Teaching Dogs to Swim. Again.

Freezing temps? Whipping winds? Sounds like a perfect day for a swim!Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

“Wait. What!?”

The shores of Lake Michigan may be frozen, but we weren’t about to let that stop us from working on our doggie paddle. That’s why we took a ride to For Your K9, a nearby facility with an indoor pool for pups.

Ridgebacks are known for having an aversion to water/swimming, but Eko and Penny both happily swim with me. That said, the pool was a far cry from the lake and it took some effort to help Eko and Penny rediscover their stroke.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

There was immediate trepidation when I strapped on the life vests

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Actually getting the dogs into the pool was the biggest challenge. Neither Eko nor Penny was eager to take the first step

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

With the help of Sue, our awesome trainer, we slowly lured Eko down the steps

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

While Penny did her absolute best to get treats while keeping her toes firmly off the steps

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Eko walked to the water’s edge on his own but refused to go any further. He just kept looking back at me

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Once I ducked to the other side of the pool we were able to coax Eko into the water

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Then he was off and swimming like a champ

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

We tried to give Penny a turn, but Eko kept charging down the ramp ahead of her to swim some more. We let Eko get in some laps and then had him dry off while we worked with Penny

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Nervous and excited, Penny was your classic “little kid on the edge of the diving board”

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

As always, her trepidation wasn’t anything some treats, encouragement and a fun toy couldn’t conquer

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Then, like Eko, Penny happily swam herself silly. In fact, she decided to immediately graduate to dock diving practice…

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

From refusing to touch the water, to joyfully jumping into it at full speed. Not too shabby!

Our trip was also a great learning experience for me. I tend to think of my two as food-motivated dogs, but that’s true only up to a certain point.

For the most difficult tasks, I’ve learned they are infinitely more motivated by my presence. Had I not gone to the other side of the pool I’m not sure Eko would have ever hopped in on his own.

Which brings up the second interesting thing I learned. I was certain with all her bravado Penny would be the first to dive in the pool. But it wasn’t until she saw Eko take the plunge that Penny willingly tried it on her own. I now think a lot of her confidence is a direct result of having Eko as her safety-blanket.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

And having Eko as her blanket-blanket! Between the mental exhaustion of trying a new activity and the physical exhaustion of swimming, these two got the best sleep of their lives

It’s tempting to succumb to winter-time monotony, but I’m always glad when we make the extra effort to visit new places and try new things.

If you’re looking for ways to beat winter doldrums, I highly recommend checking out what services/spaces are available at your local boarding facilities.

27 Comments

I fully expected Penny to be the jumper and diver. Eko is the big brother who is regal, calm, protector in Penny’s eyes. I agree, that is exactly why Penny has no fear and no hesitation. She has never had to experience anything “bad” or “scary”. She knows she will be safe and that Eko and Will would never let anything happen to her. It’s amazing the lessons we learn (or should learn) from our dogs.

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