How I Taught My Canine to Get Right into a Swimming Pool


A white hound dog with brown on his face and ears is standing, smiling next to a kids' above-ground swimming pool

I don’t do many reruns, but it surely appeared well timed to replace and republish this submit from June 2022 about instructing Lewis to get right into a swimming pool. I hope it offers some concepts to different individuals who is likely to be acclimating their pups to a pool.


In a spot with sweltering summers, a solution to cool off an energetic canine like Lewis is a should! And it’s a bonus if he can have enjoyable doing it. So I bought a doggie swimming pool. They’ve improved so much since I bought one for Clara about 10 years in the past. I bought a reasonably massive one for Lewis, not enthusiastic about the challenges which may current for him.  

He was unwilling to leap into it at first, so I’m going to share the systematic manner I launched him to the pool.

There have been some indicators that Lewis would finally have a blast in it. He’s an all-weather canine. He was entranced by snow final winter. He runs round with out inhibition within the rain, even intentionally splashing in puddles. I guessed he’d work out methods to benefit from the pool.

I knew he won’t belief the entire endeavor instantly. So for his first introduction to the pool, I made it straightforward, or so I believed. I selected a sizzling day (antecedent arrangement). I put the pool in a sunny space so the water would heat up just a little and stuffed it solely partway full. I threw a few his toys in there that might float. I bought in there myself and beckoned him.

No go. No manner in hell was he going to jump over the 12-inch wall into the pale blue unknown. What I believed is likely to be straightforward was unimaginable for him. I discovered as we went alongside that his warning was extra concerning the enclosing wall than the water inside.

So, on to Plan B. I might work out a sequence of graduated exposures. The purpose was for Lewis to really feel completely satisfied and assured about leaping into the pool, first empty after which with water in it. I wanted to create a sequence of desensitizing actions that weren’t scary for him. And we bought there! Right here’s how we did it.

Though this submit is lengthy and detailed, the entire coaching time was about quarter-hour.

Word: this methodology was for introduction to a child’s above-ground pool solely. If you have to train your canine to swim in a built-in pool, try “How to Teach Your Dog to Swim” on the Karen Pryor Clicker Coaching website.

Desensitizing to Leaping into the Swimming Pool

Lewis is curious and daring however was reluctant to get into this new object in his atmosphere, water or no. It was just a little too bizarre, and the partitions had been too excessive for him to step over in a manner he felt secure. I might have bent the wall down considerably and began that manner, with me shaping him to step into the pool area. However that would have proved awkward as we proceeded. And I wished to handle the issue at its root and train him that if I current an object for him to work together with, it’s secure and a possibility to have enjoyable.

To get him to belief that it was OK to leap out and in, we labored on three basis expertise:

• stepping into issues
• getting onto issues
• leaping over one thing

A white hound dog with brown on his face and ears is running around a jump made of PVC as a woman dressed in blue and purple watches
Lewis avoiding a soar

I cut up every of those right into a sequence of behaviors. I mixed desensitization with operant conditioning. The desensitization half was the very gradual exposures (you’ll see the checklist beneath). The operant conditioning half was utilizing constructive reinforcement when Lewis interacted with the objects.

If he had been afraid of those objects in themselves, I might have leaned towards a classical strategy, however I didn’t must. The pool had already been in his atmosphere for a number of days, and he had by no means been afraid of it. Leaping in was the problem.

I had seen him be equally reluctant with different objects. Here’s a video displaying his baseline response—avoidance—when invited to leap over or get in some objects, together with the swimming pool.

Relatively than attempting to form him to get into one factor, as I attempted with the tray within the “avoidance” video above, I gathered a sequence of objects with diversified traits for him to get on, over, or in. Marge Rogers and I check with such setups in our book about puppy socialization as “confidence programs.” I positively bolstered his interactions to increase his palette of behaviors and construct completely satisfied associations with the objects and actions. I took issues slowly sufficient that he was hardly reluctant to attempt one thing I arrange. After getting on a few platforms and a flat field, he stepped proper into the tray he had averted earlier.

Desensitization Order

That is the order of the actions I used to show him it was secure to leap into the pool. I by no means lured him onto or into something with meals or toys. I used just a little focusing on, however principally waited for him to get the concept and get in on his personal, then I bolstered generously.

A white hound dog with brown on his face and ears is sitting in a shallow, tray-like box
That is the field he wouldn’t set foot in

• Step onto a 2″ elevated platform. (The platforms are vital later.)
• Leap onto a 12″ elevated platform (a Klimb). He already knew how to do that, beloved this platform, and was used to stationing there.
• Step onto a mat (additionally one thing he already knew to do).
• Step onto a bit of cardboard on the ground whereas I anchor it (no sliding!).
• Step into a big, shallow plastic tray (this was an enormous step, even with a tray with very shallow sides).
• Step right into a shallow cardboard field with two flaps ripped off.
• Step right into a cardboard field with all flaps intact.
• Step into different cardboard bins.
• Leap over an agility soar set at 2″. This was one other object he walked by many occasions each day however was reluctant to work together with after I requested him to.
• Leap onto a 12″ platform whereas it’s subsequent to and abutting the pool.
• Leap onto a 12″ platform whereas it’s contained in the pool (no water).
• Leap from the 12″ platform onto the two″ platform within the pool.
• Leap down from one in every of these into the pool.
• Leap straight into the (dry) pool.
• Repeat a number of the previous couple of steps with water within the pool, and maybe Eileen within the pool as effectively.
• Leap straight into the pool with water in it.

First Steps with the Platforms, Bins, and Leap

This video reveals the muse work we did with many of the listed objects. Sure, he actually bought proper into the plastic tray after I requested him to, regardless that he wouldn’t do this earlier after I tried to form the conduct.

Making use of The Actions to the Pool

After he mastered the arrogance course inside, I introduced all of the gadgets exterior and bought him into and on them once more. I added the swimming pool to the combo, with no water in it.

I put the 12″ platform subsequent to the pool and had him get on and off a bunch of occasions. Then I put it contained in the pool, pressed proper as much as the sting. He jumped on with no hesitation! We practiced that, then I put the decrease platform into the pool as effectively. Quickly he had jumped onto that one and in addition began leaping down into the pool itself and exploring it.

I’m proud I considered the platform. It’s exhausting to separate out gradations of stepping into an above-ground pool. You’re both in it or out of it. There are not any stairs. However elevating the underside modified the character of the soar from “into the unknown” to “onto the acquainted platform.”

A white hound dog with brown on his face and ears is standing inside a kid's swimming pool that is not assembled and has no water in it
Lewis within the dry, crumpled pool

He was now snug leaping into and out of the dry pool. I took a hiatus of a few week when the climate cooled off. However throughout that point, the pool was on my porch, empty. He jumped in there commonly for enjoyable and to see if one thing attention-grabbing had blown in. And naturally, I gave him just a little deal with or two.

Lastly, on one other sizzling day, I put the pool again into the yard with the 12″ platform inside. I put water in it, not even an inch, simply sufficient to create some puddles on the underside. He fortunately jumped onto the platform, then from there into the pool. Then he began leaping straight into the pool from exterior of it. Win!

The following time, I put about 2″ of water in it. Within the video, the 12″ platform was within the pool, and within the first half, I used to be sitting on it. Then I bought out. He made a sport of operating across the yard and leaping into the pool.

Why Hassle with All This?

A white hound dog with brown on his face and ears is standing inside a kid's above-ground swimming pool

I can hear a few of you chortling on the market. You’ve bought a pet who loves the water a lot that you would be able to’t maintain him out of it. Fortunate you!

Otherwise you simply picked up your younger canine and plopped him into the pool and all the pieces labored out advantageous. Or possibly you even tossed him within the water to be taught to swim. However even when your canine likes water now, these are dangerous strategies.

As with all makes use of of aversive strategies, there’s a danger of fallout. In case your canine got here out unscathed and discovered to like water, you and he had been fortunate. That doesn’t all the time occur. Definitely you didn’t imply to, however you risked traumatizing your canine. And it takes considerably longer to handle the worry that sometimes outcomes from that than it does to go gradual at first.

Talking of “gradual”—my methodology wasn’t gradual. It took a lot, way more time to write down up this submit and edit the films than to do the coaching. As I discussed above, there have been fewer than quarter-hour of coaching, and so they included the enjoyable play on the finish. These quarter-hour gave my canine one thing that may enrich him for the remainder of his life.

Copyright 2022 Eileen Anderson

Associated Posts

You Can’t Cure MY Fear by Shoving Cookies at Me! (this submit additionally encompasses a checklist of desensitizing, graduated exposures, however they’re for one thing utterly totally different)
Teaching a Dog to Station While Another Dog Works (extra platform work!)

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