Vet offers scoop on dogs that swim, dogs that don't

Vet offers scoop on dogs that swim, dogs that don't
These two short-legged, deep-chested canines prefer terra firma.

Several years ago my Bellevue-raised son and I took his Jindo, a Korean dog that looks like a big akita, to Lake Sammamish on a hot summer day (yes, I know that seems like a contradiction in terms). We thought Haley would love a swim in the cool, clean, fresh water.

Boy, were we wrong. Instead, she whined, cried and begged in the most pathetically miserable body language ever not to be dragged into the water.

What's up with that? We thought all dogs could swim and liked the water? Does your dog like to swim?

Here, Dr. Marty Becker answers Eastsiders' questions in excerpts from an article "Can All Dogs Swim?" that ran in May on the site

Q. Do dogs know how to swim naturally?

A. Dogs will naturally start "dog paddling" when they find themselves in water, but that doesn't mean that they like, are good at it or are safe in the water.

Dogs who can't swim – though they may try their best – are typically those with large, heavy chests in relation to their hindquarters, and they often have short muzzles. The most extreme example of these breeds, the bulldog, is so poorly built for water survival that they typically sink like rocks. Owners should take every precaution to keep them safe around water.

Q. Can you teach a dog to swim?

A. Even in breeds that were bred for swimming – such as Labrador retrievers - you'll occasionally find a dog who doesn't enjoy the water. You can try encouraging your dog to swim by going out and seeing if she'll follow, and rewarding her with praise. Dogs who love to play fetch will often go out after tennis balls or other floating toys. You might get her swimming by letting her get comfortable at a certain depth and then throwing the toy in water that's progressively deeper. Finally, many dogs will swim just to join in the fun if they are around other dogs who enjoy swimming.

But again, even if your dog comes to love swimming, safety is still up to you. Make sure your dog doesn't get overly tired, and be aware that puppies and older dogs tire more easily and seem less aware of their fatigue until it's too late. Stay away from strong currents and areas with underwater debris that can entangle a dog.