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Old 06-05-2019, 06:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How to train a poodle to like water?

Hi all,

I have an absolutely wonderful 6 month old standard poodle. So far she's been super easy to train most things. I keep having to remind myself (and other people) that she's still a puppy.

I spend a lot of time on the water - swimming, canoeing, cottaging, beach walking, etc, and really, really want her to learn to like water - and swim!

She really doesn't mind the rain - even soaking rain. But she HATES getting her feet wet.

I have tried pretty much everything, it seems...

- She's been bathed, standing in a few inches of water, with lots of good rubbing and praise, every week or two since I got her, and tolerates it.

- I took her camping - I hopped on rocks in the water, and she followed with lots of praise. Until she couldn't without getting her feet wet, then she just whimpered pitifully.

- I went to the beach (3x, various lakes) and walked with my feet in the water... she stayed scrupulously on shore. I sat for a while, and coaxed her to drink and let her wander. She stayed as far as possible from that water thing. I took her on a hike - we had to cross a creek. She balked, then cleared it with the biggest jump i have ever seen. She walks around puddles on our walks.

- I took her canoeing 3x. She curls up in the bottom in her lifejacket and sleeps. The last time she drank water from the side of the canoe

- I bought her a plastic kiddy pool last week and set it up on the porch. I gave her an afternoon to get used to it (she decided it was a giant water bowl). I then tried to coax her to put feet in with a treat. Nope. I played with her favourite balls, and eventually tossed them in. Poison coated,obviously. I floated a bowl with treats/people food once or twice a day for a few days, and she enjoyed that game, finally figuring out not to be spooked by how it moves in the water and eating from the bowl. But wouldn't put her feet in just waited for it to get close enough for her to catch. I emptied the kiddy pool, and taught her in and out for treats. Great game! I let it fill with less than an inch of rain water overnight, and she jumped in, and now refuses to jump in it again. Today, I left a bowl, dead centre, in the inch of water, with a spoonful of tuna in it. I let her have some and slowly inched it out to where she needed to put a foot in. Nope. Even tuna is not worth wet feet.

I am waiting for a really hot day to drive her over to my aunts an hour or so away - she has a lab, and a pond. Maybe the lab will teach her?

I really, really want her to learn to swim. At this point I'd settle for willingly getting her feet wet. Any other suggestions?
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Six months is a young pup. At this age, I'd encourage her to watch other dogs playing in the water for a while. Just go and watch. Don't expect her to do anything other than watch. Expose her to different kinds of water: still water, water that moves in waves, water that trickles over rocks. Let her see it, explore it, taste it. Let her see you get in water and play and laugh and toss floating toys. Expect her to stay on the shore and watch. Your pup is young and wisely cautious of new things. As she ages, she will change. Curiosity will overcome caution and she'll splash out to see the toys you're playing with. The harder you push, the more she will resist. Go at her speed and praise each tiny step in the right direction. You have time to turn her into a swimming dog. Right now, she's a cautious puppy, and that's all right. Maturity changes things.
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Old 06-06-2019, 04:34 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I think click just gave some excellent advise. She is still a baby as as she develops and is being given the opportunities you are already given her she will eventually develop self confidence. I think playing with the lab would be good too.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:20 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Two ways that work: One, I second the advice play with a dog that loves water - another poodle or a Golden they almost always love water. Two: play retrieve games into the water: this is what Poodle were bred to do. If she is a ball fanatic that is the easiest way.
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Old 06-06-2019, 08:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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OK - so more patience, repetition, exposure, and praise. We can do that And not pushing, which is somewhat harder. She is not at all nervous - and I want to keep it that way!- but she is definitely the softest dog I've ever worked with.

She's ok-ish with still water and small creeks. Choppy waves and river rapids are understandably scary.

I'll work on getting her to the lab - unfortunately he's stick-crazy, and completely ignored her last time they met. I'll try also another local beach to see if there are any dogs there just to watch - that's a great idea. Unfortunately the local dogs we know aren't water lovers. We know no other poodles, but do know a few goldens, but they are completely out of control. They like to trample my puppy, so we stay well away.

I'm struggling with this partially because it's the first real "fear" thing we've had to face. Her breeder did an amazing job with socializing her, so she's really been an unflappable puppy - even when she was 4 months old, people thought she was a 2 yr old dog on our walks. The only issue she has had were tunnels/going under bridges (easily solved with a couple passes through with lots of treats, jumpy play+ chase the ball, and happy voice), and recently, seeing people in a location she doesn't expect to see a person on our walks (I greet the person, bring her forward to meet them, she get pets).
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Old 06-06-2019, 01:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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When my standard poodle first saw a big puddle he was a year old. DD and the other kids had brought him down to the lake- Lake Huron, you cannot see to the other side, which is Canada. He loved it. I did not love it as I'm the one who combed the dog out!

My border collie was very hesitant with water. I first got him to go after a ball and enjoy that. Then, I sent the ball to the edge of the pond, and closer and closer each time. It took practice, but eventually, that ball was more important than wet toes. Then, a little deeper. It takes time and best done in trials close together.

I think once he actually swims somewhere he will become a duck.
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Old 06-07-2019, 05:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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OK - I think I've figured out what's happening. She seems to be going through a fear phase, and is doing a lot of deep, warning barking (not yappy happy barking).
- Yesterday, she was barking in the window at a truck unloading at a neighbours, so I took her for a walk to go see. She startled at the person coming out of the door, but eventually decided that they and the truck were not worth being afraid of. We sat on the porch for a bit to watch the truck and a neighbour (who we have met, and I don't like) came by. She hid behind me until we chatted for a bit, then wanted petting.
- I took her to the park. She was afraid of a Westie who wasn't showing any aggressive body language, just really loud/jumpy - normally she would have tried to pull me over to greet, instead she turned and pulled the other direction.
-Last night, when we went to bed she started barking. I am staying with my mom right now, and I figured out that she was barking at my mother snoring in the other room. OK, let's go see! Oh. it's just her. Puppy entering room woke my mother up, but she didn't want to let my mom (who she loves!) pet her, or sniff my mom's dog (who she also loves). Back to bed. I had the window open, so she started barking at a truck that went by on the street. I closed the window and turned on a fan. She sat on my bed, staring in the direction of the scary fan, shifting/vibrating, rather than sprawling out. I turned on the light, and showed her the fan. Nope, scary fan. I turned off the fan, and showed it to her, she ran to the other end of the bed. OK then. Left fan off, turned off light, went to bed. Turned fan on again this morning- absolutely no issue.

I guess I really need to work on not pushing her until this fear phase ends. I really hope it ends soon, I miss my unflappable puppy!
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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You're handling your puppy's fears well. I used to run away with Noelle when she was scared of something. We got far away and watched together, just like you are doing. Then we took one brave step closer, and ran away again. Two brave steps closer, run away. Letting Noelle know that I had her back, and understood why garage doors were terrifying, helped a lot. Noelle grew into a confident unflappable dog. Keep it up!
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Old 06-25-2019, 04:15 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Well, one step forward and two steps back and a progress update for a very stubborn puppy.... she is no longer afraid, just, really, really disinterested.

She visited the lab, who was wet from pond, but didn't go back in.

We spent most of the last week at two different lakes. Spent 4 days going for walks 3-4 times a day to the beach, played soccer and kicked her ball in a bunch of times, I played in the water. Nope not happening. Took her canoeing again, bleah. Water. Took to a river twice. Yikes.

Last weekend tooK her to a friends cottage. Discovered she likes vibratey motor boats better than canoes. Blasphemy! But got more comfortable and started to willingly jump in and out on command and walk around in the boat. Even got her to pick up a floating thing from the side of the canoe!

on one canoe ride she saw 3 labs, who barked at us and jumped in to swim after us. She was super interested and you could see the wheels turning in her brain. I wanted to take her over to visit, but they were out of control and their owner seemed super stressed, so we didnt. Not 5 min later, we were in a weedy bay with lots of floating seaweed. One paw went out to test the 'grass', then the whole dog was in the water. I forgot her life jacket at the other lake but she was swimming!!!! She swam to me - fix it human!!!- and I stuck one hand under her, as her butt was really low, and she figured out how to swim horizontally instead of vertically, and i directed her towards shore (we were only 2 m away or so), then canoed around to pick her up. My friends all have lifeguard training, so the plan was to jump in after her if she fell in., but luckily it wasn't necessary.

Later that day, while swimming with friends, we played with her soccer ball in the water, and got her to play a little with us in the water and her chasing her ball on the dock. Ball was dead if it fell in though. Also gave her treats from us in the water. The day was hot, and she was overheating so eventually I picked her up and slowly walked in. Put feet in, waited til she relaxed, inched more in.... it went well, but once she got her belly wet, she went wild, and climbed to stand on my back. I yelled for help, and friends were laughing too hard. Eventually one grabbed her, had her calmly swimming for a few seconds, supported by his hand under her belly. I took her, and she scrambled on to the dock.... we gave her lots of treats. She let me catch her and hug her and pick her up, then put her down on dry land when we got out, so no grudges held.

Later that day she willingly put her feet in water when we tried to get her back in the canoe after a long off leash walk, as she ran away to tell us she would rather run in the forest than sit in a stupid canoe, so.... yeah. One step forward....

This weekend the plan is to go back to our lake, more canoe rides, and maybe trying to walk her slowly in again, with her life jacket on. Also a bath, and I will fill the tub instead of only putting in 2 inches to soak her feet. And give chicken in the bath. If there is a nice day I will take her to the local beach this week too.

So yeah...maybe by the time she's 82, she might consider swimming.

Note to self. If I ever get another puppy, get it during the summer, or at least start teaching it to swim in bathtub when very young...
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:09 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Slow and steady wins the race.... Who knew I'd end up doing learn to swim lessons with a dog?

We just spent a week at the lake with little to no AC and 30+C days. She still won't willingly swim, but will willingly walk in now, and will accept treats in the water, so huge improvement. And she fell off the kayak, this time very far from shore, so the swimming lessons kept us both a lot calmer!

The beach is very shallow so I carried her in every day one to 3 times to my hip height and made her swim with her life jacket on. No struggling, just head down on my shoulder on the walk out, then a determined dog paddle to shore. We gradually worked on distance, and at the beginning I would stop and hold her up for a bit to give her a break. She sinks her back legs down if I take her lifejacket off - she's figured out now if she does that she can touch earlier and walk on her hind legs. Sigh. When she gets a bit more comfortable, I'll take her further out so she has more incentive to learn to swim properly. By the end of the week, she was willingly putting her feet in and my rule was - if she walked in willingly, I didn't pick her up and make her go farther. if she balked at the edge of the beach or halfway down the hill, the life jacket went on and we went for a swim.

She also got to play with a golden (what you doing? Don't you know there's WATER? I am going to stand here and whimper knee deep and hope you come back) and a husky (what? you go in too!? Come back! OK, fine then. We splashy play in the shallows together). She will walk in now if there is someone she knows in the water talking to her, so that's good too
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