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We often see the cutest internet videos of dogs jumping in the swimming pool to rescue their owners who pretend to drown or funny videos of dogs jumping from docks and yachts to fetch floating tennis balls their owners throw. If these tiny puppies can swim and splash around with their owners in swimming pools, lakes, and seas, can our great Mastiffs also do it? Don’t all dogs instinctively know how to swim? Don’t all dogs love water? It shouldn’t really be surprising but not all dogs can swim and not all dogs want to be in the water. Fortunately for us, with a good amount of persistent training, Mastiffs can swim.
There is no better time to teach our Mastiffs how to swim than during the summer when not only is the lake liquid, but the hot air surrounding us may also encourage our Mastiffs to just take the plunge and learn how to swim. One of the things to look forward to during the summer is cooling off at a breezy swimming spot with a magnificent view. The best way to enjoy this experience is with family, friends, and if we’re fortunate enough to live near a dog-friendly lake or beach resort, with our big and furry four-legged friends. As summertime approaches, we begin to squint our eyes because the days are suddenly brighter and the pool water glimmers. For those who made plans with the family to go to the beach, the air begins to taste salty as the glorious waves invite the crowd for an entire day of swimming. Our summer at the beach, lake, or a nice dog-friendly resort will not be as fun-filled without our favorite Mastiffs in the world. Unfortunately, some are discouraged to bring them because they don’t know how to swim, or worse, are scared of water. The best way to encourage our Mastiffs to enjoy the cool waters with us is to let them play by the backyard or resort swimming pool as we swim prior to the swimming lessons; so if we’re planning to teach our big boys and girls to swim this summer, they should have started building positive associations with the swimming pool a couple of summers ahead. Even if they’re not actually in the waters, letting them interact with us while we’re swimming will embed in them the idea that swimming is a fun and pleasurable activity. When the time for us to train them how to swim comes, they will be more willing to learn and participate.
Before we let our Mastiffs jump into the swimming pool, even under our supervision, there are safety measures that we have to know and observe first before giving them their much needed swimming lessons. This is especially important for Mastiffs who haven’t undergone swimming lessons yet. Just because others’ dogs are great swimmers doesn’t mean that ours are also natural swimmers. Not all dogs can swim because after all, they are land animals. Here are some important safety measures to keep in mind before researching on how to give our dog swimming lessons:
As with every activity that is beyond what our Mastiffs are used to, it would be best to consult with a professional. Before giving our large dogs swimming lessons, especially if it will be our first time giving swimming lessons and we’re unsure about doing any of it, we should consult a training professional. We may know how to swim, but that doesn’t automatically make us an expert in training others how to swim, especially heavy and athletic dogs like Mastiffs. There are a number of things to consider to ensure their safety, and if we’re not confident enough that we can put into action what the training professional taught us, it would be best to just sign our Mastiffs up for professional swimming lessons. Whether we opt to enroll them to swimming lessons with a professional instructor or give the lessons ourselves in our backyard pool or local dog-friendly resort, we should consult with our trusted veterinarian. Similar to how we get a doctor’s certificate telling us we’re healthy enough to perform a certain activity, it is important to do the same for our furry pals. Depending on our Mastiffs’ age and behavior, the vet may give guidelines on keeping certain parts of our dogs’ head out of the water as much as possible to prevent infection and drowning. The vet may also prescribe medication for their anxiety.
Even if our Mastiffs will be under our supervision or under the care of a professional swimming instructor for dogs, it’s best to buy a life jacket, especially because our dogs are heavy compared to other breeds. When dry, an average adult Mastiff weighs about 88 kg or 194 lbs. Once soaked in water, they weigh even heavier. A dog life jacket should fit well enough to keep our Mastiff’s head above water. Our about-to-be swimmer dog should be able to move easily while wearing the jacket, whether on land or in the water. Getting the size right is tricky especially for dogs as big as ours; to ensure that it fits well, we must know our Mastiffs’ measurement. The life jacket we should get must be easy to get on and off for our convenience and our Mastiff’s ease. Not only will a high quality life jacket add buoyancy, but also guide our Mastiffs on their way through training and to being able to swim without a flotation device. A life jacket is especially important for those who are reluctant to swim. For dogs who are enthusiastic to learn how to swim, a life jacket is still necessary to keep their heads above water, especially when they are only on their first swimming lesson session. Getting our Mastiffs used to the high quality life jacket we bought is as important as buying it. Weeks before the first session of the swimming classes, we should train them to wear it by letting them play inside the house and in our yards for hours in a day while wearing the life jacket. This will train our Mastiffs to get used to moving around in it. After all, even if they don’t sink right to the bottom of the water, they still wouldn’t learn how to swim if they refuse to move their limbs out of panic and discomfort.
Provided that we’re fully equipped with the skills and equipment to teach our Mastiffs how to swim, we still have to keep in mind that we can’t just do it in any body of water. Although it may seem fun to do it in a surfing spot, for example, the strong currents and number of surfboards appearing in all directions can injure us, our pet, and the surfers. The best spot to teach our Mastiff how to swim is a dog-friendly resort early on a weekday or a private swimming pool in our own backyard or in a friend’s home. A swimming pool is best because it is a controlled environment; one that is clear of other swimmers, especially children, is better to prevent distraction and biting from anxious Mastiffs.
Even though swimming lessons for large dogs should be conducted by two or more people, because we’re still gauging how heavy our Mastiffs will get once soaked in pool water, it’s best to start in a shallow area where we can walk alongside our dog. This will get our Mastiffs to get used to being wet and having to exert a little more force when walking. From time to time, we should pause and guide our dog out of the swimming pool and back in again to enforce the feeling that it can get out when it’s feeling overwhelmed. If our Mastiffs refuse to go back into the water, we should call it a day and just try to pick up where we left off on another time. Treats and a positive tone of voice is also essential in encouraging our Mastiff to go on with the training. Once our dog shows signs of being comfortable and confident, we may guide it to a slightly deeper part, like in the second step of the stairs into the pool; this should allow our Mastiff’s paws to still reach the floor while having to tilt its head up. If our dog can confidently go back to this depth, we can slowly guide our Mastiff with our arms to a slightly deeper level where it can start paddling to stay afloat. This depth should allow our dog to paddle its rear legs along with the front legs while still being close enough to the shallower parts once it experiences fear and discomfort.
Since we want our Mastiffs to associate the waters with positive emotions, it’s never a good idea to throw them into the water. It is counterintuitive to do this as it will only traumatize our dogs. Swimming should be a fun time.
When introducing our dogs to a new place to swim, we should keep them leashed at all times. To ensure that it doesn’t swim too far out. No matter how tough they look, we should never let our Mastiffs stay in the water unsupervised. We should always swim with them to help strengthen our bond, build trust, and keep swimming a fun and interactive activity.
All my life I've been in love with one big dopey Mastiff family member after another. No other breed has given so much pleasure, so it's a joy for my team and I to research everything there is to know about them in this blog. We hope you enjoy the reading as much as we enjoy the writing :)
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