NAVIGATION


How to Teach Your Boxer to Swim

This article first appeared in the September/October 2004 issue of the Boxer Ring

Knowing where the entry and exit is, is very important.
Knowing where the entry
and exit is, is very important.
Resting on a ledge is great for praise, rest and re-assurance.
Resting on a ledge is great for
praise, rest and re-assurance.
This puppy is wearing a snug life vest and buckle collar.
This puppy is wearing a snug
life vest and buckle collar
Krissie is sporting a longer type jacket to help support more of her back end.
Krissie (diagnosed with DM) is
sporting a longer type jacket to
help support more of her back end.
Support your dog's body<br> and lower him gently into the water<br>... one step at a time!
Support your dog's body
and lower him gently into the water ... one step at a time!
Using a toy that floats will help encourge play time.
Using a toy that floats will
help encourge play time.
 
A smooth swimmer should not spash and reach their goal for the exit
A smooth swimmer should not
spash and reach their goal for
the exit
Boxer swimming should involve the whole family.
Boxer swimming should
involve the whole family.
End results -- your Boxer will learn to have fun and gain confidence!
End results -- your Boxer will
learn to have fun and gain confidence!

Swimming, whether in a pool or a lake can be very enjoyable form of exercise for both you and your Boxer. It is an excellent way to condition your dog for the show ring, weight loss or for physical therapy in dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy. As with any new physical activity, make sure your dog has a thorough check-up with your veterinarian before starting.

Precautions must be taken to ensure your dog's safety. Being deep-chested and tailless, our Boxers need plenty of instruction learning to turn and maneuver in the water. Boxer's do not have the benefit of a rudder (tail) to help them steer, for example. Invest in a good quality canine life jacket. Fitted properly, the life jacket should fit snugly, which prevents the dog from slipping out of the jacket. I prefer the longer type, as they help to keep the dog's hindquarters afloat. A buckle collar is important so that you can lend guidance and support to your dog, as well as for your use in the event of an emergency. As you will be in the water with your dog, teaching and assisting, I recommend that YOU wear protective clothing, such as jeans and a long sleeved shirt, to prevent being clawed or bruised.

To get started, socialize young ( pups (6 to 8 weeks of age) to a running water hose. This will stimulate curiosity and offer a new tactile experience. Small baby pools and shallow lake banks are great places to work with younger dogs in helping them to become comfortable with having their feet and legs submerged.

Do not expect your dog to be a "natural". Starting to swim will require your patience and encouragement. It takes more than a few times in the pool or the lake before your Boxer starts to really enjoy himself. If your dog is strongly motivated by toys, use one that floats to coax him into the water.

Teaching your dog to safely enter and exit the water is critical. If teaching in a pool, use the stairs to lower your dog into the water each time and as the exit as well. Some suggest that you use a large cone marker or bicycle flag to help visually mark the stair or shoreline exit for your dog.

The first time you and your Boxer enter the water, try to make it a positive and pleasant experience. Support the dog's body with your arms underneath his chest and lower him into the water one step at a time. Some dogs will splash wildly around when they first start. This is normal and will soon subside as your dog starts to relax and learn to effectively propel himself through the water.

The transitional step, when your Boxer's feet no longer touch the bottom, being totally suspended in the water, is most critical.

Float him in front of you as walk around in the water, lending your support with your arm under his belly. Helping your Boxer to keep his front feet under the water will minimize splashing. You may need to repeat this a number of times depending how quickly his level of confidence increases.

Once your dog feels, at ease in the water with your assistance, it is s time to let him start on his own. With your support, swim him out into the water or to the center of the pool and point him in the direction of his exit or the shoreline. Guide him to the steps or shoreline and praise heavily. Repeat as many times as needed to build his confidence. Next, encourage him to swim toward you, rather than to the exit or shoreline.

Swimming with Your Boxer with DM or Arthritis
Degenerative Myelopathy is a slow wasting disease of the hindquarters. Swimming is well known to slow progression, strengthening leg muscles, giving your older Boxer a therapeutic workout. Again, your Boxer should have a thorough check-up by his veterinarian before starting this type of exercise.

Chances are, if you are just now introducing your older Boxer to swim, extra patience will be needed, as older dogs wiII not acclimate to the water as easily as the youngsters will. While he is swimming, you will need to lend extra support to his hindquarters. Using the longer type of canine life jacket will help in keeping his back end buoyant. Swimming sessions should be short, but gradually lengthened each time. Some dogs may need to start out for only one minute.

    Swimming Tips:
  1. Never leave your dog unattended around the pool.
  2. Teach him the entry and exit.
  3. Use a canine life jacket at all times.
  4. Swimming is hard work, so keep sessions short and do not overtire your Boxer.
  5. Use your dog's favorite floating toy or ball to help motivate him to get in the water.
  6. Try to let your Boxer swim with other accomplished swimming dogs. He will learn from them as well.
  7. Boxer's will ingest a lot of water while swimming. It is a good idea to allow your dog ample opportunities to relieve himself, long after he has left the pool or lake.

By: Tracy L. Hendrickson   Website: Sunchase Boxers   Email: Brindoll@cox.net

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