The first thing that I always tell my clients is that their dog doesn't have to love the pool, he just needs to know how to get out of the pool if he ever falls in.
We have to remember that dogs still have that innate canine mentality and perspective. To them, the pool is the same thing as a lake or stream. The bank is sloped and they have the ability to walk out anywhere along it. Unfortunately, a "pool's bank" is a straight wall. You can not easily get out where ever you want. There is usually only one or two places where you can easily exit a pool. Since Wolfie doesn't understand this, he will be splashing and clawing at the pool's side, never being able to get out. He will eventually tire and possibly drown.
What we must do is to train Wolfie how to locate the exits to the pool and what he must do to get out. Here is what you do:
- Put Wolfie on a leash and gently place him on the first step in the shallow end. Sit with him and even have some of his toys there. Give him some treats. What we are doing here is to introduce the pool to Wolfie so that if he does fall in, he doesn't become so scared that he can't focus on the exits.
- Now have Wolfie jump out of the pool from the first step. Praise him when he does it. If you need to guide him with a little tug of the leash, that is fine too. We are teaching Wolfie the first step of getting out of the pool.
- Now hold Wolfie and slowly move him away from the first step and around the pool. Always do this slowly and NEVER let go of him. We want to make sure that Wolfie is building a larger perspective of the pool while still feeling safe. Always end "your little trip" back at the shallow end step and then guide him out. Praise always follows.
- Move Wolfie about five feet away from the shallow end step and let him loose in the water. Use the leash to guide him back to the step and then out of the pool.
- Repeat the above process until you can be at the other end of the pool and Wolfie will return to the shallow step and then out of the pool.