Huskies are known for trekking through snow and making excellent sled dogs. Accordingly, they’re athletic dogs with a lot of energy to burn.
But do they like to swim?
The short answer is no, huskies don’t like to swim (they can, but they don’t like it). You will have to teach them how to swim, as they are not naturally expected to know swimming, given that they are raised in cold climates.
It’s a popular misconception that huskies enjoy swimming.
Can Huskies Swim (or Like to Swim)?
Despite being naturally athletic, Siberian Huskies have no great fondness for water. This fear of water makes sense when you stop to consider their natural environment.
Bred to be sled dogs, huskies spend a disproportionate amount of time in cold climates. Conditioned to weather ice and snow, any water they encounter carries the possibility of hypothermia with it.
Little wonder then that they want nothing to do with getting wet.
Moreover, because we bred huskies to work on the land, they rarely need to learn to swim.
They’re much more likely to get their exercise traversing vast swathes of land. With that in mind, it makes sense they possess an innate nervousness around water.
Fear of Water in Huskies
With that in mind, there are various reasons for huskies to be nervous around water.
Not only are they predisposed to think water is freezing, but they instinctively view water as unsafe.
And if your husky has negative prior experience of water or finds getting wet uncomfortable, it will make a reluctant swimmer.
That being the case, the question becomes not whether huskies can swim but if you should teach them.
Reasons to Teach Your Husky To Swim
There are a variety of reasons it’s worth teaching your husky to swim.
These run the gamut from exercise to keeping cool in hot weather.
Whatever your reasons, teaching a husky to swim is possible and rewarding. Here are some of the reasons it’s worth a try.
Huskies have a tremendous amount of energy, and if you can persuade your husky into the water, swimming is a fantastic way to expend some of that energy.
Keeping your Husky Cool
The other benefit of teaching your husky to swim is that it helps keep your dog cool. Huskies are bred for cold weather and accordingly can overheat quickly in summer.
It’s worth remembering that water can be as dehydrating in dogs as it is for people.
Consequently, if you decide to teach your husky to swim, be alert to the dangers of water intoxication and the risks posed by saltwater.
But provided you’re vigilant and keep an eye on your husky, there’s no reason it shouldn’t learn to swim.
Teaching Your Husky To Swim
Teaching your husky to swim might be challenging, but that’s not to say you can’t do it.
Huskies are naturally buoyant, which isn’t true of all dogs. With the necessary training and a bit of effort from you, you can soon have your husky swimming.
But neither should you throw your husky into the water and expect them to swim.
Huskies aren’t naturally confident swimmers, and throwing them in at the literal deep end may cause them to panic, not swim.
Avoid Water Punishments
It’s worth noting that if you’re hoping to get your husky to swim, you’ll want to avoid the traditional spray-bottle reprimand.
Aversive training can be effective, but if you’re hoping to convert your husky to swimming, giving it an instinctively adverse reaction to water won’t help.
Offer Positive Feedback
Instead, you’ll want to focus on offering your husky positive feedback when you start teaching them to swim.
Start small; a bit of praise for getting close to water can go a long way. Offer more encouragement if your husky gets its paws wet.
You can continue escalating the feedback as your dog builds confidence around water. It won’t happen overnight, but with enough positive reinforcement, you’ll soon have a husky that swims and even enjoys it.
If you aren’t near a beach and don’t own a pool, it’s still possible to teach your husky to swim.
All you need is a paddling pool. In fact, introducing your husky to water through a paddling pool may facilitate its water confidence since the water level is naturally lower.
Paddling pools are also easier for you to control and supervise, giving them yet another advantage.
And if you still need a way to introduce your husky to water gradually, the shower and bath make equally good alternatives. However, it’s worth remembering that not all dogs enjoy a bath for a variety of reasons.
If your husky is bath-averse, then this may not be the best place to convert him to water.
Incorporate a Favourite Toy into the Training
Once you’ve got your husky acclimatized to water, games of fetch or retrieval make an excellent way to build their confidence.
Throwing a favorite toy into the water will encourage your dog to swim after it.
Sticks are a popular choice when training by retrieval, as they’re always lying around.
They’re also easy to replace if the stick gets away from your dog. However, there’s some concern that they can cause internal splinters if your husky is over-enthusiastic in the retrieval or prone to chewing her prize.
With that in mind, balls and other dog toys make safer retrieval objects, provided they float. As with introducing your husky to water, you’ll want to ease them into watery rounds of fetch.
Be careful not to throw your dog’s toy too far out. Water-averse huskies will need to acclimatize gradually to water, and an excellent way to do that is to keep them paddling where the water is shallow.
As they gain confidence, your throws can get bigger, and your husky can swim further afield.
Get in the Water Yourself
Huskies are intensely loyal pack animals.
If you’re in the water, the chances of your husky joining you increase dramatically. Seeing you in the water is a strong indicator that the water is safe and will help your husky relax and start swimming.
As they swim, offer lots of praise, and if possible, treats.
These are strong motivators and will help your husky build positive associations with water and swimming. As they swim farther, you can offer more praise.
Everything should be within reason, though.
Like people, dogs out swimming for the first time shouldn’t swim out beyond their depth. So keep the dog close to you and the shore or the pool exit until he’s a more accomplished swimmer.
Don’t Force the Issue
As much as you might want to take your husky swimming, don’t insist on it. Water can be a source of stress for any dog, and huskies have an instinctual fear of water.
Trying to strong-arm a husky into a swim she doesn’t want will only create negative associations with water, leaving you further away from a water-loving dog than ever.
Accentuate the Positive
Even if it feels like you haven’t achieved much in a training session, end by praising your husky. He’s a highly reluctant swimmer, so minor steps can be monumental to your dog.
And by ending on a positive moment, your husky builds up favorable associations with water. This increases the chances of him returning to it and even swimming in it at a later date.
Use A Life Jacket
Another way to help ease your husky’s transition to swimming is to have her wear a life jacket. Life jackets for dogs exist, and using one can help give your water-reluctant pet the confidence she needs to get in the water.
Life jackets with handles or rings attaching to a leash are beneficial for dogs and dog owners who want to go out swimming together.
These lifejackets add an extra layer of safety, and the leash gives you additional control while your dog is learning to swim.
But it’s not just a case of fitting your dog up with a lifejacket and expecting her to swim.
First, you’ll want to pick the correct size. That done, spend some time getting her used to the lifejacket. Let her wear it indoors or even while eating dinner.
Once she’s comfortable in the life jacket, and you’re sure it fits, you can start teaching your husky to swim.
Start Training Early
Finally, it’s true you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It’s also true that old in this instance may be younger than you think.
By six months, most dogs have not only developed habits that will last them through their lives but are actively challenging the boundaries you set.
The sooner you start training your husky, the higher the chances that it will enjoy the experience.
Huskies aren’t natural swimmers. They’re bred for cold weather and understandably wary of water. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, teach them to swim.
Be aware that acclimating your husky to water will take time. Focus on positive feedback, and be prepared to get wet yourself. Your husky is much more likely to take to swimming if it sees you or another pet enjoying the water.
To help your husky learn to swim, consider:
- Avoiding spray bottle training techniques
- Playing fetch in the water
- Using a canine life jacket
Above all else, remember that teaching your husky to swim takes time and tremendous patience. Don’t rush them, and look for ways of making water a safe and comfortable place for them. This may include the use of:
- Paddling pools
While it might take effort, once you’ve taught your husky to swim, you’ll have access to an excellent means of exercise, play, and relaxation. Not to mention a fantastic way of keeping your husky cool during the dog days of summer.
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