If you plan on taking your dog to the beach or for a hike near a large body of water, you should first understand how your dog will react to water and if they are capable of swimming. Not all breeds will take a liking to the water, so it’s important to do some research up front.
German Shorthaired Pointers are very capable of swimming and are known to be strong swimmers. They are naturally strong, athletic and have webbed feet. GSPs were bred to hunt, so swimming to retrieve birds is expected of them.
Now some dogs will be timid to water at first, especially as a young puppy or older dog who has never been exposed to water. There are a few different tips to help train your GSP to get into the water. Once they get in for the first time, you’ll have a hard time getting them out.
German Shorthaired Pointers: Why are they good swimmers?
Anatomy of a GSP
There are some distinct characteristics of a German Shorthaired Pointer that allow them to be excellent swimmers. GSPs have webbed feet, which act as paddles when they are kicking through the water. Their webbed paws push more water, which helps propel them through the water faster. Their short coat allows them to glide through the water and not drag them down. Finally, there bodies are sleek, proportional and muscular. They don’t have certain body parts acting as resistance and have the stamina to swim for hours. Remember to be careful in cold water since they have a very short coat.
German Shorthaired Pointers are Bred to Hunt
German Shorthaired Pointers date back to the 18th century and derived from the German Bird Dog. German hunters spent generations trying to create the perfect hunting dog. The German Shorthaired Pointer was born and is one of the top-winning breeds in competitive hunting events. GSPs will swim in lakes and ponds all day to retrieve different bird species. The Complete Guide to German Shorthaired Pointers is a great book to learn about your dog, including the history, behavior, training and much more.
North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association – At 16 months of age, breeds are tested in four main segments: Field Phase, Tracking Phase, Water Phase and Evaluation of Physical Attributes. German Shorthaired Pointers typically score very high in this test, including the swimming portion.
Now that you have a little background and understanding on why GSPs are excellent swimmers, let me dive into some tips and steps to help you with your dog.
Helpful Tips When getting Started
- Wait until your German Shorthaired Pointer has all of their necessary vaccinations.
- 4 months is a good age to start. Even if they are full grown or 5 years old, these steps will get your dog swimming in no time.
- Introduce them to water very gradually. Start with puddles, edges of lakes and ponds or even a kid size swimming pool. Let your pet take their time.
- Consistency – expose them to water regularly, even daily so they get used to water.
How do you get your GSP to like water? Steps to get them swimming
Introduce Your Pup to Water
As we mentioned before, introduce your puppy to water carefully. Please do not throw them into the deep end and expect their natural instincts will kick in. This could be traumatic enough to cause your dog to be scared of water. My dog Lily was scared of pools, the ocean and hated baths. I didn’t think she would ever swim. Luckily at the dog park she would walk in ankle deep water and try her best to drink it. Find out what your dog is comfortable with and start there. I recently came across pools designed for dogs and recommend Heeyoo Dog Pool (available on Amazon.com). This is really good way to introduce your dog to water.
Swim With Your German Shorthaired Pointer
Take your shoes off and get into the water with them. Not all dogs will master swimming with this step. Hold your dog under their belly or chest to keep them afloat. Your pet with naturally kick their legs and try swimming on their own. If your dog is receptive to this approach, continue to do it every day and your dog will swimming on their own in no time. If it’s clear your GSP is terrified, let’s continue to the next step.
Play Fetch in the Water
This is how I got my dog Lily to start swimming. This is a fun way to get your dog more comfortable in the water. Grab your pointer’s favorite toy, ball or even a stick and throw it into the shallow end. The Chuckit! Floating Fetch Toy is perfect for this. As the owner, gauge how they are doing and determine if you can throw it a little deeper. It can take one day or even weeks before your pup is swimming to its toy. Make sure you have a Plan B if you throw the toy in the deep end and your dog does not retrieve it. You might be swimming out to get it.
Allow Your Dog to Play With Other Dogs
Get your German Shorthaired Pointer around other dogs that are already swimming. Your dog could very well start swimming all on their own. Since I frequently go to the dog park, I always see natural born swimmers, like GSPs, chase other dogs into the pond and swim after them without ever being introduced to a body of water. Plus it’s beneficial to get your dog around other dogs.
Benefits of Swimming
Just like swimming is great exercise for humans, swimming is valuable for your GSP. Pointers will need a lot of exercise, typically twice a day since they have so much energy. Swimming isn’t the only form of exercise to keep your dog healthy, but it easy on their joints and hips. Since they can run around for hours on end, swimming will help keep them cool as well.
At this point in your dog’s life, they should have started learning basic commands. Continue to utilize these commands during the training process so you can keep them under control. The last thing you want is to have your GSP swim across the lake and not come back. If you are having trouble with the basics, I recommend a really good online training program from a well-renowned, certified dog trainer. If the cost or inconvenience of training is your problem, definitely check this out.
Forming a Bond
Getting your dog to swim should be fun and it will allow your dog to trust you. All of the extra attention they are getting will only make your bond with them stronger. If they see you are having a good time in the water, its more than likely they will want to join in the fun.
You shouldn’t have a problem getting your German Shorthaired Pointer to start swimming since it is in their blood and DNA. If they do resist at first, you will need to stay patient and let them get acclimated to water when they are ready. The biggest takeaway is to not force them to swim as this can have negative consequences. Not mentioned previously, rewarding your dog with words of encouragement can go a long way in helping them build their confidence. Don’t leave your treats at home either, your dog will love the extra encouragement.