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Zoey (15 mo. old BC) has a fear of the lake we are at almost every weekend year-round. Lake Cumberland is a large, deep, clear lake surrounded by wilderness, limestone cliffs, located in the foothills of the Cumberland mountains. Vastly undeveloped except for locations near marinas. Boat ramps are steep, no shallow areas, especially on the west end of the lake, where we like to call our second home. There aren't any swim beaches so our swimming is done off of our boat. She doesn't mind the boat rides, it's when we go swimming that makes her nervous.

It can get very hot during the summer months and we do alot of boating and swimming and when we get in the water, she gets nervous. She pokes her head over the side of the boat and peeks at us, then hides under the helm seat. We have to literally drag her out from under there if a treat doesn't work. When we have been able to get her in the water it is with her life jacket on with built in handles and we carefully drop her in with my husband waiting in the water to accept her and reassure her. The water is warm, and she seems ok with putzing around for very short periods, then paddling quickly back to the boat for me to pick her up out of the water. Back in the boat, we remove her jacket, she shakes off and hides back under the seat. Eventually she relaxes and walks around the boat when we chillout and sun-dry before starting the boat and off to the next cove or back to the dock. As I said before, it can get pretty darn hot in southern Kentucky during the summer, so we want her to swim to cool off, otherwise I wouldn't be "forcing" the issue. It gets a little easier each time she swims, and we don't "force" her every boat ride.

Any ideas to make this transition smoother? Anyone else out there with similar deep-water experiences? Should I take her to another lake with better walk-in access until she gets used to "our lake"? Should I just keep doing what we are doing by just making her get used to it with frequent, short dips or would extended swim time with added activity of floating toys help? I will also admit that I get a little nervous when I see her get scared of swimming, as I want her to love the lake like we do, so I was really trying to be more confident and more relaxed as the fall lake season ended. Just wanting some pointers to look forward to trying out come lake season 2014. Thanks in advance for any replies!!

 

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It wouldn't hurt to try introducing her to the water in a less drastic manner i.e. working with her to walk in from a lake/pond with a beach area which allows for a more gradual depth change.

 

Having said that, my dog needed to swim for some physical therapy. The rehab vet put a life jacket on him and, more or less, carried him into her exercise pool. She held him for a while, then started wiggling toys in front of his face so he would concentrate more on the toy than on his stress at having to swim. (Note: he is a toy fanatic). It took about 3 visits before he really 'wanted' to go into her pool and play. The entire time he is in her pool, he plays with toys in a supervised manner.

 

BUT, although he loves to go into her pool, he is not very willing to go into rivers or ponds just to swim around. Even if I throw a toy, he doesn't always want to enter the water.

 

Apparently, his love of swimming is very situational.

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You want her to cool off but she doesn't. :) I don't see any reason to drop a dog into deep water to cool off unless it was medically necessary for some reason. Dropping her into the water sounds frightening for her. I would do as you suggested already and take her somewhere where she can walk into the water on her own terms. My dog was afraid of water as well but now I can hardly keep him away, he loves it so much. I took him to creeks and let him walk behind me in just a few inches of water. I would toss a ball or frisbee into a couple inches of water and built up the deepness from there. Take it step by step, a few inches, a few more, then eventually paddling around to get a toy.

 

Make the water fun and let her discover it on her own a bit more. Take her favorite toy to the edge of a shallow part of a lake, pond, creek and get her playing. It will take some time but be patient. There is no need to drop your dog into water because it is hot outside. Provide water for her to drink instead.

 

Your dog may never want to launch off of a boat into deep water to wade around in. I don't think my water loving dog would like that either. I know I want my dog to enjoy all the activities I do but not all dogs like certain activities. I certainly think though, that she can be more comfortable with the water but she may never be a Lab. :D

 

As I said before, it can get pretty darn hot in southern Kentucky during the summer, so we want her to swim to cool off, otherwise I wouldn't be "forcing" the issue.

 

Anyone else out there with similar deep-water experiences? Should I take her to another lake with better walk-in access until she gets used to "our lake"?

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Hi waffles, thanks for the reply. I understand that she might not really be hot and don't wanna get in the water, though I beg to differ that she just might be. When it is in the 90's with blazing sunshine and she only has the shade of approx. 3x5 foot bimini canopy and no breeze, plenty of water to drink, and we've been floating for a couple of hours at anchor in a cove, I want her to join us in the water to get used to what it's like AND to cool off. Maybe I am being selfish and thoughtful over being more attentive to what my dog might not like to do. But guess what-- I can't change my way of life and like I said we are at this lake ALOT. She loves the campsite, it's a primitive site w/o hookups, lotsa trees and woods, no air conditioning (unless we start the generator) so I'm not gonna crate her inside a hot tent or our tiny little camper while we go out and do the boating and swimming thing without her. And we aren't necessarily "dropping" her into the water in a harsh way, maybe bad choice of words-- I am slowly easing her into the water, directly into my hubby's arms, as I hold the handles built into the life jacket. I then jump in to join them, she doesn't panic or resist, just won't stay in the water without swimming right back towards the boat after about a minute. Bath time is relatively easy so she's not a water hater. Just wondered if anyone had the same type deep water experience and if it will get easier next summer or should I just be happy with the methods I have been doing. The jacket also seems to be high quality, non-cumbersome, and is only put on her when she's about to swim. Should I maybe keep it on her at all times on the boat? I must add that I am a very cautious and skilled boater and feel confident that she is safe without the jacket on while underway, as she only rides directly under the helm, holding on to the seat pole, in a very safe position. She also seems very comfortable there, as she will nap in her spot as well. I wouldn't boat with her in any other way than the safest, just haven't forced her to wear the life jacket on those hot lake days. Anymore input??

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It wouldn't hurt to try introducing her to the water in a less drastic manner i.e. working with her to walk in from a lake/pond with a beach area which allows for a more gradual depth change.

 

Having said that, my dog needed to swim for some physical therapy. The rehab vet put a life jacket on him and, more or less, carried him into her exercise pool. She held him for a while, then started wiggling toys in front of his face so he would concentrate more on the toy than on his stress at having to swim. (Note: he is a toy fanatic). It took about 3 visits before he really 'wanted' to go into her pool and play. The entire time he is in her pool, he plays with toys in a supervised manner.

 

BUT, although he loves to go into her pool, he is not very willing to go into rivers or ponds just to swim around. Even if I throw a toy, he doesn't always want to enter the water.

 

Apparently, his love of swimming is very situational.

Thanks for your reply, makes sense about the pond/creek/shallow beach type entry. It's just that there aren't many to choose from without driving for an hour, as most of the ponds/creeks/small lakes nearby are on private farmland and have cattle or pigs (shew) or the small lakes are water reservoirs with no swimming allowed. I guess I better plan frequent one hour drives to the lakes with the swim beaches to get her better acquainted to swimming in a lake. I want her to learn that large expanses of water are to not be feared but respected, and she is very very smart and environmentally aware, so I guess I didn't ease her into it without her first being fearful of the unknown. In other words, I probably shocked her into submission. It's either BIG lake or the bathtub, lol....

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When our Vikki was six, I found out about swimming lessons at a pool that was part of the rec center for the company for which DH worked. Free. So I took her. They put those floatation things on her arms and made her whole class jump into the shallow end. All the other kids could stand and have their heads above water. Vikki (who at 47 is still only 4'10") was well over her head. And scared. The instructor kept telling her that she was perfectly safe with the floatation bits. We may have made it a week.

 

Luckily, that next week, the free lessons at our village beach began. These were in a wide area of a river. She could walk in. Each kid could go out to an appropriate depth. No floatation devises necessary. Vikki had a ball! And became a great swimmer. Willing to dive in ad swim in pools and lakes and all.

 

Poor Zoe cannot touch bottom and has no way of understanding that her floatation device will really keep her safe. Please let her learn about swimming somewhere where she feels she has control. She may never love it. Our Fergie liked only chasing wavelets on a large pond. But she might stand a chance of accepting it.

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Thanks for your reply, makes sense about the pond/creek/shallow beach type entry. It's just that there aren't many to choose from without driving for an hour, as most of the ponds/creeks/small lakes nearby are on private farmland and have cattle or pigs (shew) or the small lakes are water reservoirs with no swimming allowed. I guess I better plan frequent one hour drives to the lakes with the swim beaches to get her better acquainted to swimming in a lake. I want her to learn that large expanses of water are to not be feared but respected, and she is very very smart and environmentally aware, so I guess I didn't ease her into it without her first being fearful of the unknown. In other words, I probably shocked her into submission. It's either BIG lake or the bathtub, lol....

Sorry, I guess I should have been more clear instead of citing a personal example, so - IF you have the availability of a shallow beach entry, that might help with teaching your dog to be more comfortable in water (as waffles has explained).

 

My example indicated that my dog was also directly placed in 'deep' water (deep enough to have to swim), but that he became more comfortable, and after a few sessions, he actually began to enjoy it mainly because the water was paired with toy play. Since he is a toy fanatic, that combination worked for him. It may not have worked for a dog not as toy-focused. My point, in relating my experience, was that you could try pairing swimming with toy play (if your dog loves toys) - as you asked in your original posting.

 

I hope that is clearer. :)

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When my current dog was young he was terrified of water, he would stand at the edge of the pond and scream while our other dog frolicked and swam. We live in a seaside town and my husband works in the marine industry so the dogs are on floating docks and by the water all the time, so he did not have to like swimming just be comfortable enough not to drown if he went in.

It was a gradual process, of just throwing a favorite toy in a couple of inches, once I went swimming with him and slowly he learned that water was not going to kill him to the swimming fiend we have to today. Now he would leap of your boat.

 

We never forced him, just let him take it at his own pace. We do live in an area with a shallow fresh water and lots of beaches which helped.

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Should I take her to another lake with better walk-in access until she gets used to "our lake"?

 

Great idea. I think you will find her more confident in the water if you let her get used to it on her own terms, and since you want her to be comfortable with water in the long term, I think it would be helpful to go this route. It works much better, in my experience.

 

The canine swim center in my area was converted from an equine pool for hydrotherapy, so there is a long ramp that makes transitioning into the water much easier. Even with that, my dog Hannah was nervous about going deeper into the pool. I live close to the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River in Maryland, so there is a local spot with a small beach where I took Hannah. With a gradual entry into the water, she was able to become accustomed to it on her own terms. This has proved helpful in getting her comfortable with water in general. In fact, I actually had to stop her from going into a pond at a different area (with a huge snapping turtle that kind of freaks me out), She thought it might be fun to follow the ducks into the pond.

 

I have a lot of family northeast of your area in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park area (okay, Pine Ridge, Nada and other places that are probably not on the map, LOL!). My mother is from there. It is a beautiful area and my absolute favorite place to go camping.

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DO NOT leave the life jacket on when she is not in the water. It's a recipe for rapid overheating whether she's wet or dry. Put it on when she's about to swim and off as soon as she's out of the water.

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I've had 4 dogs so far and we have a cabin we go to a fair amount. 3 of the 4 love water but all 4 have been petrified if I try to pick them up to place them in the water (even if they can touch the bottom where I'm going to put them). I think its the fear of the feet not touching. My chow/spaniel mix just didn't enjoy being wet and she was jet black. If I had treats I could toss them in and she would reluctantly go get it if it was high value enough and come back. My old border collie liked the water and her insane drive to not be separated from me did allow her to jump off the dock if I was in the water swimming away from her, but she really had to work up to it with a lot of whining etc first. The aussie loves swimming as long as he can go in from somewhere his feet touch and work his way out. There is absolutely no way I could get him off the boat or dock into the water, he's absolutely terrified of the drop into the water. He will even start shaking and trembling if someone goes to try and push him out or pick him up to put him in the water. On HIS terms, he will fetch and swim for a long time...so long as he enters the water where he can see the depth and its shallower than his chest. My young border collie is the same as him although I have gotten her to plop off a ledge that is about flush to the height of the water to get a toy. That is what we were working on this past summer at the lake and she is still fairly hesitant.

 

I do have a cooling jacket I used for my old border collie which worked wonders to keep her cool on hot days. Its made of shammy type material that you get wet and wring out a bit and it keeps them cool underneath it for hours! I love it. When its dry the material is hard and you can't bend it or flex it, but once wet its soft and movable. Best thing ever!

 

IMG_5690.jpg

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Sorry that this is off-topic but do dogs really need life jackets? We live by the ocean so we are talking about beach access only but I have never seen a dog in a life jacket. And there are dogs that swim quite far out in sometimes rough surf. Are they used because some dogs actually can't swim or because you are worried if they fell out of the boat they would panic and drown? I would imagine that the life jacket would feel kind of odd to a dog unless they were used to carrying a pack.

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If you take them out in a small boat it makes retrieving them possible if they go overboard. Ours never wear one for swimming but when we have taken them canoeing they have, and if we ever take them sailing or out on small power boat they do. If you have ever experienced trying to pull a human back aboard you realize a panicking dog would be a nightmare. All good life jackets have handles on the back and extra buoyancy helps when getting them back in.

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I have a friend who puts life vests on all her dogs (BCs, German Koolies and a PWD) to swim in even a small pond. I think it's hilarious!

 

My dogs have always been good swimmers and I've never felt the need to buy them live vests. :rolleyes:

It depends, as so many things do, on the situation. In a small body of water that you and the dog(s) are familiar with, fine. In a largish body of water, big enough for a good sized wave, it's a good idea. In any body of water, like a river, with a current, I'd make it a requirement.

 

I've been in some strong currents when white water rafting. Don't want to take that kind of chance.

 

Ruth and Agent Gibbs

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We use life vests when we take the dogs out on the boat. As has been pointed out, they make getting a dog back into the boat much easier. Plus, if something unexpected should happen, we would all (people included) have on a personal flotation device. We could be quite a swim from shore when we are out boating on the sound, the wind can get brisk, and it can be a bit choppy. Just in case.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, we actually only have two vests right now and we put them on the less confident swimmers - Celt who is older and Dan who is a bit anxious about swimming. Megan, who would live in the water if you let her, is the one who goes without until we get another, which I plan on doing before next boating season.

 

For swimming in ponds, the tidal creek, or the sound, none of them wear a vest. They all swim well, we are never that far from shore, and all are healthy and sound.

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It depends, as so many things do, on the situation.

 

Of course, but the pond I was talking about is maybe a quarter acre and completely still water. Life vests in that situation are more than a little bit of overkill.

 

If I were whitewater rafting w/ my dogs, I might consider vests. ;)

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I really appreciate all the input!! I will definitely take Zoey to Nolin Lake next summer. It has gradual entry into the water, and I will forgo the life jacket in this environment. I cautiously decided to have her wear the jacket while swimming in Lake Cumberland's deep water due to her initial anxiety of the boat, she used to be so timid about looking over the edge at the water-- I was afraid she might panic, jump out into the 100 ft. deep lake and drown...I have been paranoid, but as she's gotten more at ease and comfy in the boat, so have we. I guess I have been hoping for the best scenarios to happen quickly and I have been impatient!! She is absolute perfection to me whether she ends up being a strong swimmer or not, so I will give her the best opportunity to learn to like it or she will just be happy joining us in the boat for rides!

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Both Celt and Dan have a certain natural reluctance towards water, particularly Dan. Megan and Bute both took to it in a way that would make a duck feel inadequate.

 

So what we have done that has been most successful is to be where there is a gradual entry into the water and played with an irresistible toy - in our case, a ball. After letting them watch Megan and Bute leap whole-heartedly into the water, I'd throw a few just into the water where Celt or Dan could just get their feet wet and get the reward of getting the ball. I'd gradually increase the distance they'd have to go into the water.

 

By this time, all the dogs are good swimmers and certainly not fearful of the water but they all do like to get into it on their own. Both Celt and Dan also will not get out into the water to swimming depth unless they feel they have a very likely chance of being the one who will be successful at getting the ball.

 

They both have learned how to swim, to not be afraid even if reluctant, and to enjoy the water, each in their own way. And I love water games and boating with them!

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Does she have a water-loving friend? Just seeing another dog go bounding happily into the water will make most dogs think maybe water isn't quite as scary as it looks. Take it slow, don't push her, let her inch her way in rather than doing it whole-hog. She may never love it, but she should eventually get to the point that can cool off.

 

And we put life jackets on the pups when we go boating - not only is it easier to pick them up from the water, but they're also much more visible to other boaters on the water.

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Does she have a water-loving friend? Just seeing another dog go bounding happily into the water will make most dogs think maybe water isn't quite as scary as it looks.

 

So yeah... this ^^

When I first introduced Camden to swimming he was very timid, but I made sure to use a good motivator (a ball) and to gradually increase the distance I threw it so he was comfortable swimming out for it. We were also at a lake, so the drop into the water was not nearly as drastic as jumping off the edge of a boat. Anyways...

 

With my boy I discovered that competition breeds excellence. :P

 

At some point I over did it and threw the ball out a bit too far. He looked at the ball and then back at me as if to say "seriously, mom??". When he looked back at the ball bobbing in the water he saw a random yellow lab was making a bee line for it. Camden didn't miss a beat. He was in the water and my newbie swimmer BC beat that lab to the ball. I'm not sure he even gave it a second thought once he saw another dog going after the ball I threw for him, lol. It wasn't planned, but that yellow lab likely helped him become a much more confident swimmer much faster then I ever could have.

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It can sometimes help if you go out into the water first. Some reluctant swimmers won't want to be left behind and will venture out into the water just to stay with their people.

 

As with the other methods described, prolly best to start in shallow water and go out just a tiny bit, encouraging her to come to you. Or maybe ignoring her, depending on her reactions. If she goes into the water, you can gradually increase the depth as she becomes more confident.

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