Flower loves to swim, but it wasn’t always like this. It took many pool days to get her comfortable with the pool and swimming. The life jacket I got for her made the difference. In addition to a no-pressure approach.
Flower Initially Learning To Swim:
When she was just a few months old (4 1/2 months) in the dead of winter I had to heat my pool for 2 days to get it warm enough for us to go in. She need to learn quickly that if she fell in the pool where she would need to swim to in order to get out. Dogs die every year because they do not know how to get out of a pool, the numbers are shocking! So if I wanted to be able to let Flower go outside while I was gone or at work, she needed to learn pool safety immediately.
How I taught Flower to swim for safety, it was for life or death:
- Put a large rock that sticks out of the water on the top step, this allows the dogs to see the break in the horizon of the pool water. This is a must! See photo on right.
- Pick up your dog and hold them close to you the first few times they are actually in the water with you. We stayed close to the steps at first, Flower was close to my chest and the water was also up to my chest. Flower was never ever submerged by water, to this day she’s never had her face under the water. I figured well cross that bridge if she ever actually falls in.
- Then we moved to the steps, I sat on the top step with her, she was walking on the step and I kept teaching her that the large rock we put in there was good and it was named “Rock”.
- From there we moved to deeper water and I kept her on my chest as I started to let my chest drop more into the water gravity took affect and Flowers body stared to float. I was still right there with her but she need to get used to moving those legs and arms under the water, get the feeling. *** IMPORTANT *** Bullmastiff puppy’s float a little easier because they are a little more pudgy when they are pups, but as they get older and larger they gain more muscle and staying afloat becomes more difficult. So if you’re trying to teach a full grown Bullmastiff to swim for the first time you must get a life jacket. AND be prepared to make adjustments with a seamstress to add in additional foam.
- This is where treats come in…. As we were in deeper waters I was still submerged and held Flower by the underneath/her stomach and held her up and told her to swim. This is what I named “Swim” or “Swimming”. She got used to moving/swimming under the water with me holding her up. And she was rewarded for “Swimming” by receiving treats and cookies. I would hold her close to me/hold her up or place her on the step when treats were given.
- Once she mastered that I started to have her swim to the “Rock”. With assisted help from mom. We started this from a few feet away of the steps and gradually moved farther back. Treats were plenty during this process. Take a lot of breaks. They get tired quickly and its new for them. The entire training took two full days with over 20 separate trips in the water.
- This process was continued for several times throughout the day and proceeding day, each getting father back/into the deep end. I have landing steps at the deep end and middle part of the pool. So I would swim with Flower over to those landing steps, tell her to stay. I’d swim away, back to the “Rock” and then Id tell Flower to “Swim to the Rock”. She was swimming to the “Rock” and to “Me”. Not to mention there was a treat waiting for her too! There were also “Good Girl” and “Good Swim” being said as well. Total encouragement and letting her know how proud of her I am.
- So this is what we did for 2 days in the month of February. Cost a lot of money for gas to heat the pool, but the peace of mind I got was priceless and I’d do it over, again and again.
NOTE: Treats, make sure you get something totally different than what they currently eat. A new treat represents something new and exciting, this is important. Plus these treats taste extra yummy and dogs usually want more of them.
We did another swimming lesson in April, we had a heat wave come through so heating the pool this time was a little less costly. By now Flower is almost 7 months and more willing to get into the pool and she remembers good associations with it. So our new swimming lesson consisted of getting her in and out of the pool on her own, and look at how happy that makes mama. She’s so eager to please that my excitement and praise along with her excitement makes a very positive training session. Also using the steps, 1 and 2, (in the video you’ll hear me refer to them as “one more”) in addition to start to have her visually see the “Rock” that was always at the top step is now sitting outside the pool…. Because eventually the rock will not be there and she needs to know where the step is and how to get out without the security of the rock.
As we practice our swimming lessons and Flower’s love of the swimming pool increases, the other thing that’s increasing is her weight, I’m recognizing she’s not floating as easily as she did before. Her buoyancy is diminishing as she’s gaining more muscle. For those of you who have a Bullmastiff or part Bullmastiff you know exactly what I’m taking about, they are muscular dogs. They may be the smallest of the Mastiff breed but they are the strongest and most muscular. Pure Muscle, even if it’s underneath all that extra skin and wrinkles.
We continued to play in the pool that morning, until I decided to get a life jacket for her. I felt silly getting a life jacket for a dog, but after watching Flowers arms and legs swim as fast as she could and her still sinking, she had a hard time staying above water, mainly her rear end above the water. I ordered it that day and by the weekend we were swimming in the pool, life jacket and all.
Here’s a photo of Flower on the landing getting ready to swim 15-20 feet to the “Step” all by herself.
We have removed the “Rock” completely from the pool and now replaced the word “Rock” with “Step”. This way Flower is able to swim to all of the step/landing areas of the pool, she know there’s 3 areas to get in and out of the water at, those are her “Landing” steps.
See video below on the left, Flower Swimming with her life jacket on for one of the first times! The other video below to the right was filmed on Flower’s Birthday. You can see what a great swimmer she is by now. So comfortable around the water and all of the commotion that goes with a pool party. This video was a birthday gift from Chris Zecca, thanks again Chris!
After you watch the video you’ll be cheering too… “Swim Flower, Swim”
Chew on this: Not every dog is a swimmer, or wants to get wet. As a great pet parent be mindful of your dog’s likes and dislikes. Do not ever force a dog to swim, if the dog would prefer to stay dry and just hang out with you next to the pool – Let Them!
Make sure to check out Flower The Bullmastiff You Tube channel to view more videos. If you like what you see please subscribe the Flower’s channel to be notified immediately as soon as we post a new video.
Here’s some questions I get asked regarding Flower swimming. The 1st question I get asked most frequently.
Q: How did Flower get used to the life jacket? Was it hard?
A: Well, it was actually easy. Since mom was excited about this new “Life Jacket” thing, Flower knew it must be something good and exciting. Flower trusts me to never do anything to harm or scare her. I also had to make additional adjustments to the life jacket itself by adding more foam and working with a seamstress around the corner. Plus, plus, plus… her good attitude made the entire experience so enjoyable and I’m able to share this great story about how Flower Learned to Swim.
Q: Does Flower swim under the water?
A: No, she has never had her head under the water. We’ve never jumped into the pool together, nor do I force her to go under water for anything.
Q: Does she play with toys in the pool?
A: Not really. I bring them in sometimes and Flower just ignores them, whether its a ball or float-able stuffed animal.