Can you teach your Rottweiler how to swim?
The honest answer is “Maybe.”
Unlike breeds of dogs that swim without any prompting, like Spaniels, Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, and, you may be surprised to learn, Rottweilers don’t take to the water naturally.
Many Rottweilers can and do swim. But most Rottweilers aren’t really eager to go into the water.
Rottweilers are a working, herding, and guard dog. Their genetic predisposition is to occupy themselves with things to do on land.
Rottweilers tend to be heavy-set, big-muscled dogs. They aren’t naturally buoyant. They may eventually take to swimming, but they need a lot of encouragement.
And you should never force your Rottweiler to “sink or swim.” The only places you should let your Rottweiler get into the water are places where water rescue is possible.
Rottweilers that learn how to swim early in life enjoy many health benefits. Swimming can be highly beneficial for sick and elderly Rottweilers.
Veterinarians at the University of Bern in Switzerland found that swimming therapy extended the lives of dogs with muscle degenerative diseases.
Veterinary scientists in Thailand and Vietnam have confirmed that dogs that get an hour of swim time every day accumulate chondroitin and glucosamine in arthritis joints, helping them heal.
The main reason to teach your Rottweiler how to swim— safely—is for you and your dog to have fun.
The sooner you make your Rottweiler water-safe, and you locate swimming locations where tragic accidents are not likely to happen, the more fun you and your family can have with your dog.
But before you train your Rottweiler to swim, there are some other basic skills you will need to teach your Rottweiler first.
Is Taking Your Rottweiler For a Swim a Good Idea?
Anyone who wants to train their Rottweiler to swim needs to be a good match to their dog.
There can’t be any question about who is the leader of the pack. That means you and not your Rottweiler.
There can be situations in which it is a matter of life and death for your Rottweiler to obey you instantly.
Your Rottweiler’s fearlessness and determination are what attract you to your dog, but when it comes to keeping swimming safe, you have to stay in charge.
That’s also true of any other water-loving dogs you take along on your swim trips with your Rottweiler.
Another quality of an owner who can take a Rottweiler out for a swim is physical strength. You may need to be physically capable of pulling your 100-pound dog out of the water.
Or you may need to be able to restrain your dog from going into the water. Either way, you need to be at least as physically powerful as your dog.
And the third quality of successful pet parents who own Rottweilers is a combination of enthusiasm and patience.
Once you have taught your Rottweiler how to swim safely, “tomorrow” won’t be a concept your dog can understand.
Your Rottweiler won’t get along well with you if you tend to procrastinate.
On the other hand, Rottweiler owners have to be patient with their dogs.
There will eventually be a day your Rottweiler decides to find out if you really meant all those training commands.
They will pretend to have forgotten everything. You will need to stand your ground and insist that your dog follow your rules.
You need to be a non-judgmental person to have a really good relationship with your Rottweiler.
With Rottweilers, punishment never works, but every dog responds to rewards. You have to withhold rewards that your dog is not earning. You can’t train a Rottweiler to “not do” things.
Being the right owner for your dog is only one-half of the secrete of success of teaching your Rottweiler how to swim.
Your Rottweiler has to master certain basic standards of good canine behavior.
Even if you are a great match for your dog, any Rottweiler that goes swimming needs to have mastered ten basic principles of good behavior:
- Come immediately when called. Sometimes this will be necessary to keep your dog out of danger.
- Walk on a leash calmly at your side, even on a crowded beach.
- Allow any stranger to pet him (especially children) when you give the OK.
- Sit and stay on your command until told otherwise.
- Be tolerant of other dogs, especially other dogs in the water.
- Show no unprovoked aggressive toward any person.
That last requirement is supremely important for taking your Rottweiler out for swim days.
The reality is, Rottweilers have an image problem. It’s vitally important to the welfare of your dog to be problem-free in public settings.
Don’t take your Rottweiler anywhere that misunderstandings can happen, and don’t take them out in public unless they are trained to follow the six important rules listed above.
Three Methods of Teaching Your Rottweiler How to Swim
Some dogs figure out swimming instinctively.
Some do not.
Your Rottweiler will be in the “not” group.
Rottweilers can eventually figure out how to “dog paddle” if they have some kind of support to keep them floating while they are learning.
A canine life vest will keep your dog’s face and nose out of the water while she is learning how to coordinate her legs to stay afloat.
You don’t want your dog to have a bad experience in the water. That’s why a life vest is so important.
It just takes one episode of getting water in the lungs to scare even your brave and powerful Rottweiler away from the water forever.
The other essential equipment for teaching your Rottweiler how to swim is a supply of his favorite treats.
You want to give your dog a reward every time they do something right. Sure, obeying your commands is for your dog’s own good, but your dog doesn’t understand that.
Your dog just understands “If I do this, I get a treat!”
You will probably need a supply of your dog’s favorite soft chewable treats, since hard chewable treats may dissolve in the water.
If you are set with those basic supplies, then you can use any of all of the following three methods to train your Rottweiler how to swim.
The Lure to Swim Method
- Fill a children’s splashing pool with warm water and put your Rottweiler on a leash. It’s important not to put your Rottweiler in a harness for this training.
- Toss a water-resistant treat in the pool. This could be a piece of hot dog or a soft chewy treat, anything your dog loves that won’t dissolve in the water. Then point to the treat for your dog to fetch. Praise your dog when she steps into the pool. Let her get out, and repeat.
- On your next outing, don’t go back to the kiddy pool. Ths time lure your Rottweiler into calm water. Find a backyard swimming pool with a shallow end or a shallow, still pond or lake. (The water needs to be free of visible algae, especially red algae, which can be toxic to dogs.) Place a life vest on your dog, and toss a treat out into shallow water. The water should not be over your dog’s head.
- On your next outing, get into the water with your Rottweiler. Offer the life vest to your dog if they seem more comfortable with it. Place a floating toy in the water, or put a treat on a flotation device. Let your dog get the treat and paddle around for fun.
- Lure your dog into deeper water by holding a treat up above his nose level. This way he has to keep his head above water to get the treat. Let him float out toward you in his life vest, or have an assistant support him under his waist while he paddles toward you. Reward him with a treat for being brave, and let him stay out as long as he is having fun. But don’t let his head go under the water.
After maybe a dozen outings, your dog will be confident in her dog paddling skills and swim out on her own.
You will still need to keep your dog from going out too far and from getting entangled in various underwater obstacles.
Swim time always requires your dog’s people to go into the water, too.
The Start-on-Land Method
- Help your dog get used to wearing a life vest. Put a life vest on your dog.. Make sure it is snug, but comfortable. Then go for a walk. Let your Rottweiler wear a life vest on daily walks for a week or so, to make sure she is comfortable with it. Don’t take any outings to get into the water until your Rottweiler is comfortable with the life vest.
- On a windless day, find a calm body of water. A pool with a shallow entry is ideal. A pond without algae or murky water is OK, too, but make sure there are no reptiles that could attack your dog. Make sure your Rottweiler is securely in her vest.
- Let your Rottweiler explore the water at her own pace. She may only want to wade in chest deep.That’s OK. Encourage playing in the water while staying relaxed. If your dog is nervous, or just doesn’t want to go in, don’t force this first step. Sometimes dogs hear and smell dangers humans can’t.
- On future outings, get in the water with your Rottweiler. Making sure your dog is wearing her life vest, support her with one arm under her stomach and one arm under her chest. Let her dog paddle in deeper water. She won’t be able to touch the bottom, but you will.
- Encourage your dog to move her legs as you move around in the water. Eventually your dog will be able to dog paddle without your help, and without a life vest..
The Canine Coach Method
Rottweilers are extremely social.
They make canine friends and human friends easily.
In this method, you let one dog that already knows how to swim teach your dog, while you stick around to make sure your dog has a happy experience.
Prior to going through these steps, it’s a good idea to take your Rottweiler out for walks in its life vest to make sure it fits comfortably and your dog is not afraid of it.
- Introduce your Rottweiler to another dog that knows how to swim. Don’t take them swimming right away. Let them have playtime on land first. Take them on a walk together. Arrange for them to have some off-leash time together in a dog park. Make sure they are comfortable with each other.
- Take both dogs to a calm body of water with a shallow approach, like the shallow end of a swimming pool or a shallow lake on a windless day. Fit your Rottweiler with her vest snugly but comfortably.
- Get into the water with the water-loving dog. Play with the companion dog, and encourage your Rottweiler to join you.
- Play fetch with floating toys (swimming pool toys for people are fine, if they stand up to biting). Encourage both dogs to join you in deeper water. As in other methods, “deeper” water is generally where your dog’s feet can’t touch the bottom but yours can. You need to be available for canine rescue in case your Rottweiler panics or gets into some kind of trouble.
- Encourage your Rottweiler to swim alongside you. Now it’s time for your Rottweiler to see you having fun. Move out into water where you enjoy swimming, encouraging both dogs to come with you. But let your Rottweiler join in the fund at her own pace.
It’s not a tragedy if your Rottweiler stays a beach dog. Rottweilers can have lots of fun just going out with their humans for a day of fun in the sun.
It’s just a lot more fun if they can join you.
Every time you take your Rottweiler for a swim, think safety first. You need to keep a watchful eye on your dog the same way you would watch out for your child.
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