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Swimming Jack Russell Terriers

How to Teach Your Jack Russell Terrier to Swim

Summer is coming and you’re looking for a way to get your Jack Russell Terrier ready to enjoy the hot days with you.

You are not alone in this venture. Besides, we understand that your beautiful and energetic dog deserves to be part of the family, you love him as much as you love the kids and spouse, right?

When it comes to hitting the pool or beach, you have to take your pooch’s safety as seriously as that of one of your little ones.

Here are some great tricks to water train your dog and make sure that safety comes first.

Get him to like being around water

Firstly, take your time. Your dog trusts you and if you move too fast and scare him, that will make all of the other parts of your relationship suffer. You need to take him through the different steps and move at the pace that works for him, even if you are impatient to go faster. You love you dog, so take his needs and wants into consideration just like you would with anything else!

Second learn about your Jack Russell Terrier and water. As you probably know, there are some dog breeds that don’t like the water or that are unable to swim. Luckily, Jack Russell’s can be great swimmers if the introduction to the water is done correctly. More than that, it is important to make sure you know and are comfortable with your dog’s personality.

You could have, save a yellow Labrador, who is said to be great in the water according to his breed, yet not want to go into it at all. After you get your pooch used to getting his feet wet and paddling around, you may still find that he refuses to go in the water. In that case, you simply have a dog that doesn’t like that water and that’s that.

Start slowly

When it comes to training your Jack Russell terrier in the water, start off with simply getting him used to the water in the first place. You can do that by taking him to a quiet and calm place on the beach, or by getting him near a kid pool in your backyard and gently dipping his feet into the water that way.

If you choose the beach, toss a ball into the water a little bit and then further and further each time until all four of his paws are wet. Reward him with treats for a job well done!

When going to locations that are off your property, remember the rules and regulations. Don’t bring your dog to a place where you know you aren’t supposed to. He’ll pick up on your tension and his association to water will be forever linked to your unease. The goal is to be totally relaxed and happy when it comes to introducing your loving pooch to the water. He’ll follow your lead, after all.

Once he seems to be happy galloping through the shallow water, it’s time to get him into swimming mode at the beach. Make sure you look into a canine life jacket, or a similar flotation device. Additionally, keep him on a leash so that you can make sure he doesn’t get too far away from you.

With words of encouragement and treats, gently lead him out until he depends on his life jacket and his feet leave the ground. If he resists going out further than his feet allow (which, considering the energy your dog has, he may) give him some attention and pick him up in your arms to lead him out further. When he stops wiggling and crying, gently lower him back into the water.

Then, support him by placing a hand under his belly and help him move through the water. For the most part, he be hooked to the idea of the water as soon as he gets a taste at how it feels to move through it. He may start to move his front and/or back legs on his own.

For any dog whose breed is water trained (evolutionary speaking, that is), this will happen. Encourage his front/back legs to move by mimicking the movements. Move his legs carefully until he starts to do it himself. Keep your hand support him until he’s propelling himself through the water.

Monitor him and stop the activity on the first signs of discomfort

Keep his first adventure in the water short. After a few minutes of learning to paddle, point him toward the shore and start to lead him towards it. If he’s comfortable swimming, he’ll paddle behind you and follow until he gets to the point where his feet touch the ground. If he is relatively comfortable and not panicking, you’ve done a great job introducing him to the water. If he is upset or worried, do those steps over and over until he gets comfortable.

By doing this regularly, you will get to the point where all you have to do is toss a flotation toy or ball in the general direction of the water, and he’ll take off into the water with a splash. When possible, remember to keep the life jacket on him or, if he resists that, a leash. Only if you trust your dog completely, should you let him roam freely near water. Make sure to never leave him unattended near or in the water. He needs constant supervision in case of an emergency.

Make sure he understands how to properly get in and out of the water (especially in the case of the pool). This is probably the most important part of introducing your dog to the water.

Never push your Jack Russell in the water, you’ll make him a lifetime fear of water and it will be really hard to turn it around afterwards. He has to trust you, be there for him and be his point of security, so he knows he can trust you and come to you.

Remember, Jack Russell Terriers are hyper and love to run. Once he understands how to enjoy time in the water, he’ll want to bound around in it all the time. He’ll get his exercise, ensuring he is happy and healthy, and you’ll be able to include him in the family get together at the beach or poolside.

By successfully introducing him to the water, you’ll have a happy pooch that can’t get enough of splashing around in the waves, chasing you around, or dodging madly after a ball. It’ll make for many laughs and happy memories if done correctly.

Although Kala, my happy Jack Russell, had an access to the water from an early age, she loved roaming through shallow stream but was afraid of loosing ground below her feet. I tried to bribe her with treats, a ball, sticks, me being in the water, but nothing worked. I saw she knew what she was supposed to do, but she just didn’t want it.

I was OK with her not going to the water, but this year, during the summer something changed. I was throwing her a stick to run through a shallow water which she loved, a stick fell a bit further from the beach. She hesitated a bit but took that extra step and started swimming toward a stick.

I was the proudest dog mum (I don’t usually call my self like that but this moment was right for that) on the planet, screaming “She swims!!” After that she truly started to love water. And we found new activity to do to drain her endless energy during days too hot for a long walks.


  1. I just took our 6 month old JRT to a shallow river where I could see the bottom, so I was confident I could rescue her if necessary. She was already a stick/ball retriever, so I just started throwing the ball into the shallows, and then a bit deeper, until she had to swim to get it. I think her keenness to get the stick may have overwhelmed any fears that she might sink.

    She’s now 18 months, and passionate about swimming in a way I have only seen in retrievers and spaniels. If I don’t throw the ball in, she gets hold of it and tosses it in herself, just to give herself an excuse for a swim.

    • Hi Tom, I’m so happy to hear your girl loves water. Some dogs (no matter the breed) really love water from the start and some of them don’t. For example, my JRT entered any water but only so deep while she still could stand. She loves balls and sticks, but no matter what I threw in the water, she wouldn’t retrieve it. She just swam for a really short time if I was in a water. I encouraged her, tried treating her while she was in the water and all, but it wasn’t working. When she was 6 yo, I started encouraging her again, and finally, she started swimming to retrieve the sticks and balls. Now she’s in a water daily and I can’t hold her not to go in. I was like a proud parent when she started swimming :D So…some dogs naturally love water and if their human doesn’t push them, they will love swimming. Unfortunately, some of them won’t ever swim. It’s just the way dogs are. Cheers, Ana

  2. What age can we start training a jack russel

    • Hi Anna, you have to start training your JRt as soon as possible. No dog is too young or too old for training, you just have to adjust training to his/her age and concentration span. Especially with socialization, it’s a must from the day one. Of course, if he/she is still not fully vaccinated, you can start with socialization with other humans. If you want to know more about socialization, I wrote an article with full guide. Cheers, Ana

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