Second Chance: Dogs & Rivers

Second Chance: Dogs & Rivers

Dear Pet Column,

Last winter I adopted a young male dog from the animal shelter. I know little of his history, but he has quickly adapted to our family and does well during most of our outdoor activities. However, he appears to be fearful of water and as I love fishing, I am wondering whether I should just toss him in the water to get him past his apprehension?

Sincerely, Tossing & Turning



Dear Tossing, my name is Bentley. As a 10-month-young homeless heeler mix here at Second Chance Humane Society  I am learning new things everyday, so I have an answer for you: would you like to be tossed from an airplane to get over your “apprehension” of heights? Similarly, not to toss is certainly the best means of introducing your dog to water. That being clear, I will offer you some more gentle alternatives that will enhance the trust between you and your dog – better options than drowning him.

Dogs have a natural tendency (a.k.a. survival instinct) to avoid the unknown and the threatening. Thus, to help your dog work through any fear reaction, you should act as you would with a child exploring a new environment – gently with encouragement.  Letting your dog overcome its fears at his/her own pace, rather than using force, will typically yield the best results. Submerging a dog against its will increase the dog’s aversion to water, just as you would tend to avoid airplanes after being tossed from one.

We dogs like to maintain a relatively singular focus, therefore, diverting our attention from fear to fun is a very effective way of getting your pet to accept foreign elements such as running water. For example, playing with sticks and balls at the edge of the water is good trickery. Tossing the object a bit further into the water each time, while providing ample praise and encouragement can rapidly get a pooch past fear and into play mode.

For dogs that are not fetchers and turn their nose up at a ball or stick, try walking into the water yourself and playfully calling your pet – rather than teetering on the edge keeping your feet dry and asking your dog to go in. Why should your dog go where you, its leader, fears to tread. (We aren’t stupid you know…)?

Games of chase on the water’s edge and rewards of yummy treats while playing in the water are other good ideas. A final suggestion is to take your dog out with your friend’s and their dogs who are water lovers. This activity can be used to model the behavior you would like your dog to mimic.

In closing, I would like to briefly tell you about myself, as I am the Second Chance Dog of the Week. I have great energy, and a general excitement for life, including learning some of the basic manners taught throughout the day here at the shelter. When adopted, I will still need some focused training. I love to run and be outside, particularly with people and other dogs. And I am up for any adventure you might toss my way – including a new family…

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Mae

Ted Hoff &  Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup or get your pup (or adult dog) trained than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online:

Vetting the Vet: Dr. Michelle Dally. DVM, J.D. is Medical Director of Second Chance Humane Society. She also has a private practice, Dally Veterinary Medicine, 333 S. Elizabeth Street, Ridgway, Colorado. But Dr. Michelle makes house calls. (Yes, in Telluride.) Call 970-318-0897. For more on Dr. Dally, go here.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.