Huskies are now known for being swimming dogs. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite, they tend to hate water. Luna as a typical husky doesn’t go into the water further than her belly, and she freaks out if we try to take her with us to swim. Even with her life jacket on to boost her confidence.
With Bolt, we approached the issue differently. Since he was a puppy, we took him to the beach so he can experience the waves and not be afraid of water. At 10 weeks old he went for a swim in Lake Huron with JC during a camping trip.
Then we built up on his toy drive. Bolt has always been obsessed with tennis balls. This is the only toy he would go nuts for. So we keep his ball only for some special times, to keep his ball drive high so he doesn’t get bored with it. If you find that your dog really goes nuts for a specific toy, keep it for special occasions so that it stays a special toy!
Dock diving allows all kinds of floating toys. Find one your dog likes and build up the drive for it. Show your dog that it’s a really fun moment when that toy is out. Luckily for us, tennis balls are allowed as a floating toy in the pool.
Before booking the pool for dock diving session, we tried throwing Bolt’s ball at our local Conservation area where the lake has a dock. He would not jump off the dock at first but his drive to go and fetch the ball in the water built up that way.
Then we tried booking the pool for a dock diving session. The very first session was all about fun and making sure Bolt is confident with the pool. Don’t expect your dog to jump off the dock the very first time, you’ll be disappointed and set your dog up for failure with expectations too high. His first session, he was going down the ramp walking and then just transitioning into a swim to get his ball. Eventually he started jumping off the ramp and we were already so proud.
During our next session, the pool owner gave us some tips on how to get Bolt to jump from the dock, which is much higher than the ramp so he was scared to go at first. He would stare at his ball and howl at it, mad that he can’t reach the ball.
The pool owner told us to have one of us (JC) in the pool, while the other one (Flo) stays on the dock with him. We would leave his leash on. JC would gently grab Bolt’s leash to invite him to go off the dock, and I would be behind Bolt, “blocking” him in a sense that he can’t back up, and gently applying some pressure with my body to show him the only way he can go is off the dock.
At first he would lay down completely before jumping off. It wasn’t even a jump, more of throwing his body down the dock.
After a couple sessions, he became more and more confident. We wouldn’t have to hold his leash anymore, and his jumps will be more like real jumps and not laying down. A lot of high pitch praising voice every time he jumps. He gets his ball as a reward.
To this date, he is still not 100% confident, and he gets tired pretty fast. He usually does great jumps in the first 15 minutes, but then he gets tired and gets scared to jump again.
For a beginner dog, I think 30 minutes is more than enough time. We even finished our sessions early because Bolt was getting too tired. It is true in canicross, but also here in dock diving: always leave your dog wanting more, and don’t push too hard once they get tired.
We hope to enter him in a fun competition by the end of the summer, and see if he jumps. We have no expectations whatsoever, we are just having fun with dock diving and it’s a great cross activity for us in the summer during their running break.
As you can see, not all dogs are born loving water or will be dock diving superstar the first time. It takes time and patience, but if you keep it fun for both of you, it can be a great activity!