Second Chance: Dogs & Water

Second Chance: Dogs & Water

Dear Pet Column,

Last winter I adopted a young male dog. 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?


Hmmm, would you like to be tossed from an airplane to get over your “apprehension” of heights?

Similarly, tossing is certainly not 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 – rather than drowning it.

Dogs have a natural tendency (a.k.a. survival instinct) to avoid the unknown and the threatening. So to help your dog work through any fear reaction he might have, you should act as you would with a child exploring a new environment – gently with encouragement.

Giving your dog time to overcome its fears at his/her own pace rather than reverting to force should yield the desired results. Submerging a dog against its will often increases its aversion to water – just as you might avoid airplanes after being tossed from one.

You can also think of it like this…We dogs like to maintain a relatively singular focus, so we aren’t often happy and fearful at the same time. One emotion has to make room for another, therefore distracting a dog’s 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 a good trick. 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 who are not fetchers and turn their nose up at a ball or stick, try walking into the water yourself and playfully calling your dog – 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. To model the behavior you would like your dog to mimic, take him/her out with your friend’s dogs who loves water. I happen to love water, so you might think about adopting me. I could be your other dog’s sibling and teach him to really appreciate getting wet.

As with any kind of learning, keep it fun and rewarding and you should succeed.

I should know, as I am learning all sorts of fun new things here at Second Chance Humane Society.

My name is Kayli. I am a beautiful six-month-young black lab. I need a good outlet, like swimming and playing fetch, to channel my abundance of energy. I love playing with other dogs and am very good natured and eager to please, so I am picking up basic training very quickly. Please come meet me today.


The cat of the week is King, a handsome black/brownish feline about 10 years old. King came to Second Chance as a stray in pretty rough condition. He received emergency medical care which saved his badly wounded eye. He is healing now and ready for a safe loving home. King is affectionate and loving and he gets along well with other cats, although he prefers doing his own thing.

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. Her service area is  San Miguel Mesas, Placerville, Ridgway, Ouray, and Montrose. For more on Dr. Dally, go here.

Michelle & Wallowby

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