Learning to Swim

Late last summer, my friend Emi and I went on a day trip. We visited a beach she goes to every summer, near the San Juan Islands. Emi told me before the trip that this was the beach where Racer learned to swim many years ago, and suggested that maybe this would be the place where Miles would learn to swim too. While Miles loves the beach, I was skeptical that he’d swim.

Learning to Swim

Miles and Racer hit the beach with gusto that day.

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After finding a very smelly dead fish to roll in, Racer rushed to the water.

Learning to Swim

Racer was quick to dive into the water and swim.

Learning to Swim

When Racer got out of the water to play with Miles on shore, he suddenly got the chills. It’s tough being an American Hairless Terrier sometimes!

Learning to Swim

Cold Racer looked so sad that Miles got concerned, and carefully checked on his friend.

Learning to Swim

Racer seemed to be a bit comforted by Miles’ concern, so he shook off, and got back into the warm water.

Learning to Swim

Miles stayed in his comfort zone: legs in the water, stomach above water.

Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim

Emi and I wandered to an area with lots of water, and took out Racer’s beach ball. She told me that if we got the dogs excited to play ball, and that she’d eventually start tossing it into the water for Miles. This is how she got Racer interested in swimming.

Learning to Swim

Miles did his usual routine, letting Racer have the ball, so he could chase him, and run laps around him!

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When Racer lost interest in the ball and went back to swimming, Emi and I played fetch with Miles. We tossed the ball into shallow water first, and gradually threw it out further and further.

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Sure enough, Emi’s plan began to work. Miles was going deeper into the water than he ever had before — up past his stomach!

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When the ball lead him far enough out that he’d need to swim to get to it, Miles didn’t know what to do, so Emi and I walked to where he was. I coaxed him just a few inches further out. Miles carefully walked forward, looking to me for reassurance.

Learning to Swim

When the water got so deep that Miles’ back feet no longer touched the ground, his bum suddenly floated upward, and for a moment, he froze with great concern.

Learning to Swim

I couldn’t help but laugh when Miles’ bum was in the awkward floating phase.

Learning to Swim

After realizing he was okay and I was standing there in case of emergency, Miles decided to compensate for his bum floating upward, and raised his front legs. This caused him to be floating completely, which made his body rock from side to side a little. To stabilize his body, Miles started moving his legs around.

Learning to Swim

With each awkward leg shift to try and balance his floating body, Miles started to realize he could paddle, and move! He was swimming for the first time!

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Miles’ first swim was a huge success!

Learning to Swim

Racer was there to greet Miles on the shore.

Learning to Swim

After his first swim, Miles celebrated on dry land!

Learning to Swim

I asked Miles if he was ready to swim across the next patch of deep water, and he was careful, but game. This second swim, he was way more relaxed.

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Helping Miles learn to swim was one of my best (and most laughter-filled, sorry Miles!) memories from last summer. I can’t wait to see Miles swim more this summer.

How about you? Does your dog swim? If so, did their first swim take much coaxing?

 

18 comments on Learning to Swim

  • Mary Anne

    I love these pictures, what a lucky duck Miles is! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Emma (author)

      Glad you enjoyed them Mary Anne!

  • Danielle

    You tell the best photo stories! I loved seeing Miles check on his shivering friend Racer, and hearing about Miles’ bum floating up. I thought the picture of him rolling on the sand to celebrate was adorable too. Congratulations Miles on learning to swim!!
    Oliver loves swimming – unfortunately, we’re not near water often enough for him. The first time it happened we were expecting that we’d have to do a lot of coaxing and baby steps to “teach” him. But one time we threw the toy out farther in the water and suddenly Oliver was just swimming out to get it and we could not believe our eyes. It is magical every time it happens – how he just knows what to do.
    Now being at the beach will be even more fun for you guys!

    • Emma (author)

      It sounds like you had a similar idea to Emi’s, about throwing the toy just a little bit further out, but Oliver is a far more natural water dog! You’ll have to visit the west coast sometime in the summer, so many good water opportunities!

      • Danielle

        After I typed my comment – I realized I should have added that what was most surprising about Oliver just starting to swim on his own, is that he’s such a scaredy cat about other things that we figured he’d be too afraid to swim too. I guess not!

        • Emma (author)

          That is good to know! Miles can be a bit of a scaredy cat too, especially after the attack he experienced. I think swimming, once they try it, is a really pleasurable thing for most Welsh Terriers. Miles still has yet to really be converted.. But, we’ll see this summer!

  • Kim Madden

    Often, we take a lot for granted like our pooches ability to swim. Never thought much about it, just thought this was something they automatically knew how to do. What a wonderful photo essay on the subject. I thoroughly enjoyed the part when Miles experienced the “bum float” From your pictures you could see he was still stable in the front with his front legs securely placed to a rather wet terra firma! Again, you provided another entertaining essay.

    • Emma (author)

      Wonderful descriptions Kim! 🙂 I agree, the the bum lift part was and is my favorite too.

  • Emi

    Thanks for the beautuful (and funny) photos!
    I told you – This is a miracle beach!!

    I am very proud of Miles 🙂
    His swimming style is much more stable than Racer’s!
    Racer still drowns here and there! It used to make me nervous – but now I know that he eventually recovers on his own!!
    Let’s go back there when it’s warmer!

    • Emma (author)

      I didn’t realize that about Racer! He is such a confident swimmer now. I’d love to go back!

  • Darcy

    Em,
    Love your photo illustrated Miles tales! So cute! Chester learned to swim when he was 3 yrs old a we stayed at Cache Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park. He followed a pair of Labradors jumping into the water. He was not going to be outdone, and he just started swimming as if he always had swum all his life! Sally I hope will learn in the ocean at Glouster or Rockport beach this summer. Sending love your way .. Darcy, Sally and Chester

    • Emma (author)

      Chester, what a guy! Confidence really does go far in life! I bet Sally will get some from Chester. It really helps to have a confident dog there. Does she seem interested in water in general? I already had an idea of how Miles would be tentative, given what a wimp he is about puddles…

  • Kelli

    Great pictures and story board. Miles looks so handsome even soaking wet! Racer is a very sweet friend. Wonder if they make wet suits for doggies cause it would help racer stay warmer in the H2O. Since we are land-locked here in TN, and most water is only ankle deep, Mr. Reggie doesn’t get any chance to swim. He did pull a tricep muscle last summer while being boarded (he was chasing around and climbed up on top the agility walk and jumped down, yikes). He had several weeks of hydrotherapy at the vet which consisted of swimming in a heated pool only a lane wide. They put a life vest on him and he’d swim around and then when he was tired just float about, lazing in the warm water and every once in a while kick a leg or two. I have a big, deep soak tub in the master bath….hmmm, maybe he’d like to swim in there? It could double as a tubby time too. If we do, we’ll take pictures! Maybe you should suggest an agility/swim completion. Kind of like a biathlon for doggies? They’d have to run a course and then jump into water and retrieve balls and swim back and forth. I’d pay to see that!

    • Danielle

      That would be an awesome event! Great idea!

    • Emma (author)

      The daycare should reconsider the agility walk in a play area, yikes! It takes a LOT of training to teach dogs how to use agility equipment safely, and then, they are only ever doing it when they are with people. Poor Reggie! You know who has nearly injured himself a few times doing that at agility events? Racer! Most recently he came tearing down the A-frame and maybe jumped or had a weird stride, wiped out badly, and scratched up his front legs. Two other times, he leapt off the A-frame near the top! Thankfully he wasn’t hurt those times.

      Definitely share if you can get tub pictures! Shoot me and email if you do!

      Haha! A doggie biathlon! They should make the people do it with the dogs.

      PS can I come over and use your deep soak tub?

  • Nikki

    I am hoping Stevie will have interest in swimming this summer. My attempts to get her into a wading pool have failed miserably, and there are no canine swim facilities nearby. So it’s going to take a hot day and some shallow, non-scary water, I think.

    • Emma (author)

      Hi Nikki,
      I agree — that is the only thing that worked for Miles! He is such a water-weenie! Hopefully you’ll find such a good opportunity this summer for Stevie. If you do, let us know! I can’t wait to hear about your experience.
      Emma

  • Milena

    Weird, i thought Welshies likd to swim. Arie jumped into a mountain lake when she was 4 months old and up till now she never misses an opportunity to jump into water, be it river, lake or the sea (and muddy puddles of course). She doesn’t like it when there are waves in the sea but if the waters are calm, she goes right in. 🙂

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