Do Labradors know how to swim? Consider yourself lucky because the answer is a big YES. Labradors like to swim. In fact, they love it! But, before you get all too excited and take your Lab out for a swim, there are still a few things you need to know about these swimmers.
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Do Labradors like swimming
As stated above, yes, Labradors like swimming. It is not really a big surprise especially if you consider the breed’s origin. For the longest time, Labradors have been used to retrieve waterfowl. Just so you now, Labradors are the modern-day descendants of the Canadian water dogs.
What are Canadian water dogs
Labrador Retrievers are the closest living descendant of the extinct breed known as the St. John’s water dog. The breed originated from Newfoundland, a place that has always lived on waterfowling and fishing.
This means that their dogs were expected to swim as well as their owners. You can still see these dogs in some old photos since the breed hasn’t completely died out until the 1980s. But, a look at Labrador Retrievers will make you see that the apple didn’t really fall that far from the tree.
What did the modern-day Labs inherited from St. John’s water dogs? For starters, Labs have a waterproof and thick coat that helps a lot in keeping them insulated from the water’s colder temperatures.
According to science, water is normally around 10 to 20 degrees colder compared to the air surrounding it. Without this fur that is water-resistant, getting wet will be a big issue in colder areas.
The Labradors were also able to inherit that adorable white patch of fur on their chest that many of these dogs still carry up until today.
What makes Labradors good swimmers
The extreme affinity for water of Labradors is because of their water-resistant coat. But, there is still more to this story.
Labrador Retrievers have a wide tail that they can use as a rudder that allows the dog to steer himself like that of a boat in the water. Combine this with the sleek profile of Labradors and that gives you a dog with an ability to swim like a fish.
Do Labrador Retrievers have any issues when swimming
Even though Labrador Retrievers can swim like a fish, they are still dogs and not a fish so there will always be limits. Once they have spent a long and tiring day of swimming, Labs usually experience the condition called limber tail or swimmer’s tail.
It is easy to tell if your pup has been afflicted with the condition when you notice his tail hanging straight downward with little movement to none at all. To check if your dog is suffering from this condition, try offering a treat to your pet and see if he wags his tail. Your pet will probably cry out or whine if you will try moving the tail yourself so it is best to avoid doing this.
What happens during this condition is that your pup has exerted his tails to the point that it has become sore and no longer able to move without any pain. It is just like a weightlifter that exerted himself too much by doing a lot of reps.
The best way to prevent limber tail is to make sure that your dog doesn’t spend several hours of swimming at a time without any break. Take note that these pups love the water more than anything else in the world so they might end up overdoing it if there is no human intervention.
Tips for a safe swim with your Labrador
No talk about swimming will ever be complete without a few safety tips. Drowning is always a serious risk for creatures that don’t have the ability to breathe underwater. Since there is a chance that you will also be swimming together with your pup, the same rules are also applicable to you.
For starters, make sure you stay away from areas that have strong currents. Fast-moving rivers are not the best places to take your Lab for a swim. If you go for a swim in these rivers, you and your Lab might end up separated before you even know it and get swept out to the vast sea that might as well be a fatal thing for many reasons.
Also, take note that even a seemingly innocent creek can prove to be dangerous after long periods of heavy torrential rains. One more thing you need to consider is the swimming environment’s overall cleanliness. Any body of water that has been polluted must be completely off-limits not only for your Lab but also for you. Again, remember that it is likely for your dog to drink some of the polluted water they swim in.
You also need to consider the possibility that there might be other animals lurking beneath the surface. There are also numerous threats present in the ocean but the most obvious one would be none other than the sharks. Even if sharks are not often known to look for human prey, dogs might not be that lucky.
A jellyfish might not be that lethal but it can still make your dog suffer from lots of pain if he ends up meeting one. There are also animal hazards in freshwater such as snapping turtles, alligators, and some large types of predatory fish such as the gar.
Encouraging your Labrador Retriever to swim
Labs generally don’t need any special or additional motivation to convince them to swim. Many Labradors, including puppies, will be more than happy to dive straight into the water and they will love every single minute of it.
But, most puppies will still exhibit some fear if you bring them to the edge of the water for the first time. It might be of big help if there is any older dog around, like the parents of the puppy. When you leave them to their own devices, the fur parents will be more than happy to teach their pups how to swim.
Forcing the process is the last thing you would want to do. This means that you should never just drop your dog in the water and force him to swim. It may cause some serious trauma for a young puppy that is still starting to learn about the world around him. This may make them lose their affinity for water while growing up. This move is obviously counterproductive if you like your dog to become a strong swimmer.
If your dog is simply not a fan of swimming, it is best to intervene. Start by looking for a calm and small place, like a backyard or maybe even a bathtub. It might be too intimidating to take him out to a big body of water so it is best to keep it small at first.
Take your pup to the water’s edge and start playing. Make sure that you have his favorite toy with you and play fetch repeatedly. Throw the toy to the water after a while. The hope is that the desire for getting the toy is going to overcome their fear of the water. If it doesn’t happen, just continue trying until it works. Don’t forget to reward and praise your fur baby once he finally gets it right.
After the training, your pup will probably leap into the water with some reckless abandon and paddle around with glee. He will also love it even more if you join him for a swim.
When can you introduce your Labrador Retriever puppy to the water
Generally speaking, you can allow your Lab puppy to go for a swim even at a very young age. Labrador Retriever puppies as young as 8 weeks are known to dive into the water and go for a swim like a professional.
But, remember that not all Lab puppies will be willing to do it right away. You can expect your puppy to show some signs of fear at first and this fear will not completely go away until your dog reaches 3 to 4 months old.
Will the chlorine in a swimming pool be dangerous for your Labrador Retriever
There might be some risk if your Lab is regularly goes for a swim in pool water with chlorine. Chlorine is considered as a toxic substance although smaller amounts of this may be safe. Pretty much every single drop of water you drunk your whole life contained some traces of chlorine and this is also applicable to your dog.
So far, this is not really a big concern since a dog will surely refrain from drinking water with high amounts of chlorine because of its not so pleasant taste. Due to the chlorine’s obnoxious smell and a dog’s sensitive nose, you can pretty much expect your Labrador Retriever to take care himself on this one.
The Bottom Line
Don’t be afraid to take your Labrador Retriever out for a swim because he will surely like it to bits. But, since not all dogs are the same, it won’t hurt to test the waters first, literally and figuratively.
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