Portuguese Water Dog is Afraid of the Water by TD Yandt originally published at pupforum.com on August 23, 2005
I have a Portuguese water dog that is 9 weeks old. She fell in the water on her first trip to try swimming a week ago and is just terrified of even just shallow water now. How can I get her swimming? I put her on a leash and sat her in shallow water and she just cried and cried and wouldn't take a step except towards shore. I put her in water she would have to paddle a bit and she did so fine but didn't want to stay in the water anyhow. Any ideas? Thanks. (rschreiber, Texas)
I think you have the right idea - about continuing to introduce her to water. However let’s take a step backwards. How is she on the beach? How does she behave on the dock? Is she afraid of being on a boat? The first step is to get her feeling comfortable near water, without the stress of being forced right in.
Does she have a favorite game? Do you play fetch, Frisbee, or tug with her? I'd spend some time playing with her on the beach. Lots of fun near the water. If she appears nervous at all, move a little further up the beach. Keep things light h
earted and playful. She's only nine weeks old; you've got a lifetime to get her back into the water.
Have you introduced the clicker with her? If not, I'd do so. Clicking is a great way to give a fearful dog confidence. Start at home, where she doesn't even have to think about water. Once she's got a few cues down pat, try doing some clicking on the dock. Once she's got that mastered, practice some puppy push-ups (sit, down, sit, down, sit, down) on a boat that's dry-docked. Then do some training on the beach with the water around your ankles.
Whatever you do, don't force the issue. Your puppy is still within a fear period, and you don't want to make the situation worse. Keep things fun, no pressure. Don't get frustrated, don't get angry, don't be impatient, and don't lose your temper! Remember, she's just a baby still. Enjoy playing on the beach, digging in the sand, bringing water onto the beach in a bucket - build a sand castle for her to jump on... keep things active, happy, and FUN. She'll come around. After all, it's what she was bred for.
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