Huskies are well known for living happily in the snow. They thrive in cold environments.
A lot of people think that because Huskies are bred to pull sleds in the snow, they don’t like to swim. As you will see in this article, this is completely false.
Huskies can swim and they can learn to greatly enjoy swimming. If Huskies are properly introduced to water, they can learn to love swimming. Just because Huskies thrive in the snow does not mean they don’t like water.
How a Husky is introduced to water plays a major role in whether an individual Husky will enjoy swimming or not. Huskies that are improperly introduced to water will likely hate it and avoid it at all costs.
In this article, I will go through why many Huskies love to swim, how to properly introduce your Husky to water and other important details.
Why People Are Wrong About Huskies and Water
Take a look at the below photo and then try to imagine this dog swimming at a sunny beach:
Hard to imagine, right?
We’re so used to associating Huskies with freezing cold weather and snow that it seems wrong to imagine a Husky enjoying swimming.
While the above Husky probably would hate water, that doesn’t mean all Huskies also hate water. The above Husky has probably never seen water that wasn’t an icy cold lake.
This is why so many people get it wrong about Huskies and water. Because we think Huskies are only good with cold weather, we incorrectly assume that they must hate swimming.
Find out how Huskies can deal with cold weather in this article.
My family also used to believe that Huskies didn’t like to swim. So it wasn’t any surprise when we took our first Husky to the beach and he didn’t want to go in the water.
Aha! I knew it! Huskies hate water, case closed, right?
Well, I challenged that assumption with our second Husky. Instead of assuming that all Huskies hate the water, we took the time and effort to properly introduce her to water.
This was the result:
Now, when we go to the beach, she can’t wait to run in and swim around. To say that she enjoys swimming is an understatement. You can see the excitement all over her body when she realizes she’s going to go for a dip.
The point I want to leave is that whether an individual Husky likes to swim or not is more about how they are introduced to water than what Huskies were originally bred for.
To say that Huskies don’t like to swim because they were bred to pull sleds in the snow is as foolish as saying humans don’t like to swim because we are land mammals.
Why Some Huskies Hate Water
Huskies hate water if they are improperly introduced to it. If you pick up and throw your Husky into a pool the first time it sees one, you can bet your life your Husky will never go near a pool again.
Most Huskies hate baths. But is that because Huskies hate water? Or is it due to the way baths are generally introduced to dogs?
Huskies are surprisingly intelligent and will remember their first encounter with water for the rest of their lives. If that first memory is a bad one, they will likely hate water for the rest of their lives.
For example, imagine a Husky puppy out in heavy rain without any shelter. The Husky quickly becomes drenched and big pools of water start appearing everywhere.
Now imagine taking that same Husky to a pool or the beach and splashing them with water. It should be no surprise that the memory of being out in the rain will impact the experience at the beach.
Huskies hate water when they build a negative association with water. A bad experience with rain, pools, beaches, baths, or even a garden hose could be all that it takes to set a negative association.
This is why it is so important to set a good first experience with water if you want your Husky to enjoy swimming.
How to Teach a Husky to Swim
To teach a Husky to swim, water needs to be gradually and properly introduced. Then the Husky needs to be encouraged to go into the water in a positive way. The Husky also needs to be rewarded and reinforced for going further into the water.
When this is done correctly, the Husky will quickly build a positive association with water and swimming.
Here is a video showing how a few simple things can make a difference and encourage a Husky to start swimming.
In the video’s description, the owner says that he has tried to teach his Husky to swim for three years without success. Many owners would have concluded at this point that Huskies don’t like water and can’t swim. But you can see by the end of the video that the behavior quickly changes.
Here are a few things that made the difference and encouraged this Husky to finally accept water and start swimming:
Seeing other dogs swimming
In the video, you will see that the Husky is fixated on the other dog swimming. The Husky desperately wants to follow the other dog but is unsure about the water.
Seeing other dogs swimming is a strong motivator for a Husky to try to swim. It gives them confidence that swimming is natural for a dog and they will be far more likely to try it when they see others swim.
Praise any progress
Notice that the Husky is praised every time he ventures further into the water. This positive reinforcement lets the Husky know he is doing a good thing.
The owner isn’t forcing the Husky out into the water, instead, he is reinforcing good behavior using praise.
Using a stick
You can see in the video that the stick played a big role in encouraging the Husky to keep going out into the water. It gives the Husky another reason to go into the water.
If your Husky enjoys playing fetch, then you can use a stick as a way to encourage your Husky to venture further into the water.
Every time you throw the stick, throw it slightly further to encourage your Husky to go further into the water. The first throw should be close enough that the Husky is still standing with the water below their body.
Once a Husky learns that swimming is fun, you don’t need to use a stick as a motivator. Swimming itself will become a strong motivator.
Here are some other things that can help teach a Husky to swim:
Go in the water first
Your Husky will want to go where you go. This means if you are in the water, your Husky will want to follow. If your Husky sees you swimming, it gives them a strong motivator to venture out and join you.
It is important you do this the right way. The wrong way would be to go in the water and try to pull your Husky in with you using a leash.
Pulling a Husky into water using a leash is the worst thing you can do (apart from throwing them in the water) and will embed a negative association with water in their mind.
If you use a leash, ensure it is always slack. Don’t pull your Husky in and stay within range so that the leash doesn’t become tight.
In the earlier video, the Husky would have likely made faster progress if all of the people were also in the water. If you stay on the beach, your Husky will want to stay with you.
Use treats or a clicker
If you use treats or a clicker to train your Husky, use it to encourage your Husky to enter the water.
While using treats becomes difficult when your Husky gets deeper into the water, it can be enough in the beginning stage to encourage your Husky to take the first few steps.
If you use a clicker, this can be a powerful way to reinforce good behavior and encourage your Husky to continue to venture out into the water.
Don’t force it
You want the first few training sessions to be positive experiences. Don’t push your Husky too much on the first attempt. If you try to pull or push your Husky into the water, you risk developing a negative association with water.
If you can see that your Husky is getting tired or frustrated, quickly change tactics and do something you know your Husky will enjoy. Keep the entire experience positive so you can come back and try again.
The last thing you want is for your Husky to go home after a generally negative experience. That negative experience will make it that much harder the next time.
End on a positive note
The end of a training session plays a big part in how a Husky will remember the session. If the end of the session is positive, the Husky will remember the entire session as generally positive (humans are the same).
This means you need to know when to stop the session. For example, if you work your Husky too hard and they become exhausted, your Husky will remember the entire session as exhausting.
On the other hand, if the session ends before they get tired and with their favorite treat, that’s a great session and your Husky will look forward to the next session.
Using a Life-Jacket to Teach Your Husky to Swim
One of the most powerful training tools you can use to help a Husky learn to swim is a life jacket as shown below:
When used correctly, a life jacket can help your Husky feel more confident in the water and can increase your Husky’s swimming endurance.
When used incorrectly, a life jacket can make your Husky hate swimming. So let’s look at how to use one properly to teach your Husky to swim.
There are plenty of different life jackets available in a range of different sizes. One of the most popular is this one by RUFFWEAR (link to Amazon). Check it out for more information and a sizing chart to fit your Husky.
Get a Suitable Life Jacket
The first step is to make sure the life jacket you buy is a good fit for your Husky.
The life jacket will only do its job when it is properly sized to your Husky. If it is uncomfortable, it will be even worse in the water.
Make sure the life jacket is snug, but not tight. When your Husky starts swimming, a snug life jacket will help them stay buoyant. A loose or tight life jacket will feel uncomfortable.
Introduce the Life Jacket Early
If the first time you introduce the life jacket to your Husky is at the beach, it’s too late.
Imagine being a Husky and your owner puts a strange device on your Husky’s back then tries to get you to go into strange water at the same time? No way. That’s a sure way to create a negative experience.
Let your Husky get used to the life jacket while in the comfort of your home. The life jacket is a strange and foreign object to your Husky. So introduce it in a positive way.
Let your Husky get used to it and wear it for some time at home until they’re perfectly happy putting it on.
Once your Husky is perfectly happy with you putting the life jacket on them, you can move to the next step.
What to do if Your Husky is Scared of Water
The first thing to recognize is that the type of water matters. There is a big difference between a beach, lake, pool, or bath. Each source of water can be a very different experience for a Husky.
Beach vs Pools
Think of the difference between a beach and a pool. A beach starts off shallow and gradually gets deeper the further you go out. That’s reassuring to a Husky because they can control the depth of the water. They can gradually venture further out into deeper water as they build their confidence.
Compare that against a pool. While there may be a shallow end in a pool, it will feel just as deep to a Husky as the deep end. The entire pool is the deep end and the Husky has no control over the depth apart from any stairs leading into the pool.
For this reason, more Huskies are afraid of pools than beaches or lakes. A pool is far more intimidating than the gradual slope of a beach.
If your Husky is afraid of one type of water source, spend time building confidence with a different type of water. If your Husky is afraid of pools, go to a beach or lake.
While your Husky will still likely show signs of fear or hesitation, the environment will be completely different. This gives you an opportunity to establish new associations with water.
If the first time you go to a beach it is full of people, other dogs, and crashing waves, take your Husky to a quiet lake or use a kiddie pool to introduce water in a less-stimulating environment.
Tips When Teaching Huskies to Swim
Here are some extra tips to keep in mind when teaching your Husky to swim:
- Bring water: keep your Husky hydrated – especially if swimming in saltwater
- Think of the weather: while Huskies can handle cold weather thanks to their double coat (find out more here), water is a different story. Your Husky will be far more likely to want to enter the water in warmer weather
- Work gradually: you wouldn’t expect a Husky puppy to become a pro at following commands in the very first training session, so don’t expect your Husky to become a confident swimmer on the first attempt. Train your Husky gradually like you would with any other behavior
- Know your Husky: if your Husky enjoys playing fetch, use it as part of training. If your Husky responds well to treats, bring treats with you. Know what motivates your Husky and use it as a motivator
- Be wary of other people: everybody has different ideas on how to train a dog. When in public, other dog owners will try to ‘help’ you if they think you’re doing it wrong. While some people may have some good ideas, many dog owners don’t know what they’re doing and may make things worse by ‘helping’ you
- Teach your Husky how to get out of a pool: be quick to teach your Husky to find the easiest way out of the pool. A Husky can panic if they find they can’t simply climb out of the side of a pool. Teach your Husky to go straight to the stairs when they want to get out
The key point to remember is that Huskies can learn to love swimming if they are properly introduced to water.
You might be lucky and your Husky learns to swim on the first attempt, or it may take longer. The video shown earlier is a great example of how persistence can pay off. Three years of attempting to teach his Husky to swim suddenly paid off when the right factors were put in place.