Since we live in such a tropical climate here in Charleston, SC...many of our goldendoodle, bernedoodle, and sheepadoodle puppy owners spend lots of their free time on the water! Many have pools, live near the beaches and oceans, or cruising in their boats on one of Charleston many beautiful waterways! Wether you live near the water or not, one of the most popular questions we get from our loyal puppy owners is about how to make sure their doodle is comfortable near the water. Occasionally, we have a few who, for safety reasons, want to make sure their dog is NOT excited about jumping in and cooling off, too! So -- how do we make sure our dogs are either really comfortable and confident in the water or prefer to avoid it? As with many things, it all starts with socialization during their formative months and years as puppies. As a puppy develops, it goes through what is called "fear periods" where its brain reacts different to the stimuli around it. The first period generally occurs around 5 weeks of age, when most owners do not yet have their puppies in their possession. Secondary or tertiary "fear periods" will sometimes happen around 11 weeks, or between 6 and 14 months of age. You'll know when your pup is experiencing one by its reactions to things that happen in their little doggy world! Sometimes they'll spook at something they never have before, or hide when they hear an unfamiliar noise. Obviously, water can be a bit scary for a puppy if not introduced correctly. If your puppy did not come from us at JennaLee Designer Doodles, we would recommend consulting with your breeder to see if your puppy has been introduced to water, and if so, how much. The key to introducing your puppy to water in a safe, fun way is key to success. We recommend starting them off pretty young, even as early as 9 weeks of age, and always using a doggy life jacket just to safe! Beginning somewhere where the ground slopes into the water, like a boat ramp or the beach without many waves is ideal for a puppy. That way, they can wade in to the point that they feel comfortable and have an easy, familiar exit if they feel the need to get away. If your puppy acts nervous at its first experience with water, we encourage you to bring its favorite training treat and encourage it to go a bit further in. With every courageous step, praise your puppy and treat it for its bravery!
If you want your doodle puppy to like water, another method is to distract your puppy with something fun and stimulating for them where the water is concerned. A floating rubber ball is a great tool for pups who love to fetch and can sometimes totally take away the fear of the water as their desire to get the ball trumps their fear of the water. If you're a beach-goer, we suggest avoiding the waves until your puppy becomes a little more confident in still water.
On the flipside, if you are like a few of our clients and DO NOT want your dog to love water, your best bet is to avoid taking them around it too often, or to correct them with a quick, sharp "NO" when they get too close. Many doodles are naturally avoidant of water and don't like to get in if not introduced at a young age.
If you have another dog that your puppy looks up to that loves the water, or does not, you can bring that dog when you are around the water to help guide your pup along the path you'd like it to adopt when it comes to its feelings about water!
We hope this helps to safely introduce your doodle to water (or not)! Have fun splashing around!
- Jenna and the JLDD Team