Swimming lessons for dogs

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John ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick, head trainer at Cosford Dog Training incorporates swimming for dogs into a fun exercise.

John ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick, head trainer at Cosford Dog Training.

“The fun thing my dogs love is swimming.

“Swimming is brilliant for dogs, because it’s an excellent form of exercise, and a cracking confidence builder. It gets the dog working, and you can incorporate lots of games and water retrieves.

Fitz knows that having fun with your dog is important for your relationship.

“Dogs go absolutely mad for swimming, although it sometimes takes them a while to get into it. I’ve got three adolescent dogs at the moment, Malinois siblings: Jellybean, Peanut, and Ajax.

“From the outset, Peanut and Ajax took to swimming; shortly after being lifted into the training pool for the first time, they were leaping in with very little encouragement. Jellybean, on the other hand, took several visits to the pool, and only really got into the fun and games when a floating Frisbee was used. 

“When introducing a dog to swimming, do it with a professional who knows exactly what they’re doing. There are many places now with hydrotherapy pools big enough to let the dogs swim freely, often alongside their owners. 

“During swimming lessons, the dogs wear flotation jackets, like life jackets, so they can’t sink, and you can go into the pool with them. 

“If you’re going to let your dog swim in a lake, or the sea, you’ve got to be very careful that it’s absolutely safe and follow any local safety instructions. Using a 20-metre safety line is a sensible precaution.

“For any form of therapeutic swimming, it’s essential to go to a qualified specialist. For dogs with injuries, it’s a treatment often recommended by vets as an aid to recovery — as long as it’s done properly. Swimming is a fantastic form of therapy for older dogs who have joint problems, and for younger dogs it’s just fun without stressing their developing joints or bones when done carefully. 

“Water retrieves should be started on land, and are better performed with special floating toys, made for the purpose. Most professionally run pools have a range of specialist toys you can use. Definitely avoid sticks or anything that may injure or choke your dog.”