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, however it appeared well timed to replace and republish this submit from June 2022 about educating Lewis to get right into a swimming pool. I hope it offers some concepts to different individuals who may be acclimating their pups to a pool.


In a spot with sweltering summers, a strategy to cool off an lively canine like Lewis is a should! And it’s a bonus if he can have enjoyable doing it. So I acquired a doggie swimming pool. They’ve improved quite a bit since I acquired one for Clara about 10 years in the past. I acquired a reasonably massive one for Lewis, not excited 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 ultimately 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 determine methods to benefit from the pool.

I knew he may not belief the entire endeavor immediately. So for his first introduction to the pool, I made it straightforward, or so I assumed. I selected a sizzling day (antecedent association). I put the pool in a sunny space so the water would heat up slightly and stuffed it solely partway full. I threw a few his toys in there that might float. I acquired 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 assumed may 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’d work out a sequence of graduated exposures. The purpose was for Lewis to really feel glad and assured about leaping into the pool, first empty after which with water in it. I wanted to create a collection of desensitizing actions that weren’t scary for him. And we acquired there! Right here’s how we did it.

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

Observe: this methodology was for introduction to a child’s above-ground pool solely. If that you must educate your canine to swim in a built-in pool, take a look at “The right way to Train Your Canine to Swim” on the Karen Pryor Clicker Coaching web site.

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 slightly too bizarre, and the partitions had been too excessive for him to step over in a manner he felt secure. I may 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 needed to deal with the issue at its root and educate 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 bounce

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

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

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

Slightly than making an attempt to form him to get into one factor, as I attempted with the tray within the “avoidance” video above, I gathered a collection of objects with diverse traits for him to get on, over, or in. Marge Rogers and I check with such setups in our e-book about pet socialization as “confidence programs.” I positively bolstered his interactions to increase his palette of behaviors and construct glad associations with the objects and actions. I took issues slowly sufficient that he was hardly reluctant to strive one thing I arrange. After getting on a few platforms and a flat field, he stepped proper into the tray he had prevented 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 slightly focusing on, however largely 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 necessary later.)
• Leap onto a 12″ elevated platform (a Klimb). He already knew how to do that, cherished 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 a giant 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 containers.
• Leap over an agility bounce set at 2″. This was one other object he walked by many instances on daily basis however was reluctant to work together with once 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 certainly one of these into the pool.
• Leap straight into the (dry) pool.
• Repeat a number of the previous few steps with water within the pool, and maybe Eileen within the pool as nicely.
• Leap straight into the pool with water in it.

First Steps with the Platforms, Packing containers, and Leap

This video reveals the muse work we did with many of the listed objects. Sure, he actually acquired proper into the plastic tray once I requested him to, despite the fact that he wouldn’t try this earlier once I tried to form the conduct.

Making use of The Actions to the Pool

After he mastered the boldness course inside, I introduced all of the gadgets outdoors and acquired him into and on them once more. I added the swimming pool to the combination, with no water in it.

I put the 12″ platform subsequent to the pool and had him get on and off a bunch of instances. 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 nicely. Quickly he had jumped onto that one and likewise began leaping down into the pool itself and exploring it.

I’m proud I considered the platform. It’s arduous to separate out gradations of stepping into an above-ground pool. You’re both in it or out of it. There aren’t any stairs. However elevating the underside modified the character of the bounce 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 comfy leaping into and out of the dry pool. I took a hiatus of a couple of week when the climate cooled off. However throughout that point, the pool was on my porch, empty. He jumped in there repeatedly for enjoyable and to see if one thing attention-grabbing had blown in. And naturally, I gave him slightly 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 outdoors of it. Win!

The subsequent 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 acquired out. He made a recreation of working across the yard and leaping into the pool.

Why Trouble 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 acquired a pet who loves the water a lot that you could’t hold him out of it. Fortunate you!

Otherwise you simply picked up your younger canine and plopped him into the pool and the whole lot labored out high quality. Or perhaps you even tossed him within the water to study 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 threat 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. Actually you didn’t imply to, however you risked traumatizing your canine. And it takes considerably longer to deal with the concern that usually outcomes from that than it does to go gradual initially.

Talking of “gradual”—my methodology wasn’t gradual. It took a lot, rather 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

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