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Teaching Paws for Purple Hearts Dogs to Swim

 In PPH Blog

It’s summertime and here in Alaska, we love getting outside and exploring everything the great outdoors has to offer! For many, this includes swimming in the lakes, river, and ocean. At Paws for Purple Hearts, we want to teach our dogs to be comfortable with any lifestyle that their Warrior might have an interest in; this includes water activities. In case you didn’t know, the dogs at PPH are a combination of Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers or a mix of the two. A lot of people assume that these breeds take to water immediately, but that’s not always the case. It was finally time for two of our pups, Elaine and Kreitzburg a.k.a. “Laney and Kai”, to put on their life jackets and hit the pool.

Elaine at her first swim lesson
Elaine at her first swim lesson

In Alaska, we take our pups to an indoor dog pool called Alaska K9 Aquatics. It’s perfect for dogs who like to swim year-round but live in a place that’s covered in snow and ice for a good portion of the year. This is a great environment for Laney and Kai to be comfortably introduced to the water. The instructors at the pool spend the entire first session with each dog playing and slowly introducing them into the water by using either toys or food as motivation. Kai was a little apprehensive at first but really loved playing with the different toys the instructor had. There’s a ramp that allows the dogs to slowly work their way into the pool and by the end of the one hour session, Kai was walking to the edge of it to retrieve different toys. He was eventually taken for a little float by the instructors and seemed to be enjoying himself quite a bit. Laney took a little longer to adjust to the water. She’s a very food motivated pup, so she was much more willing to walk down the ramp when the instructor was holding food rather than a toy. She was also taken for a little trip around the pool and did very well. Dogs can float on their own, but for safety reasons, the dogs wear life jackets inside the pool until it’s clear that they can swim strongly on their own.

Kerry at the beach in San Diego
Kerry at the beach in San Diego

For some people, giving your dog swim lessons may seem unnecessary. But this is just another important piece of training that our Service Dogs go through and it’s something that you can have your own dog participate in too. Being fearful of water can be a really hard thing for any dog to overcome, so you want to make sure they’re first experiences with it are positive ones. If not introduced correctly, the dog might develop a fear of the water, making swimming or even bath time a scary activity, so if you want to teach your dog to swim and safely cool off in the summer heat, then be sure to look for a swim class for your dog that’s closest to you!

That’s why at PPH, our trainers take the time to introduce our dogs to all new things in a safe and fun environment!

If you would like to support us in our efforts to improve the lives of America’s Warriors, you can do so in many ways. First, share our programs with any Warriors you may know who would benefit from the healing love of a dog. You can also share about Paws for Purple Hearts with the community through word of mouth or by following us and engaging with us on social media at @paws4ph. You can also stop by your local VA and ask them to contact us to find out about how we can work with them to help their Veterans recover from PTSD or TBI.  In addition, you can contribute your time through volunteering or providing a monetary or in-kind donation.

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