What if my dog is afraid of water? Physiotherapy & Exercise Physiology For Dogs - New Life Vet

I always say that I don’t want the treatment to be worse than the disease.

That being said, many dogs who haven’t had much experience swimming or for example, are not fond of a bath, can go on to benefit from a hydrotherapy program. And some dogs are terrified the whole time, and there are other ways we can achieve their rehabilitation and facilitate their recovery.

Having experienced hydrotherapists is enormously beneficial in this instance. In Newcastle, we have access to an experienced hydrotherapists at Dog Overboard. They can assist your dog in the pool, provide closeness, comfort and plenty of treats and reward throughout the session. 

Minimising fear can take time. A slow approach, with plenty of rewards along the way can build trust. Sometimes the first few sessions are simply desensitising sessions, where the pool, the facilities and the surrounds are explored.

Once in the water, voice and food reward can counter-condition your dog to what would have ordinarily been an unpleasant experience. If the reward offsets the unpleasantness, then the net effect is neutral for the dog. If the reward is consistent, the dog will learn that whatever they found unpleasant initially is worth the effort for the reward at the end.

Some dogs are not anatomically suited to swimming and a life jacket can make all the difference to their confidence and can alleviate a fear response. The life jacket can float the dog and keep them secure with their head above water, while their legs do all the work.

A life jacket also spreads the load between the forelegs and the back legs. Traditionally swimming is a foreleg exercise, but when wearing a life jacket, all four legs can spread the load to move from one end of the pool to the other.

Another way to minimise this fear is to address it early, (before it is even expressed) and expose your puppy to swimming opportunities throughout their early life, so that swimming becomes another fun activity, not something to be feared. That way you set yourself up to benefit from swimming and enjoying the water with your dog, throughout their lifetime.

If you would like to know more, contact us and we can help you and your dog on the road to recovery…or in the pool to recovery!!