can’t reach the bottom after a step or two, you can instead hold them in your arms and let them get comfortable with floating as you step further into the water.
  3. Introduce the doggy paddle. As your dog reaches the limits of how deep their paws can reach, encourage them to go a little farther—which means they’ve gotta swim. This is a great time to introduce a dog life jacket into the equation if your pooch could use a little extra buoyancy. Stay close to your dog so you’re ready to support them under their chest and belly as they learn to paddle. If they forget to use their back legs, give them a little tap as a reminder.
  4. Teach them all the pool exits. Once they’re paddling comfortably, it’s time to teach them how to get out. Stay close to them in the water, and have a partner call them to the exit until they have it down pat. Repeat this process many times on different days, when they’ve entered the pool from different locations, and at all exits so they always know an escape route.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! Keep enjoying pool time in short sessions, repeat the training you’ve already done, and add new elements as they master swimming. Let them swim longer distances or introduce games of aquatic fetch. Before long, they’ll be lapping you in the pool!

Water Safety Tips for Dogs

  • NEVER leave your dog unattended in the water
  • Keep the pool fenced or covered so your dog can’t wander in unsupervised
  • Doggy life jackets can be lifesavers for poor swimmers and a helpful safety feature for strong swimmers
  • Make sure exits to the pool are always clear of any obstructions like pool floats
  • Dogs can swim in chlorine pools safely, but you should wash your dog after swimming in the pool with clean water to avoid irritation of their skin and coat
  • Dogs can swim in saltwater pools as well and a post-swim rinse off will help to keep their fur soft
  • Dogs drink pool water, and sometimes lots of it! Low levels of chlorine can’t kill dogs if they drink it in the water, but too much of any kind of pool water can cause stomach upset and serious complications
  • Always provide fresh water poolside so they have a place to get a drink of salt or chemical-free water
  • Low doses of pool chemicals diluted in the water are dog safe, but pool chemicals should always be stored safely and securely away from inquisitive noses

Getting your dog comfortable and happy in the pool is a worthwhile summer activity! Before long you’ll have a companion for every backyard pool day and at every dog-friendly swimming pool you find in your travels. In fact, a quick search for “swimming pool for dogs near me” might just supply you two with a field trip to take next weekend…you’re welcome in advance.