Not Just for Kids

 Vol. 10, No. 23

June 6-12, 2002

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Not Just for Water Dogs
Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Stranded by the Bay with a dog from the desert? Tired of sweating like a pig, playing sheep for your Australian Shepherd while your neighbors’ chocolate Labs and Chesapeake retrievers fetch stick after stick from the cool blue water? Never fear — any dog can learn to be a water dog, with the right encouragement (even those that usually tiptoe, cat-like, across damp grass).

1. No, don’t throw your dog in the water. Take him to a beach where you can remove his collar (there’s such a beach at Quiet Waters) and leave him whining on the shore while you wade out a few yards. Turn your back on him and ignore him.

2. Remember, what your dog wants more than anything in the world is your attention — good or bad. Don’t give him any of either — don’t look at him or speak to him — until he sets foot in the water.

3. Once he does — even if he only takes three steps before he leaps back onto the beach — give him a word or two of praise. Then turn your back again. Praise him whenever he steps in the water, and ignore him whenever he steps out.

Don’t overdo it. Wait for him to step in the water two or three times, then wade back in. Lavish attention on your pup when you reach him; you want him to associate water with love and praise. Never, ever chastise him, even if he won’t go near the water that first day. Don’t coax him, either.

4. Go back the next day, or the next weekend, and do the same thing. Wade in the water and turn your back to your dog. Praise him as long as he stays in the water, but don’t move toward him; make him come to you. Be generous when he does — pat his flanks and say, ‘Good, boy.’

5. Once your dog looks comfortable wading, walk out a little deeper, until his feet leave the sand. He will panic and whip around like a rat leaving the Titanic. Shower him with praise and wait for him to try again. Wait another day if he refuses to budge; be patient until he overcomes his fear.

6. When your dog is swimming with some confidence, you can lead him around while he builds up his endurance. Remember, though, that dogs will push themselves past their limits to please their masters and can drown as a result. Watch for signs of fatigue and give your dog regular rest.

Dogs get dehydrated, even when swimming, and lapping salty Bay water only hastens the process. Always keep fresh water on hand for your dog to drink. You’ll also want an old towel or two in the car, to dry his paws and lie across the back seat.

7. After your dog’s had some water and a rest, throw a stick down the beach for him. If your dog doesn’t know how to fetch, use the same sort of encouragement you did when you taught him how to swim. Once he’s chasing the stick and bringing it back to you, try throwing it in the water. Throw it in shallow water first, then deeper and deeper, until he has to swim for it. Hold your praise until he reaches the stick.

8. The day will come when you go to throw a stick and it slips from your hand and plops into the shallow water. Your former feline will wait patiently for you to try again, or fix you with a hurt stare and wade dutifully after it.

Keep these tips in mind as you mold Prince into Mark Spitz:

  1. Be careful, especially around other dogs — some are very protective of their sticks.

  2. Be patient. Don’t expect your shepherd to become a retriever in a day, or even overnight.

  3. Be realistic. Your shepherd will never plow through the water like a lab.

  4. This method can also be used on jittery kids (though they probably won’t fetch any sticks).

Kids’ Stuff

Sunday, June 9
“Kids Love America” Day
Pledge allegiance to the flag, listen to Abraham Lincoln and the National Guard Band, see a Navy search and rescue helicopter, ride a pony, win a bike and take home a T-shirt. All refreshments 50 cents! Noon–4pm @ St. Clement’s Island Potomac River Museum, Point Breeze Rd. off Rt. 242, Colton’s Pt., St. Mary’s County: 301/769-2222.

Monday, June 10
Bring Home the Chesapeake Cup
Preschoolers through high-schoolers compete for the Chesapeake Cup through the Anne Arundel Summer Reading Program. The cup goes to the schools — one public and one private — with the highest percentage of students participating. Incumbents Bodkin Elementary in Pasadena and Aleph Bet Jewish Day School in Annapolis have won the cup two years in a row. Register at your local library anytime before July 26: 410/222-7371.

Tumbling Camp
Kids 6–12 learn basic tumbling moves, like rolls, cartwheels and handstands. Bring a bag lunch. Continues thru June 14. 1–3pm @ Northeast Community Ctr., Rt. 261, Chesapeake Beach. $50; rsvp: 410/257-2554.

Tuesday, June 11
Play a Game, Make a Dinosaur
Kids 6 & 7 play a movement game and make a walking dinosaur after hearing Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff. 7pm @ Zany Brainy, Annapolis Harbour Center: 410/266-1447.
Wednesday, June 12

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
Kids 8 & 9 play a game called Wacky Walks, then learn there’s more than one way to think about something. 7pm @ Zany Brainy, Annapolis Harbour Ctr.: 410/266-1447.

Thursday, June 13
You Can Dance
Kids 3-5 learn creative movement. Thurs. thru July 18. Experienced dancers 9:30–10:15am; beginners 10:30–11:15am; ballet 11:30–12:15 @ Carter School of Dance, Severna Park. $75 w/YWCA discounts: 410/626-7800.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly