My Golden Retriever puppy loves swimming in our pool, but we don’t like it because we can’t get in the pool after he does – the water turns brown or green with all the dirt our dog has. So, how can we make her stop going into the pool?
San José, Costa Rica
Cesar Millan’s answer:
I’ve been to your beautiful country and it was an amazing trip! I met some very generous and warm Costa Ricans that welcomed me and my family to all of the wonderful nature the country has to offer.
As far as your question, I think it’s important for you to do a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of your dog going in the pool. To me, swimming is one of the best exercises for a dog physically and is psychologically calming. So I like to encourage people to swim with their dogs. So I actually think it’s great that your dog wants to swim and enjoys it. Most people come to me asking how to make their dog enjoy swimming! But, I understand that you don’t want the dirt in the pool so that you and your family can enjoy it.
There are two kinds of boundaries that you can implement. The first is physical, meaning putting a fence around the pool. I don’t recommend that necessarily because the temptation being right there where he can see it but can’t get to it can create other problems, like a barking frenzy out of frustration that he cannot do his favorite activity.
The other is a psychological boundary, and this is what I’d encourage you to implement. This means that you find a strategy that works for you and keep in mind the dog’s needs as well. You can let him fulfill this instinctual need he has to be in the water by participating in water search and rescue activities with him, or bringing him along if you go to the beach or somewhere there is water he can safely swim in. Also, you should step up your pack leader skills and set some ground rules. Just like some dogs know they must be invited to come up on the bed or the sofa, your dog can learn that he must be invited to come into the pool. It’s on your terms. And the pool can become an exciting reward for good behavior. Do this with a long lead and body language, so your dog is looking to you for direction. Make sure you practice this kind of leadership and boundaries in all areas of your life together so he gets used to this new kind of relationship. It will ultimately create a much more harmonious existence together, but it will take some time since you are not currently utilizing such boundaries psychologically with him.
One thing I must say – please do not take this activity away from him entirely. He is expressing an instinctual need as a retriever to be in the water and this is wonderful! If you don’t want him in your own pool, I understand, but during the transition, find other water activities for him.
Stay calm and assertive!