Shetland sheepdogs are gorgeous, long-haired breeds that look like canine divas due to their luscious, multicolored hair. Due to its slightly huffy, almost cumbersome appearance you might wonder as to the hydrodynamic capabilities of this breed.
Shetland Sheepdogs can swim, despite their appearance and reputation. The Shettie’s inclination ultimately comes down to its natural traits such as its dense fur and its inherited personality.
Never fear, it’s not impossible to teach your pet to learn to love the coolness of splashing through water. For tips and other specific information regarding the ability of swimming for your Shetland sheepdog, read on this article.
How Shetland Sheepdogs Swim
Virtually all dogs have the intuitive doggy paddle encoded in their doggy DNA. This technique plays out exactly like its name sounds, with the pooch continuously pawing with its front paws while its hind licks kick over and over to keep afloat and to propel forward.
If you happen to have a shetland dog who can swim and also enjoy it, you’ll see it propelling through the water head above the surface just as a golden retriever or other medium-sized dog would.
Why Aren’t Shetland Sheepdogs Natural Swimmers
If you happen to be the owner of a Shettie who seems to fear or dare we say, even hate the notion of stepping into the water, you’re not alone!
While it can be argued that technically all dogs can swim, the issue boils down to how each individual dog feels confident maneuvering within water or not. For more on whether Shetland Sheepdogs like water itself, see below.
There are really simple reasons as to why our breed in question, that is- Shetties, aren’t fond of the act of swimming, however.
The first thing we can look at is their dense fur coating. Imagine how much heavier that gets once immersed in water.
Secondly, they have moderate to low active levels compared to other dog breeds. They have less fuel in the tank, especially when they’re all soggy and burdened by water. Imagine if you had to swim with weights strapped on- an exaggeration, but a means to empathize with the shettie nonetheless.
Last, but definitely not the least, may be attributed to your dog’s personality and preferences. This can be either inherited through its parents, or as a conditioned response due to unpleasant experiences with water.
Do Shetland Sheepdogs Like Water?
As mentioned above, most owners’ Shetties report a general dislike of the water. Those who have a Shetland sheepdog who love it are likewise in the minority.
Since a dog can inherit its traits and quirks from its parents, it’s possible not having properly “socialized” a Shettie to water at bath time as a pup can lead to an aversion to water as an adult. For example, it could have simply never came across the notion to swim until now.
However, you might occasionally have the rare specimen that has a rare natural love of getting wet. Owners have reported those who even enjoy running through hoses during playtime, or even safely by the beach shore, yet while still refusing to actually swim.
Benefits of Swimming
The benefits for your Shettie dog, much less any dog breed really, are as helpful as they are ubiquitous, and are similar to those enjoyed by humans!
Hydrotherapy is something that veterinarians regularly recommend for overactive or anxiety-ridden dogs. It entails having the pooch swim in regular daily or otherwise scheduled sessions under supervision.
Another one of the big reasons as to why swimming is prescribed to obese and older dogs is because the activity is easy on the joints. It’s less demanding than running or jumping under gravity, and can enable a dog to get the much-needed exercise he needs without putting any excess strain on an injured limb/arthritis or any orthopedic problems.
Lastly, it’s a fun activity that can satisfy the most active of dogs without exhausting them, while being relaxing and calming for others, being as therapeutic for the mind as it is for the dog’s body.
Supplies You Will Need to Teach Your Shetland Sheepdog How to Swim
If it’s your dog’s very first time even stepping into water outside the bathtub, use a small-sized, inflatable kiddie pool to test the waters (pun intended).
Optionally, you can choose the beach shores, although you must visit them at a time when other visitors are not around, such as early dawn, in order to ensure minimal distractions.
A canine lifejacket is a must if it’s your pet’s first time in water, and still required for natural bodies of water that have currents such as a river or at the beach.
Teaching Your Shetland Sheepdog to Swim
As with most teaching of tricks or abilities, you’re going to have to approach teaching your reluctant pet with patience and ample encouragement. First and foremost: never leave your dog unsupervised in water. Keep that canine life jacket strapped on.
With your kiddie-sized pool, lure your Shettie into the water either by stepping in yourself or luring it in with a toy or treat. If you have a backyard swimming pool, you can teach it to go up the steps by walking up yourself into the pool and having your pooch follow you.
It’s also entirely possible for your pet to leap in without direct orders from you. One owner on the internet said that his Shetland sheepdog acted completely out of character by leaping into the pool after seeing a puppy in the family enjoy it so much.
Once it has finally reached in ankle/chest-deep, now it becomes a task of having her associate water with positive, fun emotions! Begin tossing a toy for it to fetch in the water and return it to you by the edge of the pool.
Be patient, and never force your dog to go into the water. If your shettie hops out of the pool simply repeat luring it back into the pool. Eventually as she gets comfortable within liquid you can move your activities to the deeper end of the pool (if in a backyard pool).
It’s absolutely vital that your shettie keep the canine life jacket on, as her double coat would be heavier underwater, and the lifejacket will keep her afloat once she has tired out. It will also teach her to feel supported within the buoyancy of water.
Tips for Swimming with Your Shetland Sheepdog
- It’s best to buy bright-colored canine life jackets, which can easily be spotted from a distance.
- Some owners report that their Shettie simply sinks within water, even with a life jacket on, refusing to even paddle. If you’ve attempted numerous times with patience and various methods to get him to cooperate which are still met with failure, don’t blame yourself for giving up.
- Because of the thickness of a Shettie’s coat, trimming it will make it slightly more lighter within the water and making staying afloat slightly less tiresome for him.
- Make swimming a fun experience for your dog by having children and other family pets within or nearby the water. Shetties feed off the positive vibes of family members around them, and can be more receptive to swimming lessons this way.
Post Swimming Care
Aside from drying the dog by patting it down with a towel, you must not neglect giving it another rinse or even an additional bath after swimming.
If your dog has been swimming in a salt-heavy or chlorine-prevalent pool, it is imperative that you spray or lather its coat with conditioner and other high quality dog hair products during a rinse of bath afterwards.
This is especially important for Shetties, since their long coat is so fine-looking and can get matted or coarse if just left to dry after swimming in chlorine-heavy waters. For these reasons, it’s probably best not to convert your Shettie into a daily swimmer!
Other Activities Shetland Sheepdogs Enjoy
Aside from swimming, Shetland Sheepdogs can find many other outlets for expressing their energy and play. These include, but are not limited, to:
- Agility exercises
- A simple stroll through the park
- Playing fetch in the backyard
- Pawing back and forth in gentle imitation of a “boxing match”
- Tug of war with a toy