I grew up with labs who were crazy about diving into the lake, but later decided that Australian Shepherds were the breed for me. My Aussie Willow is the sweetest and smartest dog I’ve ever known. But with the other breeds of dogs I owned being water-lovers, I couldn’t help but wonder if she would be, too.
Do Australian Shepherds like water? While yes, the majority of Australian Shepherds do like water, it is important to keep in mind as with all breeds and individual dogs they each have their own likes and dislikes. Some may not like the water at all.
When asking such a specific question about a particular breed it is important first to understand the breed itself. The history of the breed is important and the specific characteristics that make them more likely to enjoy the water.
It is also important to understand the many benefits of encouraging your dog to see the enjoyment of the water, both for the health benefits as well as mental stimulation purposes.
What Is an Australian Shepherd?
The Australian Shepherd is a medium-to-large-sized, long-haired, high energy breed. They are very intelligent and require a lot of stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored and destructive. They are very versatile and adaptable.
They were originally bred as a cattle dog and they still have those working and herding instincts today. Australian Shepherds or “Aussies” as most people know them are also known for being very adventurous and fearless. They are one of the most loyal breeds out there and will bond with their owner and follow their command without hesitation.
One of their key characteristics is being a very hardy and rugged breed and they can often be found on farms and ranches across the world. Aussies are definitely not meant to be an apartment dog due to their high intelligence and energy level, they do best with a lot of property and space to run or an extensive amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation.
The breeding that goes into the Australian Shepherd is specifically designed to make them adaptable to all forms of weather and situations. According to Orvis, “Ranchers favored the Australian Shepherd for its intelligence, strong herding instincts, and adaptability (source).”
Australian Shepherds require a lot of exercise and just your normal long walk every day will not be enough to keep them fully satisfied, mentally or physically. They enjoy new environments and challenges that allow them to use their intelligence and physical strength daily.
It can be exhausting as an owner just trying to come up with new outlets and avenues for their energy. Please keep these traits in mind if you are thinking about adding an Aussie to your family.
In my case, I had a small 3-acre farm for Willow and my second Australian Shepherd, Ruger, to get plenty of exercise.
How Can I Teach My Australian Shepherd to Swim?
Teaching your Aussie to swim can be a long process that requires a lot of patience. Some dogs, like people, take a little longer to warm up to new ideas and adventures.
It is best to begin when they are young. You can start by giving them frequent baths around 10 weeks old.
Keep the water level low in a bathtub or small tub so their feet can still touch the bottom. Talk soothingly to them and encourage them every step of the way.
As they get older you can gradually add a little more water to accommodate their growth.
It is important that they be able to touch the ground and that their first experiences with water are in a small area, so they do not become distressed or overwhelmed.
This will also help with getting them acclimated to taking baths and actually enjoying them rather than panicking. Nothing is worse than a 40 to 50lb adult dog that is terrified of the bathtub. Although, I have also seen some dogs who are terrified of the bathtub but love to swim in open water.
At around 4 to 6 months you can begin putting them in a swimming pool or pond, again keeping the area small. I recommend getting into the swimming pool or pond first, then calling them in from the bank or side. This will build their trust and confidence.
Keep it Fun!
If they have a favorite toy, use it in this training. Take the toy out into the water with you and splash around, squeak it or shake it to get their attention.
Usually, they will launch into the water and directly toward their owner. If they do not want to make that first leap you can gently carry them into the water and hold them until they become comfortable and begin to swim around on their own.
Willow was definitely the velcro type Australian shepherd. If I was in the pool, she was laying right at the water’s edge and would come in with me without hesitation if I asked.
Ruger, on the other hand, preferred to sit or lay on just the top step, preferring not to get his whole body wet.
If you are unsure if they can swim on their own, yes, some dogs truly cannot swim, I recommend keeping a life jacket on them.
Keep the training fun and have patience. Some dogs are more confident and outgoing than others. If you push them to quickly, they could become frightened and be scared of the water forever.
If you have another dog who enjoys the water this is the best time to use them. A lot of dogs learn by example. This can be the fastest way to get them into the water quickly and confidently.
If you do not have another dog, then patiently follow the steps above and before you know it you will have a water dog!
What Are the Benefits of My Australian Shepherd Swimming?
There are so many benefits to teaching your Australian Shepherd to swim. It can give them an outlet. Something they can do on their own or with you to get out their excess energy and prevent them from becoming destructive and unruly.
By giving them an outlet at such an early age like swimming, can also help to prevent them from becoming bored and trying to hear things like your children, car, or other pets which can often lead to nipping or someone becoming injured.
Swimming is also a very strenuous form of exercise, meaning a small amount of time spent swimming is equivalent to a much longer more strenuous exercise.
The health benefits are important as well. Swimming is a great form of exercise that can prevent obesity and a slew of other more serious medical conditions that may shorten your dog’s life span.
Lack of exercise can lead to much more serious health problems such as:
- Heart disease
- Joint disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Back pain
- Shorter life span
By encouraging exercise in many different forms, it can keep your highly intelligent Australian Shepherd, both mentally and physically stimulated.
Exercises such as swimming can also help to keep your pup young! It can help to prevent or deter them from becoming destructive, aggressive, and unhealthy, which is the number one reason that people rehome their Aussies.
Other Water Activities for Australian Shepherds
My ranch didn’t have a pool, but that didn’t stop my aussies from enjoying the water whenever they could. Here are some more ideas for encouraging water play in your aussie.
Add A Kiddie Pool
If your aussie enjoys water, try adding a kiddie pool to the backyard. Ruger was a funny dog, he would even jump into the horse water buckets to play around.
Go for a Hike
Australian shepherds really love to be with their owners. They will often seem like they are attached at your hip. One great way to help encourage them to get over water is to take them out and expose them to it whenever possible.
Hiking is a way to both help your aussie expend some of that energy as well as provides an opportunity to get them used to water if you hike in an area where streams are available and easily crossed on foot.
My Australian Shepherds would routinely accompany me when I would take my horse trail riding. They follow with no problem and easily crossed any water that my horse was comfortable with.
Take Your Dog With You On The Water
Do you enjoy water sports like kayaking, boating, or paddleboarding? Many water sports we think of as being specifically for humans can actually be quite fun to do with your dog.
Did you know there are even dog surfing competitions?
When people first meet an Australian Shepherd, they are immediately drawn to them for their beauty, loyalty, and adaptability. They are unaware of the highly intelligent, energetic beast within.
Aussies make excellent dogs on or off the farm as long as their owner understands all of their needs. Swimming can certainly be an asset to your Aussies exercise routine and is a way to keep things diversified so your dog doesn’t get bored. In other words, a great way to wear your dog out and not yourself.
Swimming can be a fun thing for both the owner and the pup and can keep both happy and healthy! It can also increase the bond between the two and create a lifelong friendship.