Taking a pup for its first swim is one of my favorite moments of raising a water dog. I’ve been lucky that my pups showed nothing more than a mild hesitation when it came to the first dip, but that’s not always the case. A few readers of the blog have asked for the basics of teaching a dog to swim. As I’ve said before, I’m no pro but here’s what I’ve learned from the pros.

Find a shallow pond with a sloping, sandy bottom. And be sure the water is 60 degrees or warmer. With your pup on the shore, start wading into the pond, gently coaxing her to follow you. Whatever you do, don’t force or drag your pup in the water. If you need a bribe, bring a puppy treat.

If, after repeated tries, your dog won’t take the plunge, it’s time for a break. Try the same process the following day. If you’re still having trouble, find a large puddle or some such that allows your dog to literally get its feet wet but not have to swim. And work your way back to the pond. Sometimes a non-swimmer can be encouraged by another dog or pup that likes the water. When your pup sees the frolicking going on in the pond it’s hard to resist not joining in.

Remember, all pups move at different speeds. Never toss your pup in the water or drag her by a leash. This will pretty much guarantee that your dog remains a landlubber.

The attached video was taken some weeks back during Pritch’s first swim. I could have chosen a more gentle-sloping pond, but otherwise we were successful. You’ll note that I used a puppy treat to get her wet. (I’m not above bribes.) And just a few minutes after this first swim she made her first short (very short) water retrieve.

Take it slow and easy and chances are your pup will become a water dog. If anyone else has some advice for those who can’t get their dog to swim let’s hear it.