Help! Maggie is afraid of Water

maggies mom

Well-Known Member
Hi Everyone!

I have been wanting to see if my 1 yr. old Sheltie could learn to swim but haven't had a chance. However, recently I went to a friend's house and they had an inground pool. Within 5 minutes my Sheltie FELL into the pool and it scared her to death!!! I immediately pulled her out and after a few minutes I got into the pool and tried to teach her to swim. She was absolutely terrifed so I stopped. Later on.....she fell in AGAIN! I would love for her to enjoy the water. Does anyone have any suggestions to help her overcome her fear?:msniwonder:


New Member
Hi Maggie's Mom,

In my experience, when a dog is afraid it is due to inexperience or a bad experience. Judging from your post I think in Maggie's case it is inexperience at this point. This is how I would handle the fear, others may have different suggestions.

I would get her a Personal Flotation Device and accustom her to wearing it around the house and in the yard so that she is comfortable getting it on, keeping it on, and getting it off again.

Once that is accomplished, go to a pool, pond, or lake that has steps, a ramp or a shoreline that will provide an easy exit for her and make sure she has her PFD on as soon as you get there. Go out and play in the water yourself, leaving Maggie on the shore. Throw balls around and other small toys that Maggie will be interested in playing with herself. Make it obvious that you are unafraid and having a GREAT time in the water.

Occassionally go over to the shore and pet Maggie and give her a treat, maybe toss a ball or toy for her from the pool to the land so she does not have to get in the water to get to it. Do Not Force her to get in the water!

If she falls in again, do not overreact, the PFD will keep her afloat. Make sure she is ok, but let her paddle around some as you guide her to the steps or area where she can get out again on her own. The more this happens, the more comfortable she will become and she will eventually become confident that she can handle herself in the water. She may not ever LIKE it enough to jump in on her own, but she will learn that it is not something to be terrified of.

Good Luck and Happy Paddling!



New Member
Good advice there moweeks. I coaxed my dog on a nice calm beach by just tossing a ball into a few inches of water, then slowly further out. Once my dog got comfortable that the water wasn't something bad she would go further out, and eventually over her head. Once this happened it took a while to get her accustomed to the idea of trying to swim, but just playing around made it enjoyable for her and helped to slowly build her confidence. After she would attempt swimming, I walked out where the water was about waist deep and walked backwards with the ball in hand to have the dog chase me. I did this to help build her swimming skills since she didn't really have the desire to just go out on her own.

Another thing you could try is once she goes in on her own, hold her up by putting your arms under her belly and hold her up while she gets used to the water and treading on her own.


New Member
I have a lab mix that I worked with all last summer. I got a kiddie pool and put a few inches of water in it. Then puppy started having lunch in the pool. Had to get in on his own. Had to walk across the pool from one side to another for treats (kibble). Then raised the level of water in the pool gradually until it was up to his belly, etc.

He LOVES water now. Pools are another story, though.

Before you teach a dog to jump into your pool make sure the dog is able to get out!

Dogs don't have great depth perception and they can't see stairs in the water very well. Unless you have a doggie ramp in your pool, make sure that:
(1) the dog can't get in the pool when you're not around. And
(2) that the first thing you teach the dog is where the the exits are. Remember that he won't be able to see the stairs; he has to be taught where he can get out of the pool. Some people place ropes across the pool so that a dog that falls in can grab onto and use to help haul himself out of the pool.

Also remember that some dogs swim really well naturally and some dogs sink. Test your dog's buoyancy and ability to swim without a flotation device. You don't want to instill false confidence around water. (You might want to start with the device and then once the dog is comfortable, test without the device.)

Go slow with the training. Make sure Maggie is comfortable with being wet, having her feet in water, feeling water on her belly before making her swim the length of the pool.

Also, once you train a dog to go swimming, if they love it and can get to a pool they will go in and out whenever they please, unless they are taught otherwise. (This can make for a very wet house.)


New Member
I kind of wen tthrough this same thing with my pug. I first started by bathing him more regularly and praising him the whole time ( i used to bath him in the shower with me) and talking in pleasing tones. he now enjoys being bathed very much. Moving on to bigger bodies of water, he had to be coaxed into lakes/pools to begin with, he wouldn't even get his feet wet to get a drink. I realize my pug is smaller than your dog, but I picked him up and set him in it and praised him and pet him. I didn't put him in far, just barely getting his feet in. Anyway, gradually he would get braver and go in a lil deeper, his max being about chest deep. I am a water bug and always in some lake or something and very much wanted to enjoy this with Stan, so i tried bringing him on a floaty one day --- totally disasterous! he was scared and not having fun, not to mention he clawed me all over unintentionally. I finally concluded it was too much for him and almost gave up. Then i got the brilliant idea to buy him a life jacket..... he LOVES it! he will swim freely and for long periods of time with his jacket on. They make them for dogs of all sizes. If the above mentioned tips aren't working, maybe try a life jacket. maybe once your dog realizes she won't sink and has the chance to relax a little while inthe water, she will begin to enjoy it. Hope you get it worked out!


Honored Member
Stacy, what kind of life vest did you get? I'm so inspired that some of you say your dog WAS afraid of water, but was able to overcome it at some point in the future. I am hoping it is not permanent in my dog...