- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Whether your dog needs to trim off a few pounds, rehab an injury, or just loves to get wet, swimming is one of the most highly recommended exercise activities by vets, trainers, and canine physical therapists.
As pets become even more beloved members of our family, dedicated dog swimming pools are cropping up everywhere, and many offer guided dog swim classes and other programming to help keep your four-legged friend in great shape.
Now that the summer is coming to a close, you might think the swimming season is over—not so! Here’s how to make the most of dog swim lessons no matter the season.
Pretty much any dog can benefit from guided swimming sessions with a pro. Swimming is great exercise because all major muscle groups get a workout, and it’s impact-free, which is great if your dog suffers from bad knees, hip dysplasia, or arthritis. In fact, just 15 minutes of swimming is the equivalent of a two-mile walk!
Dog swim classes can be great for dog parents, too. Some owners have their own health issues and aren’t always able to see to their dog’s physical fitness, while others find themselves too busy with work and other obligations to regularly exercise their dogs.
If getting your dog out and about is too difficult, dog swim classes are a great way to make sure your dog is getting the exercise they need.
Some breeds like Labradors and poodles are total naturals in the water. Others, like pugs and corgis, may as well be furry sacks of bricks. Often, no matter what kind of dog it is, they’re tentative and fearful when it comes to getting in the water for the first time. Many dog pools offer introductory lessons for your dog to help get them comfortable in the water, regardless of their breed.
While teaching your dog to swim yourself is possible, there are plenty of pitfalls a professional dog swim trainer knows how to overcome.
For example, if not properly taught or monitored during the learning phase, dogs can easily get into trouble in the water. Having a professional teach your dog the right ways to paddle, dive, and float will mitigate any risk of drowning.
Similarly, if you have a pool at home, it was probably built for people. Unless your dog is human-sized (I’m looking at you, Great Danes), then your pool won’t offer a place for the dog to rest in the water, and it may be difficult for them to exit the pool on their own. Dog pools at canine aquatic centers were built with dogs in mind.
Other natural bodies of water aren’t ideal either. Ocean tides and currents can be dangerous for new dog swimmers and might be too cold as the season winds down. Ponds and lakes, depending on where you live, are also habitats to many animals that might not be so friendly with your puppy. You don’t want your dog to become an alligator snack!
Not to mention, teaching your dog to swim requires some investment in safety gear. If you’d rather spend your money on quality dog swim lessons, the dog pools will often supply things like life vests, floating toys, and other training equipment.
Hydrotherapy, or water rehab for dogs, is the preferred method of rehabilitating your dog after an injury, surgery, or to help treat chronic pain issues like arthritis and hip dysplasia. Because swimming is very low-impact, water rehab for dogs can help strengthen dogs’ muscles without risking further injury from running on hard ground.
Swimming also helps improve range of motion. Most therapeutic dog pools are kept at a constant temperature of around 88 degrees, and the flow and temperature of the water can help soothe aching joints, tendons, and muscles.
- Safe for dog-averse pets. If your dog doesn’t play very well with others, an individual dog swim class is a great solution to providing your dog the exercise they need without the worry that they’ll get into a confrontation with another dog.
- Relieves hyperactivity. Hyperactive dogs are constantly trying to burn energy, and sometimes that can get destructive at home. Dog swim lessons are a great way to release all that toxic exuberance, leaving them more relaxed and able to interact more easily with you and your family.
- Reinforce other training techniques. Many professional dog swim coaches teach their canine students “swim words” and pool games that can dovetail nicely with your other, more standard training regimens at home.
- Weight loss or management. Swimming is a fantastic tool for weight loss and management. Just like the rest of us, sometimes dogs need a professional trainer who knows the healthiest ways of getting them into shape.
- Soothes muscles. On the other hand, if your dog is already an athlete or show dog, guided dog swim classes can help soothe muscles and joints after training, and keep them in shape for their competitive sports.
- Always the perfect swimming temperature. Unlike swimming in a backyard pool, lake, or ocean, dog pools are climate controlled and often outfitted with skid-proof decking. That means that your dog won’t slip on the ice in the winter, or risk hypothermia in water that’s too cold and they won’t burn their paws on hot sand or outdoor pool decks in the summer.
Looking for a great dog pool near you? Here are some recommendations for dog pools around the country that offer swim lessons:
Seattle, WA: Pawz-n-Play
Delaware: Academy of Dog Training & Agility (good videos; in DE outside Washington DC)
Washington DC: K9 Aquatic Center
Chicago, IL: Doggie Paddle Aquatic Center for Dogs
Austin, TX: K9 Water World — Austin
New York City, NY: Water4Dogs Rehabilitation Center
Connecticut: Dog Gone Smart
Los Angeles, CA: Two Hands Four Paws
San Francisco, CA: The Rex Center
- Doggie Paddle 101: How to Teach Your Dog to Swim
- The Complete Guide to Boat Safety for Water-Loving Dogs
- Our Favorite 10 Dog Life Jackets (Even for Strong Swimmers)