Dogs are born with natural instincts: barking, panting, tail wagging, etc. But swimming is not on the list.
It might sound strange, but not all dogs doggie paddle. That’s where Lora Bacharach and Brianna Rabine come in.
They founded Paws for Obedience, an obedience school in South Glens Falls, late last year, though they’ve both been training dogs for years, teaching everything from obedience to tricks. This summer they’re not only running their regular obedience classes, tricks and show classes, they’re offering dog swimming classes.
“Dogs don’t necessarily process things the way we think they do,” Bacharach said.
People often assume that dogs know how to handle themselves in the water and think even if their dog doesn’t like swimming, he/she can still swim. But according to Bacharach, that’s just not true.
ome dogs might panic when they get in the water or even start sinking. Although there’s a lack of data when it comes to how many dogs drown every year in the United States, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to say it’s not entirely uncommon.
When dogs are first born, they aren’t really aware of their back legs, said Barachach. When they get in the water, they usually don’t know what to do with their back paws (hence the doggie paddle style swimming).
During the class, owners will be helping their dogs gain a bit of awareness of their back paws. But they’ll mostly be working on giving the dogs a good experience in the water and a good bonding experience.
According to Bacharach, the closer the bond between handler/owner and dog, the better.
“With kids, if you were to give them commands all day they wouldn’t respect you or want to be with you,” Bacharach said.
It’s the same with dogs. If all they really experience with their owner is discipline, then they won’t really trust them.
The idea for a swimming class came out of one of Paws for Obedience’s Reality Pawship Group. These are classes for handlers and dogs that have taken the basic obedience class and graduated, but still, need some help with day to day situations.
“To walk down a trail [see another dog] and have nothing happen,” Bacharach said. The class meets in public places across the Capital Region to get as many experiences as they can, including parks, downtown shopping areas, etc. The one thing that owners kept asking about was getting their dog in the water for the summer.
That way, “If you’re boating and your dog falls out, he or she will be calm and swim back,” Bacharach said.
Over the course of four weeks, the class will meet at a few local lakes and parks to slowly introduce their dogs to the water and bond with them. You can’t just throw your dog in the water and expect them to like it, no matter what breed they are, said Bacharach.
The idea that certain breeds are “water breeds” and certain breeds aren’t is not completely accurate. Even some labs or Newfoundlands hate swimming, while some boxers and pugs love to swim.
“We get stuck in this breed mentality,” Bacharach said.
The class is geared toward handlers and dogs who have gone through Paws’ basic obedience program, which follows the American Kennel Club’s standard.
Swimming classes will be held twice a week in four different parks and lakes across the Capital Region. The location will be announced the day before the class. For more information on the class visit paws4obedience.com or follow them on Facebook.