Dog is my co-pilot

Joan and Nick, our neighbors across the street, gave us a copy of “Bark”, the dog culture magazine. Considering the fact that they have no dogs, I thought it was pretty cool. Of course I immediately sing up for my own subscription. The magazine is full of great stories and oodles of pictures of smiling dogs, not to mention good training tips.

For example, I wish I’d known about the following “Water Rules” before we took the girls down to Piano Lake at the Glass House:

1)  Do supervise your dog in and around water. (Check)

2)  Don’t force your dog into the water; it will only raise his fear level. It is also a betrayal of his trust in you as a fair leader. Learning to swim is a process that needs support and encouragement; reinforce water curiosity and exploration with praise, toys and special tidbits. (OK, we didn’t really force them into the water; we carried them in. Who knew it was a process? It was supposed to be a natural thing, right?)

3)  Don’t allow your dog to swim in water you wouldn’t swim in yourself. Beware of toxic algae blooms, submerged objects (on which a dog could be impaled) and trespassing into areas guarded by agressive wildlife. (Check)

4)  Do be sure your dog has a solid recall. Can you call him away from the water’s edge? From a floating ball? From ducks in a pond? Teach recall on land first, then add shallow-water recalls before gradually building in distance in deeper water (a whistle blast is a good distance recall signal.) Practice this everytime you’re in the water. (Eh. We practice. I wouldn’t call it “solid”.)

5)  Do make sure your dog is wearing a properly fitted, quality canine life jacket during training or conditioning activities. And, because a life jacket adds drag resistance, wearing it may actually serve to build more endurance and strength than swimming without one. Wearing a life jacket while boating gives your dog a chance at survival if he’s bumped overboard. (Check. Check. Check.)

~Deborah Lee Miller-Riley, founder,
 Canine Water Sports, Monroe, Conn.

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