How to Build Your Dog’s Courage to Overcome Water

It is true some dogs are afraid of water (which my moodle Moots definitely was!). There is a theory that some breeds of dogs have that fear of water in their genes, but I don’t exactly agree with that. If a dog shows great resistance and fear of water, it may because they encountered a bad experience with water at a very young age. The other issue that may seem to make a dog show great fear is if they have never been exposed to water before and lack knowledge of what it is.

If a dog lives in a kennel most of the day and only roams in an indoor area and has limited access to the outside weather, it will have no experience with wet grass or water itself. It will not have snow falling on its back and therefore water is something that will be strange in its life. A dog with this kind of lifestyle will show fear if it encounters water. This is because a dog is always worried about something it is unfamiliar with and will always want to keep its distance. In its mind, maintaining a distance will keep it far away from harm of this strange thing.

The reason why wolves show no fear of water or snow is because they have to hunt regardless of whether it is raining or not. They sometimes cover acres of hunting grounds in search of food. They encounter water, snow, and ice in their daily hunting routines. Dogs in our homes, however, have lived indoors for most of their lifetime, and it has been this way for a long time. They are not adopted to weather changes as their cousin’s wolves.

Dogs have strong senses and can detect a change in atmospheric pressure. However most live inside enclosed places where temperature is constant and controlled and almost never get to experience the cold or heat of the outside world. They also are at a disadvantage is seeing how the weather changes during the day.

How do you help your dog overcome their fear of water? You can do so in a gradual way to help your dog accept water. This will take patience, understanding, praise and dog treats as bait (if they are necessary depending on the dog). You would be required to try several times if your dog was ever frightened by water in the past since dog’s have good memories. You should not give up on your dog if he frustrates you on the first try. A little patience goes a long way.

If your dog is scared of water (especially raindrops), take its favorite toy outside when it’s raining and start playing with it. This method can be applied in the snow season too. You should make efforts that the toy can be seen during the snowy weather. If your dog overcomes the fear and goes out and brings the toy, reward it with a treat. If your dog fears grass that has dew and water on it, you will be required to take a walk with your dog in the early morning, and you can motivate him by inviting one of his dog friends for a play session in that early morning. This will interest your dog, and he will start playing and forget about the wet grass altogether.

There’s a chance that your dog fears taking a bath because they fell into the bathtub at a young age and their head may have gone under water for a second which meant they took mouthfuls of water. In that situation, you can try getting them used to water that’s shallow, making use of a kiddie pool which has a piece of the non-skid liner at the base to prevent them from falling. Put some water about several inches high and trick them to get in using a treat. Apply water on his body in a gentle way showing him that it isn’t harmful in any way. If you have a young dog who is pretty small, try using a dishpan which has warm water and it will work.

If your dog has a general fear of water, you should try taking them to a gently sloping bank or a lake with a beach which allows your dog to walk on its own. You should schedule a calm and less windy day of the visit so that there is less wave action that can easily scare your dog away. You can attach a six foot lead on their collar and use rewards and praise to lure them in water. You can go back to the lake or river another time and repeat the same routine.

Image credit: Life Jacket Advisor

Moots is one dog who used to be terrified of water but now enjoys it (most of the time). He doesn’t get scared of taking a bath but is happy when it is done. Rain isn’t his favorite thing but he likes playing in the snow and has to be compelled to go inside the house. I took the time to teach Moots about water at a young age to make the fear go away. I did it in his kiddie pool, but now he goes swimming in the lake or running into the waves when we go to the beach. Another thing that also helped Moots is a dog life jacket.

He wasn’t so sure when I first put it on him but soon realized it helps him float and conserve energy when swimming. Don’t skimp on cheap life jackets which are uncomfortable and could make things worse. Even the best life vest for dogs should run you less than $50 and it’ll be so worth it. No he won’t win any swimming race with a labrador retriever, but he enjoys it nonetheless. Through patience and proper understanding of your dog, anyone can help them learn to accept water and enjoy every little bit of it.