Many dog species are natural swimmers and any activity related to water is a treat for them. On the other hand, some dog species are naturally inclined to remain on land due to their morphology.
Then there are those species that although do not adore swimming but can be made to swim with a little training, Australian Shepherds fall in this category.
So, do Australian Shepherds like to swim? They do not like to swim because they were bred for land. Also, late exposure to water could also reduce their chances of swimming.
Reasons Why Your Aussie Is Not A Good Swimmer
Here are some of them:
1. Bred For Land
Australian shepherds were bred in the western USA mainly to herd flocks of sheep. That’s why they have an athletic build and tons of energy.
But because they were never trained to be used as water dogs, these traits haven’t been a part of their lineage.
2. Late Exposure
A dog is more likely to hesitate at swimming when it hasn’t been exposed to water during puppyhood.
The reason as explained before is that activities that a dog performs during the development of its brain are ingrained and become a part of the dog’s behavior.
It is hard to adapt to new things during adulthood and requires extra effort and training.
Can Australian Shepherds Swim? 7 Ways You Can Train Your Aussie To Swim
Aussies are smart, athletic, and robust. These qualities help them learn to swim faster and make them efficient swimmers.
Now I will discuss the various ways you can train your Aussie to become a swimmer just like I did:
1. Pick A Spot
Before you go on the journey to train your dog how to swim, it is essential to pick a safe spot.
Make sure the place where you start training your Aussie is not crowded so as not to trigger your dog’s anxiety. Natural places with the least amount of people like ponds and small lakes are the best for this activity.
Find a place that is nearer to your home to make the dog more comfortable. However, you can go to public swimming spaces or swimming pools if you don’t find isolated areas.
2. Start Shallow Before You Go Deeper
The key is to build your dog’s confidence so that the natural apprehension regarding drowning fades away and your dog is able to swim as effortlessly as possible.
For this reason, it is good that you take your dog to shallower water bodies first. Once it learns to swim there, it gradually moves to deeper waters so that the confidence gained from the previous training acts as a booster for the next one.
Do not rush through at any single stage and allow the dog to adjust to one set before you move on to the next.
You can easily ding various water depths in swimming pools with different gradations. This is particularly difficult with natural water bodies where depths either stay the same or change dramatically so be extremely careful.
3. Have Safety Protocols
Ensure the best safety protocols so that even if you’re far away and cannot reach your dog immediately, you can rest assured that it won’t drown.
I used to have swimming vests for the Aussies that I trained. Those are cheap and effective ways of reassuring yourself and the dog.
Apart from that, you should not let your pooch swim in waters that are too cold or hot. Also, avoid places where you’re not sure about the water quality or depth.
For these reasons, artificial pools are better for newbies as compared to natural waters where dogs can easily lose their confidence and may drown.
4. Be A Swimming Companion To Your Pooch
Do not leave your pooch out of your site. The best way to do so is to swim along with your dog. This has the added benefit of better bonding with your dog along with more effective surveillance.
Your dog will know that you will be by its side if ever the need arises. This results in a more calm and confident dog, helping them to swim better.
5. Turn This Into A Sport
As a dog owner, you would know that every dog has daily exercise requirements that need to be met. Aussies being more energetic and outdoorsy require more intense exercises than others.
Swimming is an effective way to drain your dog’s energy and meet its daily activity needs. You can make this more effective by turning it into a sport.
Water sports like fetch or ball games make it more interesting as well. This will make your dog happier and it will be looking forward to such activities rather than seeing swimming as a chore that it just needs to do every other day.
Another thing to highlight here is that swimming is a great opportunity to make your Australian Shepherd befriend other dogs. You can turn it into a group sport and this would make it more enjoyable for them.
6. Have A Schedule
One of the basic rules of the training program is to make a routine. Having a fixed schedule of sleeping and physical activity results in the formation of muscle memory that allows the body to be used more effectively without getting too tired.
Also, this prepares the dog mentally as well when it knows when and where it would be going for a swim.
7. Start Young
The earlier you start training, the easier it is for the dog to pick up the nuances of swimming and become good at it.
It has a simple theory behind it. During puppy years, a dog’s brain hasn’t developed completely. Any skill that a dog learns at this stage will get ingrained into its neural connections and it would stay for a lifetime.
When the dog is too young to be introduced to swimming, you can start introducing them to water. The mere feeling of being wet or submerged will train their minds to become more confident swimmers later on.
8. Be Patient
Good things take time and it is important that you be patient with your dog at every step of the way.
Swimming takes a lot of time and effort to be perfected, even more so for a breed like the Australian Shepherd that is not a natural swimmer.
My first piece of advice to you before you start to train your pooch is to have a big heart, ignore the rookie mistakes that your dog will make, and be consistent in your training.
Then and only then will you be able to have a dog that swims as confidently as a natural swimmer.
9. Assess Your Dog Before Training
Before starting to train your dog, I would advise you to assess its basic swimming know-how. You should know where your pooch stands so as to make a mental map of how you would start the training.
This can save you a lot of time and effort if your dog is already good at the basic levels of swimming so you won’t have to start right from the beginning.
Benefits Of Swimming For Dogs
Just as with humans, swimming brings a lot of benefits for dogs as well.
Swimming is a very effective way to exercise a dog’s body. Also, it can be used as a group sport to bring in a sense of sportsmanship in your pooch when it would compete against other dogs.
A good session of swimming is sufficient to drain out your dog’s energy. This would allow your pooch to get better and more refreshing sleep at home.
I used to take my dogs swimming more often in the summer months, simply because it is more refreshing. Water allows a dog’s body heat to be dissipated more effectively and helps them cool down their bodies.
You Might Be Interested In: Are Australian Shepherds Good For First-Time Owners?
Following are some of the FAQs asked in live sessions.
Do Australian Shepherds like to be inside?
Aussies are a very energetic and active breed. They like to work hard on the chores given to them and do not shy away from physical activity.
However, at the same time, they like to remain confined in their house spaces.
They would love to live in a house with a garden or big lawn but even if you don’t have a space, they can adjust to living in a small space if they get their due outdoor time as well.
Do Australian Shepherds have webbed feet?
Purebred Aussies do not have webbed feet as they have never been trained as water dogs. If your Aussie has webbed feet that means it is a crossed breed.
Swimming brings a lot of benefits for dogs. Apart from being a good physical activity that keeps your dog’s energy drained for better sleep, it’s a great way to bond with your dog. It is also a way to fight the summer heat.
However, Some breeds are naturally better at swimming than others. Aussies not being a natural swimming breed would require extra training and persistence in order for them to become good swimmers.