Contrary to popular belief, golden retrievers are not natural born swimmers. Just like any other dog, golden retrievers need to be exposed to water to become comfortable and develop confidence in the water. The earlier this is done, the better. Trying to teach a full-grown retriever to swim, if he has never been exposed to the water, can be a difficult task due to his large size. The older a dog is when exposed to water for the first time, the more likely he is to have developed a fear of the water, which will have to be overcome. With some hard work and dedication, you will be able to teach your golden retriever puppy to swim in a relatively short amount of time.
Teaching Your Puppy to Swim
Locate a nearby pond, lake or small body of still water where you can take your dog to swim. Ask a friend to accompany you and assist in teaching your retriever to swim.
Hold your golden retriever puppy in your arms and carry him out about 10 yards into the pond or lake. Situate one hand underneath his stomach, while the other hand holds his tail up to stabilize him and keep his body parallel with the surface of the water.
Turn to face your friend who has remained on the shore. Gently place your retriever into the water.
Check to see that his feet start to move back and forth almost immediately after he has been immersed in the water. Lift him up out of the water to check. You should find that his feet are still moving as if he is swimming.
Continue holding him in place and allow him to work his feet up to a good paddling motion.
Slowly remove your hand from underneath his stomach. Continue to hold his tail with your other hand.
Signal your friend to offer lots of loud encouragement and praise to your dog while clapping her hands. Slowly release your retriever’s tail and let him swim in the direction of your friend.
Instruct your friend to continue calling the dog to her. Have her keep the dog by her side when the retriever arrives.
Meet your friend and your retriever on the shore. Return to the pond with your dog and repeat the lesson again. Continue to repeat these steps several times throughout the day.
Return the following day and repeat the entire process all over again. Continue to visit the pond as frequently as possible for several days. Gradually increase the distance that your retriever has to swim each day.
Continue with these lessons until you are sure that your retriever is confident in the water and he is an able swimmer.
Return to the pond with some balls or floating dog toys. Bring your dog into the shallow water and let him stand with his feet in the water. Throw the toys out into the water to entice your retriever to enter the water on his own.
Offer verbal praise to your golden retriever when he begins to swim on his own. Encourage him to enter the water without prompting.