Who doesn’t love a day at the pool or the beach during summer? Here’s a secret: many dogs love it too. Some pups excel at everything that has to do with water, whether swimming, retrieving, or jumping. So, if your dog already loves water, why not try a water sport?
The best water sports for dogs are water retrieval, surfing, swimming, and even paddleboarding. These sports require a lot of practice, and they can be excellent bonding activities for you and your dog. However, avoid forcing your dog into the water if you notice he gets scared.
In today’s article, I’ll take an in-depth look at the best and most popular water sports for dogs. I’ll give you all the information you need about these sports. Plus, I’ll outline some tips and tricks for what to do if your dog is afraid of the water.
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8 Most Popular Canine Water Sports
Not all dogs love water, but those that do may enjoy practicing a water sport. These sports need a combination of skill, training, and energy, so it is an excellent way to keep your dog entertained and obedient.
Here are the best water sports for dogs!
1. Water Retrieval
Water retrieval is one of the most popular water sports for dogs. It is what it sounds like. There’s an item your dog has to grab and bring back in a pool or any deep body of water.
This sport is highly entertaining for dogs that were bred to help fishermen and hunters like Golden Retrievers or Newfoundlands.
Here’s what your dog needs for water retrieving:
- Proper training: It is essential to teach your dog the necessary commands to perform water retrieving. He first needs to know how to retrieve on land. Then, he can do it in the water.
- Moderate energy: Swimming requires more energy than just running, especially if the water is icy cold. So, before training your dog to retrieve in water, you need to ensure he has the energy to withstand that sport.
- Swimming abilities: Finally, you need your dog to have good swimming skills. If your dog cannot swim well yet, it is better to wait.
Some people try to break retrieving records and train their dogs to fulfill the task in the least possible time. However, speed is not a requirement if you want to do this sport for fun or to bond with your doggo better.
2. Dog Surfing
Have you ever seen a dog on a skateboard? That’s a more common sight than seeing one on a surfboard. However, surfing is a popular water sport for dogs that some breeds will love. In fact, it has been part of the dog water sports world since the 1920s.
There are even some dog surfing classes you can attend so that you and your dog can learn how to perform this sport safely. Your dog can do it on his own, or you can get on the board with him.
Here’s what your dog needs to practice dog surfing:
- Swimming skills: Just like humans, for a dog to practice surfing, he needs to know how to swim. Most of the time, you’ll be on the board with him, but chances are your dog will fall eventually. So, prepare him for any possibility and help him feel confident swimming in the ocean.
- Obedience: Surfing is challenging for anyone, but especially for dogs. It requires a lot of training and patience. If your dog is not obedient enough, chances are he won’t become an expert surfer.
- A special dog surfboard: These boards were designed to keep your dog safe and comfortable while you surf. They make it easier for dogs to grip to avoid falling and getting hurt.
- A dog life jacket: If you want to do dog surfing as a professional sport, you’ll need to get a life jacket for you and your doggo. It is one of the main rules, and there are no exceptions.
3. Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
If dog surfing is not the ideal sport for your dog, you can try SUP boarding. It is less demanding on your dog, and any breed can do it. Although, you need to ensure your dog knows how to swim before trying it.
The idea of this sport is to get your dog on one end of the board while you paddle. Dogs often love it because they can just stand there and feel the breeze on their faces.
Here’s what you need to practice this sport with your dog:
- Patience: SUP boarding is not a demanding sport, but it requires a lot of practice. Your dog needs to learn to stand still while you paddle, and that can take time. The only thing you can do is to be patient and start slow.
- Training: If your dog loves water, chances are he will want to jump off the board. On the other hand, if you are too nervous, he won’t stay still. You need to train him so that he does what you want.
- The right equipment: There are no special paddleboards for dogs, but you should get a life jacket for him if he falls. Even if your dog knows how to swim, it is better to be prepared.
There’s no specific approach to swimming with your dog. You can do it however you want as long as you and your dog feel safe and comfortable. Jump right into the water with him or just lie in the shallow water.
All you need is your dog to be willing to swim and stay inside a pool. Breeds like Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands typically love anything related to water. Still, some dogs do not enjoy it that much.
Here are some of the dogs that do not do well in a pool:
- Bulldogs: This goes for all types of Bulldogs. They are just not designed to be great swimmers.
- Pugs: Pugs are better on land than in water because of their flat faces and small bodies.
- Bull Terriers: Combine a Bull Terrier’s short legs and deep chest, and you have a dog that can’t stay afloat.
- Basset Hounds: These beautiful dogs are excellent for tracking, but they are not good at swimming.
If you want to swim with your Pug or Basset Hound, you can get him an appropriate life jacket to keep him from drowning.
Note: Dogs are excellent at dog paddle, so chances are your pup will naturally start swimming once he is inside the water. However, it doesn’t mean you can just throw him in to see what happens.
5. Dock Diving
This water sport for dogs is similar to diving (the human sport). Your dog will get onto a platform and jump as high and far as he can. Then, he’ll fall into the water and receive a total score based on what the judges have considered.
It sounds fun, and it is not a particularly challenging sport. However, it does require your dog to be fearless and obedient. Labrador Retrievers and Border Collies typically excel at this sport because of their long legs and intelligence.
Dock diving is a competition recognized by the American Kennel Club. It also has a large following across the United States and other Western Countries.
This water sport is reserved only for the most experienced dog swimmers because it requires skill and high-level training. Even if your dog loves water, it doesn’t mean he’ll want to stay underwater for more than a couple of seconds. However, if that’s not a problem for your pup, you can train him to find and retrieve underwater objects.
Here’s what you’ll need to teach your dog to dive:
- Treats: Dogs generally respond well to positive reinforcement. If your pup goes into the water and retrieves the underwater object, reward him with many pats and his favorite treat. In no time, he’ll be doing it even without a treat.
- A heavy object: You can find high-quality dog toys that won’t float online or in pet stores. These toys sink and have bright colors so that your dog can find them even if they are underwater.
- A deep pool: The one thing you truly need is a swimming pool deep enough to allow your dog to dive. You can also try teaching your dog to dive in the ocean or a lake, but starting in a controlled environment is better.
7. Dog Boating
Dog boating can be the perfect way to spend some time away from the city with your best friend. If your pup doesn’t get sea-sick and he is wearing the right protection, then there’s nothing preventing you from enjoying dog boating with him. However, the most important part of dog boating is safety, and that’s all on you.
Here are the must-have items to keep your dog safe during boating:
- Dog sunscreen: It doesn’t matter if your dog has a thick coat. If he is exposed to the sun for long periods, he will likely get burned on his nose.
- Shade or something to cover your dog: Your dog cannot spend the entire time exposed to the sun, not even if you cover him with sunscreen. A parasol or something to create shade will likely be enough.
- Drinkable water: Heat exposure will make anyone thirsty. It is even harder on dogs, who are covered in thick fur. Having a lot of drinkable water is a must.
- A leash or a harness: If you don’t trust your dog not to jump into the water, you can always have him leashed. It will make it less fun for him but will keep him safe, and that’s more important.
8. Dog Kayaking
Does your dog already love spending all his time with you? Well, kayaking means being with you while enjoying the ride and the view. It is one of the most popular dog sports in the world because it doesn’t require much from your pup.
Before heading out, you’ll need a life vest, a kayak, and a paddle. Here’s what your dog needs to know before going kayaking:
- The right training: Your dog needs to be calm while on the kayak. If not, there’s a risk that he will fall or that the imbalance will make both of you fall into the water. That’s why teaching your dog to stay calm is essential.
- Obedience commands: Your dog needs to know the basic commands like sit, stay, and lie down to make the experience safer and more enjoyable.
- Swimming: Your dog needs to know how to swim and stay afloat in case he falls or there’s an accident.
Note: You should only practice dog kayaking in flat water and if your dog knows how to swim.
Which Breeds Are Better at Water Sports?
Not all dogs have the same skills. Some are excellent hunters, guards, and life companions, while others just excel at anything related to water.
Here are some of the best breeds for water sports:
- Golden Retrievers: These dogs were designed to be the ultimate water retrieving breed for hunting. Their coats protect them from the cold, and the shape of their mouths helps them hold prey even when swimming. Golden Retrievers are also intelligent and energetic, making them ideal for water sports and sports in general.
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever: It is the smallest of the retrievers and a skilled swimmer. The Nova Scotia Retriever comes from the coasts of Nova Scotia, where it used to help people hunt waterfowl. Today, it is a dog that excels in many water-related sports.
- Labrador Retriever: It is one of America’s most popular dog breeds. Similar to Golden Retrievers, Labs were bred to retrieve waterfowl during hunter trips. Additionally, Labradors are some of the most intelligent dogs.
- Standard Poodle: Did you know that the word “Poodle” comes from the German word “pudel”? It means “to splash,” and that’s what most Poodles do when they see water. They are excellent swimmers thanks to their long legs and thick fur coats.
- Portuguese Water Dog: This breed was commonly used to herd fish into nets and retrieve lost fishing equipment. It was common to find these dogs swimming between boats, delivering messages and tools like couriers. Nowadays, they don’t do much swimming work, but they still love it.
- Irish Setter: This breed combines the best traits of English Setters, Pointers, Irish Terriers, and Irish Water Spaniels. They are extremely energetic, obedient, smart, and strong. Thanks to these skills, the Irish Setter is one of the best swimmers in the canine world.
- Irish Water Spaniel: It is one of the oldest Spaniel breeds and excels in everything water-related. It is also a smart breed you can easily train to obey complex commands.
- English Setter: The English Setter was originally bred to help during hunting. If a bird fell in a river or a lake, the dog would just jump in and get it without hesitation. Because they are hunting dogs, they are also easy to train and have obedient personalities. It is not uncommon for English Setters to feel more comfortable in water than on land.
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever: This breed is the toughest water retriever. They can easily swim and dive into icy-cold water without flinching because of their protective fur coats. The coat is divided into an inner coat that keeps them warm and an outer coat that protects them from the wind.
- Newfoundland: These fuzzy friends are perfect working dogs, whether on land or water. An interesting fact about this breed is that they are excellent at rescuing drowning people. It was common in the past to see Newfoundlands on every beach on the British coast.
Note: My Golden Retriever fell into a pool during a family trip. Since then, she’s been scared of entering the water. She loves playing with the hose and in the rain, but big bodies of water used to scare her. We had to work on her fear to the point that she now loves it.
So, even if your dog’s breed was designed for water, it doesn’t mean he will instantly love it. It will take time and training. You just need to be patient.
What to Do if My Dog is Scared of the Water?
Not all dogs love water. Some dogs will jump immediately into the water as soon as they see it, while others might prefer to stay away. Don’t worry if your dog is scared of water. It is not an uncommon reaction, especially if your dog has had bad experiences with water in the past.
If your dog is afraid of getting inside the water, there are things you can do to let him enjoy the experience.
Introduce Your Dog to Water
The first step is to introduce your dog to water slowly. You need to know whether your pup is scared of water in general or just swimming. It is easy to tell. Just take a look at your dog whenever it rains or when he gets a bath.
Now that you know what scares your dog, you can start the real process of introducing him to water. Take him for a nice walk close to a river, a beach, or some sort of water body. You can even take him to the park when the sprinklers are on.
Do not push him into the water. Just act as if it was not a big deal and keep walking. Let your dog think that there’s nothing wrong with water around him.
Another thing you should try is to start small. Do not go straight away for a swim on the beach or in a pool. Your dog needs to feel comfortable with water before jumping into any water sports, so start small.
Here’s what you can do:
- Try filling a tub or a kid’s pool with a couple of inches of water. Ensure that it will only wet the paws and part of your dog’s legs.
- Now, pick up your dog and help him get inside. You can bring as many toys as necessary to make the process more fun for him.
- Always keep a towel near you, especially if you practice in a tub. When it is time to get your dog out of the water, you’ll be thankful.
- If your dog is calm, reward him with a nice treat. Remember that you want to create a positive experience so that your dog links going in the water with getting a treat.
- Repeat the process for as long as necessary.
- When you feel your dog is ready, increase the amount of water.
Tip: If your dog is not ready for this step, you can always start him with the hose or sprinklers.
Dogs react differently to situations and stimulations. Not all dogs are the same, but most of them will pay attention to you if they feel scared. So, if you are always calm whenever there’s water around, your pup will learn to be calm around water.
Remember, you are the leader of your pack. If you are sad, anxious, or stressed, your dog will feel it. That’s the same for when you feel scared about something. So, what you can do is relax and enjoy the water. Eventually, your dog will enjoy it too.
There are plenty of water sports you can practice with your dog, whether in a pool, the beach, or a lake. Retrieving is one of the most popular options because it requires a high degree of obedience and skill.
Believe it or not, you can also teach your dog to surf or be with you on a paddleboard. These sports require your dog to be obedient and well trained, but they are still a lot of fun. They are also excellent bonding activities.
Overall, you shouldn’t worry if your dog doesn’t like to go in the water or is scared of it. It is a perfectly normal reaction, and there are tricks to improve it. The best thing to do is be patient and help your dog link water with a positive outcome.