Did you know that dogs and their owners are given the opportunity to take a dip in the local swimming pools? The Netherlands continues to pleasantly surprise me with it’s relaxed and open approach towards our canine companions. Apparently it’s fairly common practice to allow dogs and humans access on the last day of the season before closing the pools for the Winter period. How cool is that? (Very cool, the advertised ‘heated’ pool was bloody freezing!)
As you may or may not know, my dear Nero suffers with Spondylosis. Spondylosis is a degenerative spine condition that can affect any dog (although more common in older, larger breeds) that will cause pain due to the formation of bone spurs. (Not nice!) Unfortunately there is currently no cure for this disease, although there are plenty of supplements, pain killers and lifestyle changes you can introduce to help your woof feel more comfortable.
One of the things that is suggested by professionals is swimming. It’s low impact and is a full body workout for the dog. That’s great but unfortunately I have a Shepherd. This breed is not known for water baby antics and Nero suits that stereo-type perfectly. He’s more than happy to paddle up to his elbows but that’s always been the limit. I’ve been saying for months since his diagnosis that I wanted to find somewhere that I could get in the water with Nero to give him confidence and encouragement to swim. Maybe if I could swim with him just once it would set a precedent for future splashes? The beach was always too crazy with all the waves and movement and resulted in Nero becoming more wary and fearful of water. I didn’t fancy taking a dip in a lake (seen way to many horror films for that) and a paddling pool just doesn’t cut it when you have a beast of a dog. Plus when I put one foot in the paddling pool, Nero began whining and rushed to the rescue by pulling me out.
But then I heard through the dog-vine that there was an event held annually at De Vosse in Hillegom called ‘Doggydive!’
How did we succeed with getting Nero to swim?
I was Nero’s main motivator, armed with a trusty tennis ball – the next best thing.
There were many other dogs surrounding us that were swimming and jumping in and out of the pool.
The water was clear – perhaps seeing the bottom gave him more confidence.
I made sure that Nero understood where the exit was. (The steps) We started with a loose leash and used the ball to help lure him in.
Then removed it after entering the pool once:
Once in, we played fetch! With all the praise and play, I believe he genuinely enjoyed himself! Plenty of positive associations were made.
I’m so proud of my right hand dog! He faced his fear and he conquered it! You can check out our viral video of the day here. We even had a couple of people recognise us from Instagram and congratulate Nero on his bravery and progress. We stayed the full two hours at the pool before heading off to shower and change. I have to say, it was totally bizarre getting dressed in a cubicle with my dog…
Since that day almost two weeks ago, Nero takes paddling in every puddle very seriously. It’s almost like he’s searching to sniff out the water on our walks!
So there you have it! Do you have a dog who loves or hates the water? Take a trip to Hillegom next year (we certainly will) for the Doggydive event! If your furry friend has a phobia of the water, you can always approach us for some tips and guidance. Did I mention that it only cost five euros per dog for entrance? It’s an absolute steal for the experience, even if you just go along as a spectator!