I love Bernese Mountain Dogs and I’m betting if your reading this then you do too, but do they like to swim? I mean its a very good question to ask especially if your the kind of dog owner that likes swimming yourself. There are few things better in life than swimming at the beach so its only natural that you would want your Bernese Mountain Dog to join you. But with their tendency to have poor hips and low overall health knowing their fitness level amongst many other factors becomes important to know.
A Bernese Mountain Dog can learn to like swimming. Some dogs will take to it naturally while others may need a little bit of coaching. You should always be aware of your dog’s health and make sure that they have the fitness level for swimming. It’s also a good idea to get your Bernese Mountain Dog a life jacket for their earliest swimming expeditions.
As mentioned early their are many factors that you need to be aware of before taking your Bernese Mountain Dog swimming. For one, you need to know their general confidence level. Are they the kind of dog that gets easily scared or do they go ahead and jump forward into things with a devil may care attitude. Whichever it is it’s still possible to teach your Bernese how to swim but it will more difficult and require more patience with a more nervous dog.
Some dogs however you shouldn’t really try to teach how to swim. This includes very young puppies if your Bernese Mountain Dog is a puppy it’s better to hold of teaching them how to swim until their older. Puppies haven’t really had enough time to develop their muscles for swimming yet. Old dogs also shouldn’t be taught how to swim. While what is considered old will vary with each dog’s individual health. Generally, dogs over 8 years old may have aged too much for this level of physical exertion.
Many Bernese Mountain Dogs struggle with health problems sometimes sadly at very young ages. They are a dog with a reputation for not living long. So if your dog has any prior medical conditions like hip dysplasia or other problems then you should probably give up on swimming. Of course, I’m not a medical expert so you can also ask your vet for advice and should do what they say is right.
The thick furry coat of Bernese Mountain dogs can also make it more challenging for them to go for a swim. Wet fur can be quite heavy and so with all their fluff, it can weight them down in the water. But it’s not so much the weight that is the problem but rather that this can cause the dog to panic which will not be good. A fearful negative experience in the water can traumatize a dog, preventing them from ever liking to swim. So everything needs to remain positive and a negative experience should be avoided at all costs.
Be aware that before teaching your dog to swim you need to make sure that you will make it fun while also showing great patience. Teaching many dogs to swim will not be something that will happen overnight. In fact, it might take several weeks to months depending upon how many opportunities you get and that everything remains fun and positive. Never force your dog to swim if their scared this will only make things worse and may hurt the relationship between you and your dog.
Why Should You Teach Your Bernese Mountain Dog How to Swim?
Swimming is a wonderful skill for a dog to have. Not only is it a fun playful activity to engage in with your dog that can build your relationship. But it is also excellent exercise that will help your Bernese to stay fit and healthy, reducing their risk of obesity which so often plagues comfortable dogs in these modern times.
Besides those reasons, it can also increase their safety later on. Since a dog that doesn’t know how to swim will be at risk of drowning if they ever happen to fall into a body of water. In fact with the Bernese Mountain Dogs thick coat, they could get so hot during the summer that they might just jump into a body of water before you know it. Needless to say without the proper skills this could turn into a dangerous moment.
If you happen to have a swimming pool then it becomes especially important to teach your Bernese how to swim. I have heard too many tragic stories of dogs that fell into the pool and didn’t know how to swim nor even how to get out of the pool. Unfortunately without a well-timed heroic rescue by their masters these dogs drowned. So if you have a pool then you must either teach your dog how to swim or forever block them from having pool access.
How to Teach Your Bernese Mountain Dog How to Swim
When teaching your dog how to swim, its important that you make sure that you choose the perfect location for the practice sessions. Ideally, your going to want to find a place that has very calm smooth water. Being able to control the environment is a must as well. It needs to be a place where you feel confident that you can quickly intervene if things start to go wrong.
For me personally, I would say that swimming pools make the perfect locations. Their water is calm, fairly shallow and the exit is easily accessible. Also if the swimming pool belongs to you or a friend then you have maximum control there. Plus you don’t have to worry about the risk of snakes or alligators like you might in a pond or river. Dog parks also often have small bodies of water that can serve as excellent practicing locations especially in the earlier steps of the training.
This next part is very important and your ability to be able to teach your Bernese Mountain Dog how to swim will depend upon it. You must keep the practice sessions fun and short. Dogs can become much more easily exhausted by swimming than humans generally are. With exhaustion comes danger and the risk of something traumatizing happening. The more tired they get the higher their risk of muscle cramps. So as soon as your Berner starts to seem tired end the session for that day.
Here are a few essential steps to follow while teaching your dog how to swim.
- The first step is to choose your location. It must be a place where the water is calm and shallow. At this stage, all you want to accomplish is to get your dog comfortable just standing in the water with you. So pick a spot where they can stand and invite them to hang out in the water with you.
- Do just this step often and for quite some time. Just stand in the water with your Bernese or just walk together along the shoreline. This will help them to become confident with water in general. It’s important that this be positive and never rush your dog into deeper water than they feel that they’re ready for.
- When your Bernese Mountain Dog is eager to advance to the next stage of swimming. Then start to lead them deeper into the water. The trick here is you need to stay close enough to your dog to help them in case of trouble but you don’t want to interfere with their paddling motion. Your probably going to want to put your hand under their stomach and gently lift them up. Half holding them like this should increase their confidence.
- Just repeat these steps many times never pushing your dog beyond where they’re comfortable. Make sure every session is a fun happy experience. Maybe give them a few of their favorite treats afterward to give them an extra happiness boost.
- Always remember to be patient this isn’t a race and each dog will have their own pace that’s best for them.
Where Are Some Places That You Can Take Your Bernese Mountain Dog to Swim
- Your local dog park can be a great place to swim, especially for the early steps of the process. The water is often calm and shallow which are the best places for practice.
- Calm beaches are generally not the best place to start since they have some waves. But they can be great fun when your dog is more confident.
- Sometimes local state parks will have sections of a lake where people are allowed to swim. Make sure that dog swimming is allowed and if it is then have at it. Just watch out for snakes.
- The best place for swimming practice for your Bernese Mountain Dog is a swimming pool. Ideally, one that you own or a friend who doesn’t mind you using it. Here you have almost complete control of the environment, their shallow, and you don’t have to worry about waves.
Buy Your Bernese Mountain Dog a Life Jacket
In the past finding, a life jacket for your dog could be an almost impossible task. But recently with the rise in dog ownership life jackets made for dogs are much easier to find. I personally would prefer teaching a dog how to swim while they’re wearing a life preserve. It makes it much safer and can give you a greater peace of mind.
When looking for a life jacket for your Bernese you need to find one that fits them well. In fact, this should be your most important criteria. As you don’t want the straps to be too tight and painful for your dog. But at the same time, you don’t want them accidentally slipping out. I also recommend that if you can you get one with a handle. This will make getting your dog out of the water much easier especially if you find them in an awkward situation.
Many dogs when their swimming struggle to use all four of their legs as nature intended. They have a tendency to try to use their front legs for paddling while looking for the ground with their back legs. While this is perfectly fine at first it will make their swimming a much more difficult affair. If they can use all their legs your Bernese Mountain Dog will like to swim more.
A well-fitting life jacket helps to teach your dog how to use all four paws at once. By helping their body to floats it puts them in a more horizontal position. This will naturally encourage them to use their hind legs to paddle as well.
What Should You Do After Your Bernese Mountain Dog Gets Out of the Water?
A Bernese dog’s thick coat can hold a lot of water. Unfortunately, when it becomes damp and doesn’t dry off quickly this can turn into a stinky sour smell. To help avoid this situation have a beach towel ready for your dog. As soon as they get out fo the water quickly and thoroughly dry them off. This is also a great opportunity to brush out their coat removing any brambles, bugs, or debris that they may have picked up while swimming. Its especially good to do this if they have been swimming in a lake or pond as their more likely to pick up stuff in their fur.
Be calm and just enjoy the ride of teaching your Bernese Mountain Dog how to swim. Focus on having fun with your dog and don’t rush or worry. Dogs pick up emotions from their owners so if your tense with anxiety then they probably will be as well. Make every session fun and end it as soon as theirs the slightest hint of a souring of the experience. Do these things with love and your Bernese Mountain Dog should like to swim in no time.