Benefits of Swimming: Young & Old Dogs

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Why Swimming Rocks During The Winter:

I know I have been a broken record when it comes to winter activities but I’m now taking both the doxies to a swim facility for dogs once a week. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner! Bruiser doesn’t go to Nosework once a week like Shermie and Walter and he’s older – so I enjoy have a senior day with sweet Bruiser….why does Bruiser benefit from swimming?

And I read an article today that Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant, was quoted in talking about the impact of winter on our animals as they also may be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so we need to get out and stay active despite the rain! (That seems like it will never end…)

So get out those Float Coats!

Why do older dogs benefit?

  • I learned in tech classes that hydrotherapy has many benefits ranging from: helping dogs become stronger, lose weight, decrease lameness, assist with balance and increase flexibility
  • Our dog Sandy had terrible osteoarthritis and we took her to a rehabilitation facility where there was an underwater treadmill
  • Water makes exercise weightless
  • Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation and find a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner. While I can swim with the Doxies – there is also an assisted swim where the CVT swims with your dog
  • Bruiser was diagnosed with IVDD many years ago – he’s getting older and walking on pavement is getting more difficult but he can swim!

Tips for dogs that haven’t done this before: 

  • Some dogs may need to “develop” their enthusiasm and this applies to Walter and why we’re swimming
  • I want the experience to be positive so Walter receives loads of treats throughout the session
  • And if he doesn’t take to water activities  – that’s fine! We have lots of other activities to do
  • Ok! With Walter in a Float Coat — we swim for a minute or two and then we go back to the ramp where he can put his feet on solid ground (goal is for 15 minutes maximum – I split the 30-minute session between both doxies). The Whole Dog Journal story I refer to below – also ends with “know when to call it quits”

I’ve worked with dogs and have some experience swimming them in a pool so I was hoping I’d get cleared for a self swim after the first swim assessment with the owner and Certified Vet Tech (CVT). There is paperwork (requesting permission from our Veterinarian) and the owner swam with Bruiser to ensure I knew how to set the doxies up for success if I was to swim with them without a trained CVT.

Walter “tolerated” the first session so I really want to work with him to get him used to swimming.

Have you ever done this with your dogs? Give me a shout with questions!

Great tips here in Whole Dog Journal – tips on how to shape this behavior.

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Yep – we also found that Walter exercises at the beach just by digging for critters!

Other Resources – local PDX facilities:


There are 28 Comments

  1. kelly says:

    I would love it if Edie enjoyed swimming – well actually water of any kind 😉 I introduced her to water at a young age but she wanted nothing to do with it.

  2. The perfect post on dogs and swimming! I know cats have done hydrotherapy but this is pure enjoyment.

    Yes some will love it right away BUT some may need some coaxing so take it steady AND the health benefits are same as humn, plenty of aerobic activity and muscle development!

  3. We’re going to start a complete swimming routine with one of our pups – moving into senior status, so that’s his payoff!

  4. Dear Mishu says:

    This is great — I always thought that if a dog didn’t like water, that’s that. Nice to see that you can introduce it as a therapy.

  5. Sonja says:

    My dog HATES water. Even just washing his little paws or face… swimming is I think his idea of hell. I always wish he would like it more.

    • LOL! I’m not sure Walter is taking to it to be honest – we went again and he’ll go in but it’s Bruisy that literally gets in and just starts swimming. Some dogs just don’t like water!

  6. My mom’s dog avoids water and it’s probably because we discouraged him because they had a swimming pool in the backyard and we were afraid he’d jump in and couldn’t get out.

  7. How neat that you found a special activity to enjoy with your dogs! I’ve never tried hydrotherapy before, but I’ve wondered how it might benefit my cat Sophie, who has cerebellar hypoplasia. I’m sure it would make her stronger!

  8. Beth says:

    What an awesome opportunity for your dogs! I don’t know if there is anything like that around here. In the summer, Theo likes to sit on a raft in our pool. I think all of my dogs would enjoy a lake where they could get into the water on their own terms.

  9. I like the term “develop their enthusiasm” That’s hysterical. Ruby HATES the water, as in she acts like she is being tortured if she has to go anywhere near water. Two summers ago, we drove to the east coast. I was so excited to show her the ocean – she hated it and I think still hasn’t forgiven me for putting her paws in the water. Sigh …

    Maybe I should try her in a pool with truck loads of treats. LOL. I’m thinking she still won’t like it.

    • Well I decided this week that the enthusiasm I thought may grow with Walter has not. lol! That’s too funny that Ruby still holds a grudge about the trip!

  10. We did a feature on the benefits of swimming for dogs (and humans with bad knees and back like me). Unfortunately, pugs are not built for swimming with their build and breathing, although we have online pals that swim well in pools and love splashing on the beach. Kilo usually hates getting his feet wet, and gets most annoyed wearing a life jacket. However, he will get in the bath or paddle pool for treats and he paddles by lakes sometimes.

    • My guys generally also love splashing on the beach so I wanted to see if I could get Walter in the pool – knowing Bruiser would get in on his own. I love that Kilo will get in the paddle pool!

  11. Swimming in a pool is great for dogs especially in the winter. Portland is lucky to have several facilities!

  12. Ruth Epstein says:

    I love this idea but Layla hates water with a passion and that means even an inch puddle so I am not sure if this would work for her.

  13. Monika & Sam says:

    Alas, my web-footed knucklehead would rather set his fur on fire than get wet. I so wish he’d be a more typical Standard…maybe he’s really a sub-standard poodle! LOL Enjoy the wet times with your senior boy!

    • Well I think Walter may also not be a great candidate – I know he can swim now but he prefers nosework! lol! I’m grateful Brui enjoys it since he benefits more. LOL! Fur on Fire!!! I’m with you….

  14. […] about old Brui? I dedicate one weekend afternoon to Bruisy. I’m teaching Bruisy how to swim at a local K-9 swim […]

  15. Jan K says:

    We don’t have anything like that around here, so swimming is restricted to nice weather. Cricket loves to cool off in the water, but doesn’t care much for actual swimming (she let her ball float away, so I know she was serious about not liking it!).
    I need to find a quiet place to take Luke, and I’m still bugging my hubby about putting in our own pond! With Luke’s bad knees, I would love for him to be able to swim daily.

    • I literally stumbled across her facility for rehab and then found out she had a pool where we could self swim after an initial assessment@! Oh you should put in your own pond! Bruiser loves it – but Walter I’ve decided is over it. 😉 lol!