When I first set out, I brought a helper (human;) and my own 2 dogs, and no electronics (although video and photos from that adventure would have been priceless). Someone had given me a doggy life jacket, which, I never imagined I’d use. I put it on my smaller girl, as she’s not a very experienced swimmer. Pushing off that first time everyone had their doubts, from the helper to the dogs. After moving a little ways out, it was time to investigate if the dogs could be coaxed into the water. I wanted them to end up liking it and trusting me, so lowering or pushing them in was not an option. No rush, we paddled along to let them get used to it some more. Then, luck smiled on us. What happened to be floating a little distance farther ahead? Yup, a tennis ball. In my opinion it’s all about motivation, so, I pointed out the ball to my ball-obsessed Irie with lots of encouragement. She was hilarious, whining and wanting it, when, her desire for it overcame her inhibitions, she went for it. End of story for her.
Zeal, my other dog, was not so easily won over. I played around with letting him jump out to get on land for a break…and it was tricky getting him to commit to getting back in. First we tried paddling away to see if he’d swim after us. He paced the shore and tried everything but swimming up to the boat. So, we paddled back to the shore and he’d jump in, but was not secure so part way out I let him choose to stay…which he did not. He jumped back out. So, we had to let him jump in then hang on to him till we were a good distance out. Since his biggest motivation is prey, I tried to show him some ducks but he had wedged himself against me and wasn’t taking in the scenery. So, we found him some geese that were appealing enough to override his worry. We made progress: first step, he was able to turn around instead of lie down almost in my lap. I quietly goaded him and he finally bit and launched off the front of the boat to have a swim chase. This is probably where I should inform some that geese can supposedly drown a dog, and don’t disturb wildlife. Zeal’s allowed to swim after things that are superior swimmers or herd things that can fly away. One of Zeal’s most favorite activities is herding seagulls while they’re coasting along the shore on thermals. Oh, he’s not actually influencing those gulls at all, but he thinks he is, and gets excited when they change direction and he cuts hard and races the other direction…that’ll be another blog entry unto itself.
Since then a number of dogs had made their debut boat swim off of my little orange kayak. Surprisingly nice, 3 of them were Portuguese water dogs, all with the same great swimming form, some Border Collies and mixes, a mini Aussie with lots of fear issues who did great :)!, and a Flat-Coated Retriever that can sniff out water if there wasn’t hardly a drop left on Earth, and subsequently will try to attend each and every “spa” the wild (or man) may have to offer.
Most dogs were already in love with swimming. Most dogs settle in by the end of the first float. Having dogs on board that already feel extremely comfortable usually helps. I say “usually” because sometimes Irie feels too comfortable and will walk around pushing past dogs to stay on top of the toys, and for those that haven’t gotten their sea-legs yet, that can be a little disconcerting. As each dog’s experience grows, they get more and more comfortable and then launching off of the boat becomes their next challenge to overcome…Read about that in Step 3: The 6 inch plunge!
You can see below how comfortable Bisou and Gaia are. It’s Bisou’s first time out, and Gaia is a pro standing with her paws on the edge of the bow!