We recently posted a couple of videos of Buddha running and swimming in the ocean that was met with a lot of questions on how we got a Doberman to love the water. Most Dobies do not naturally take to it due to their deep narrow chest and very short coat that does not insulate well. Of course, there are always a few who break the norm and take to it immediately. We were not as lucky with this guy. He hated it! Refused it! Balked at it!
We tried what usually comes to mind first, wading into the water ourselves and hoping that he would follow. Nope. He just cried and barked and became stressed at the shore.
We tried luring him with treats. Nope, even a greasy piece of bacon wasn't worth dipping his toes in.
We tried throwing in toys. Nope. He didn't value anything as much as food, and obviously that had failed miserably, too.
Finally, we took a break that first summer and just focused on other things that needed training. He had become increasingly obsessed with wrestling with other dogs. He has excellent doggy manners so normally this wouldn't be such an issue except that his stamina is incredible and can wrestle for several hours at a time without tiring. He'd quickly wear dogs out and bark at them when they gave out. He knew my commands but in the midst of wrestling he'd tune me out. He became distracted with other dogs around, and lost focus on me and treats lost the battle for attention.
So, I racked my brain and found the Chuck It Glow In The Dark ball. It was large, rubbery, and unique to other balls and toys. I began to train him to associate it with treats (like the post about the dremel) when we were at home with zero distractions. I taught him to fetch. I taught him to love the ball. I taught him to obsess over this ball. (I'll make a new post on this soon).
After a few months of training, Buddha was able to ignore any and all distractions, as long as I had this special ball. He valued it over food and wrestling. I literally held the the key to success in my hands. We went back to the beach, nearly every day and I began to simply drop the ball in the water, just a few inches in. Like we do with everything else in training, we went slowly in increments. I tossed the ball in a little farther each time, sometimes even dropping back a few steps if I saw any hesitation. Over a few weeks Buddha was able to fetch his much loved ball into chest deep water. By the following summer, he was swimming!
This was our method of getting Buddha to love the water. Do you have a different method that you used with your dog? Let me know, we're always happy to learn new tricks here.