Train Your Dog to Wear a Life Jacket

May 2021 Multimedia By John Woods Web Exclusive

Just as you’d think of children’s safety whilst they’re on board your houseboat, it’s also important to think about how to make sure your dog stays safe too.

Some dogs are natural swimmers such as and retrievers, whereas others smaller dogs, such as Cavachons, are less suited to swimming. Even those dogs who are natural swimmers though, can tire easily in choppy water.

That’s why it is recommended that your dog wears a personal flotation device, especially if they’re living on a boat with you. Life jackets ensure the safety of your dog and make it easier for you to rescue him if he does go overboard.

So how exactly can you train them to accept it and feel comfortable?

Just like all other forms of training, the best way to help your dog to learn quickly is though positive reinforcement rather than dominance or punishments.

Hack One: Choose the Right Jacket

The more comfortable your dog feels in their jacket, the easier it will be to get them to wear it, so try on a selection and find one that fits well. 

Choose a bright jacket that’s easy to spot, and if your pup struggles to keep their head above the water, choose one which has a front flap to help keep their head up.

Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes, as do life jackets. Measure your dog from the length of his neck to where their tail begins, and his girth both around the widest part of his chest and around his neck. Use these measurements to find the perfect sized jacket.

You need to buy a jacket which is just the right fit; not too tight, not too loose. He should be comfortable running around in it while he’s out of the water.

Hack Two: Give Them Time to Get Used to it

Most dogs aren’t used to wearing clothes so you need to give them time to adjust to it and feel comfortable.

When you first get the jacket, let them wear it around your home or while you’re not on the boat. Start off putting it on them for just a couple of minutes, rewarding them with a treat when you put it on and take it off.

Then steadily extend this period to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and then a few hours.

Hack Three: Teach Your Dog to Swim in the Life Jacket

While your dog may enjoy swimming in the lake or river, swimming in a floatation device feels quite different for them.

It affects their sense of balance and makes them move more slowly. This can be quite disorientating at first and you might find your dog rolls to one side at first.

Practicing swimming will ensure that if they do go overboard, they’re comfortable in their life jacket.

Stay close by their side until they’re used to the new sensation.

Hack Four: This One’s For You!

Whilst all the other tips have been about ensuring your dog is comfortable, this last one is a tip for you.

When you take them for the practice swim, use this time to ensure you feel comfortable handling them in the water.

Most devices have a tab or handle which allows you to hold onto them and pull them out of the water easily. Test this out and make sure you know what you’re doing.

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