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getting 'em to swim


shnelson

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I have a 10mo old lab mix that I've been working with pretty heavily the last few months, he's indicated to me that he's ready to hit wisconsin duck opener next weekend in all areas except water. I've tried everything and just can't get him to swim!

He is in no way fearful of water, in fact I know he loves it. We hit the lake and he'll run the shoreline tromping through 6-12"es of it all day long. I had him out to the swamp we plan on hunting and had him doing 40yd retrieves up to his chest. As soon as I get it out into water he knows is too deep, he'll stop and look at me like I'm supposed to get it.

Some things I've tried:

1. Trainer recommended methods - get him excited about retrieves and slowly work him into deeper water. I've done this, with A LOT of patience. I actually got him to kick his paddles for a bit but he didn't want any more of it after that.

2. Swim with him - I threw on my waders and got him all excited to get out an play. We had a great time in the water, but couldn't get him to willingly follow me into the deeper water. I did 'show' him he could swim by carrying him out with me and setting him in - he paddled a circle around me then went back to shore. Didn't seem to have any anxiety about it, still wanted to play in the water afterwards just not swim.

3. Give him the feeling of false abandonment, and I feel horrible about this so I couldn't keep up with it. I basically crossed a body of water that he'd have to swim in to follow me, I made it to the other end and went out of sight, returned a couple minutes later and he was just sitting on the other shore looking at me.

I get him in the water every opportunity we get, and he doesn't hold back in romping around in it. I'd also like to add that I make sure he's really excited and in a good mood before we attempt anything with water. I just feel like I've hit a wall - I plan on bringing him out with me next weekend no matter what, but if I do drop a duck I don't think it'll be enough motivation for him to go after it (good thing I've got waders!).

Any ideas? Have I done something wrong or do I just need to keep at it?

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get a live bird like a pigeon and clip the flight feathers, show it to your dog, get him really ramped up and chuck that bird in the water and tell your dog to retrieve.

this may work better with a duck if you can get access to buy one as it will swim better. but try live birds and see if that works.

alot of times dogs will be afraid once they cant feel the bottom, once you get them past that they may swim but not use their back legs as they are still trying to find the bottom. both of my dogs never swam with their back legs and they looked so awkward out there. the first time I threw a live bird in the water they started to focus on the bird and were not so concerned how they were swimming and we have never looked back. now they are swiming machines and can cover alot of ground searching for those birds.

you just got to build that confidence up after that it will all fall in to place.

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alot of times dogs will be afraid once they cant feel the bottom, once you get them past that they may swim but not use their back legs as they are still trying to find the bottom.

That fits my dane to a T. In reality, he's a very good swimmer, but he does not like the feeling of not touching the bottom. He'll swim on occasion, but he would much rather stay in water less than chest deep.

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Any of your buddies have a good swimming dog that your lab could "follow"?

I honestly hadn't gotten my lab pup into the water much at all. I was up at our lake cabin and my uncle has a lab/shepherd mix that is a retrieving machine. They launched a tennis ball wayyyyy out into the lake and wouldn't you know, my Morgan (who is a little over a year now) followed him right in and swam right behind him all the way out and back. I couldn't believe it. Ever since that day, I can't keep him out of the water now.

Now Morgan may have done this just fine on his own but I didn't get the chance to, he just followed Tanner and that was the end of the story.

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I had a similar situation as Hanson. When mine was 4 or 5 months old he was a little leery about swimming - loved the water but a little anxious once he couldn't touch. I didn't push the envelope because that was in May when the water wasn't very warm yet but then had him out with another dog in June and he followed that dog in swimming and has swam like a champ ever since.

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I am lucky enough to be able to bring my 8 month old to our lake cabin every weekend and the lake starts out really shallow, you can go a good 100 ft and only be a little over knee deep! Anyways.....my pup was really reluctant to get into the water but i would carry him out and set him in the water where he could still touch and try to make it fun for him by doing alot of praising by saying "good dog good dog"" Before i knew it he was flying off the dock into the water, and better yet, i could make him sit then i would walk to the end of the dock and tell him "okay" so he would come charging as i would throw the dummy and i swear he would fly ten ft. or more into the water!

As far as swimming, i would take him out where he couldn't touch and set him in the water with my hand under his belly helping him along and when he would get some momentum i let go and he swims just fine!! it all takes repetition and alot of praise to the dog!! I can now walk out deep and he will make his way out but doesn't always swim but attepts to! alot of times when it gets deep for him he slaps at the water with his front paws and then i go lift his rear end up so he kicks his hind legs and he is good to go! Hasn't quite figured out that he needs to kick his hind legs as well!! But again, help your dog get used to the water and make sure to make it fun for your dog!!

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Oh and having another dog in the water will help tremendously with getting your dog to figure out that the water is a fun place!!

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I've had him out with other dogs, couldn't get him to follow them on a retrieve though. There was also a lot going on where he was distracted though, I might have to try it again in our secluded area. Below is a video of his current comfort level, please don't criticize me on the unstructured retrieving though - we were just out romping around getting him acquainted with the water smile

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Take your time, it WILL happen. Took my Brittany when he was four months old every day for two weeks. Then all of a sudden he took to it and has been a water dog since. I started with the "use another dog" tactic and my dog would stand in water up to his chest and just bark at the lab as it retrieved his bumper. Then he'd latch onto the lab's ear as it carried him up onto land. I tried swimming away from him but I'd just get my dog barking on shore up to his chest in water.

Best thing that worked for me was to keep getting him riled up then run into the water. I did this for a while and he'd go a little bit then back, and slowly deeper. Once they swim for a good ten to twenty seconds it seems like the light turns on and they have no more fears.

I will admit it was the most frusterating part of training him. Then you get to force fetch .

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I'm kind of in the same boat as shnelson.

I was told by the breeder to get my GWP in the water as much as possible and as soon as possible, so when he was just 10 or 11 weeks old, I had Remy in the water at my uncle's cabin. He was a bit timid at first, but I got him really ramped up and he swam right in. He retrieved about 10 times, swimming every time (and this was WAY before he even knew what retrieving really was).

I thought "this is great, piece of cake!" Boy, was I in for a shocker.

Next time out there are dead fish everywhere. Remy wants absolutely nothing to do with swimming. Even after burrying all the fish, he still won't pay attention to me one iota. Couple weeks later, bring him out again. Same thing. Goes in about ankle deep, then gets busy sniffing in the sand and rolling around. I drug him out a couple of times to swim and even got him to chase me into deeper water, but he really wasn't taking to it like he did the first time.

Now fast forward to present day. Remy is 17 1/2 weeks old and has progressed by leaps and bounds in nearly every category -- housebreaking, retrieving, heeling, responding to commands, staying, -- but will not swim if his life depended on it. I've had him out every day for the past week and I literally think his tolerance for water actually is DECREASING instead of increasing. It has me baffled.

This weekend is waterfowl opener, so he's coming with me whether he likes it or not. My great uncle's son is bringing his amazing lab to do some retrieving work, so I'm praying to the good Lord that Remy can learn by example.

Anyway, good luck shnelson! I'm right there with ya!

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My lab didn't want to swim until he got to that 10-12 month stage. He's got a super strong retrieve drive (as you would expect) so after about the third day of competition with my brother in laws two golden retrievers, he jumped in and out-hustled them to the dummy. Couldn't keep him out of the water after that.

He was pretty comfortable with the other two dogs, so I think that helps. Too much distraction/commotion and he maybe overwhelmed. I would setup up a few different training sessions with the same dogs and go from there. He'll get used to the other dogs and start focusing an getting that dummy!!!

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2. Swim with him - I threw on my waders and got him all excited to get out an play. We had a great time in the water, but couldn't get him to willingly follow me into the deeper water. I did 'show' him he could swim by carrying him out with me and setting him in - he paddled a circle around me then went back to shore. Didn't seem to have any anxiety about it, still wanted to play in the water afterwards just not swim.

Why not continue to do this? It sounded like it didn't bother him. Maybe when you get him out in the deep stuff and hes swimming start tossin the dummy around (not far though). Or get in with him right to the edge of the deep and toss the dummy just far enough (acouple feet) so he has to leave bottom to get it. He may need alittle push (literally) to get him to do it. He'll forget about you giving him that push when hes swimming and retrieving that dummy. I had to give my lab a little push to get her to start jumping of the dock and going up and down stairs (of all things). If they don't want to or their scared, sometimes they just need a push...

I did do the false abondonment with my lab because she didn't want to get into the canoe. I left her on the shore and started to paddle away, within a minute she could not stand it and swam right out to me.

I would continue to do what seemed to work.. and that was carrying him out to deep water and showimg him he could swim.. though make it fun when you get him out there. Good luck and maybe all it will take is that fist downed duck of the season flappin in the water..

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Try the hot dog trick. Use any treat that your dog can recognize. For my dogs, it was raw hot dogs. Put on the waders and stand in shallow water. When the dog comes to you, give him/her the treat. Repeat and work to deeper and deeper water. Worked on my first lab and golden. My last lab accidentally fell off the dock at a very young age. I was ready to jump in but when he came up swimming we just praised him and helped him to shore. Been a swimmer evey since.

HTH

dukhntr

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I'm going to have to try the hot dog trick, I think if I combine that with what I was doing we'll be able to make some better progress.

I know the biggest tools I need to utilize is patience and repetition, as it's only a matter of time before every Labrador discovers how much they like to swim.

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By this time he should be crazy to chase dummies, just go down to a pond or lake and throw dummies along the shoreline, at first so hes splashing thru the water, having a great time, and then oops throw one out just a little deeper where he has to swim, then throw some easy ones, then oops another deeper one, don't over do it. Always, always stop before they get tired of chasing the dummies, keep the desire to retrieve the dummy strong. He'll pick it up but you better start training every day, the water is going to start getting colder fast!!

Good luck!

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My lab mix did that for awhile around the same age, now I cant get her out of the water. I would just take her to places where she would not have a choice, but to swim. Just throwing the dumby not to far because you may have to show her how its done, by going to get it yourself. It just takes a little time and award it when it does swim. It looks like it retrieves well, naturally its lab blood line will get sick of looking at stuff you throw, sitting out in the water and just go get it.

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Just after I get myself all mentally prepped for some repetitive water training and new tricks up my sleeve (thanks to many here), we hit some backwaters today to scout for tomorrow's duck opener and low and behold he decided he wanted to swim!

Today was a selfish trip for me, my only interest was seeing what kind of water levels I have to deal with tomorrow and how many birds it's holding (if any). Water was high and the birds were plentiful, tomorrow is looking good.

I wasn't completely selfish though, and it's a good thing! He's got shorter hair for a lab so I had him wearing some neoprene today, I brought his ATB with to keep him engaged and having fun while we were walking around and accidentally tossed it into some deeper water. He did the usual approach and pawed at it when he didn't want to go further, I got the idea to walk out to get it, only this time bringing him with and guiding him by the handle on the back of the vest. Held him up enough to start swimming, then he launched after the dummy and was on a mission from then on. Completely unexpected, as previously he would have no interest in the dummy while in the deep water, he just wanted to get out.

I couldn't believe it so I tried it again a bit later, he needed no help this time smile. He had no problem following me through the deeper waterways to get to our next pond either, he actually took lead a couple times and waited anxiously for me on the other side.

I'm pretty thrilled to have gotten over this training hurdle with him, I am hoping to drop a couple ducks for him tomorrow and see what he thinks of the action. If all ends well he may be heading up north with me next weekend for the MN opener too!

Sorry for the long post - just had to share the excitement!

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