img_3502A beautiful underwater mosaic. Shoulda been a merdog!

Swimming is second nature to some dog breeds. Labrador retrievers. Newfies. Portuguese water dogs! Australian shepherds? Erm, not exactly.

Lucky for us then that other dog breeds can be taught to swim and learn to enjoy the water! This weekend Rain got to try her hand at swimming, guided by a team of experienced teachers in the luxury of a private dog swimming pool.

Paws Aquatics has two locations—a larger commercial facility in Hillsboro complete with canine physical therapy and a dock jumping pool, and a quiet residential location inside a house in Milwaukie. That location in Milwaukie is mere minutes away from our house!

Of course I’ve been looking for opportunities to expose Rain to new things, but indoor swimming seemed like a great option for physical exercise during the dark and rainy months.

Would she take to swimming though? There was only one way to find out. I contacted Paws Aquatics, filled out the paperwork, and made an appointment.


Rain was bouncing off the walls with energy that morning—I started getting nervous that she’d be too barky for the Paws Aquatics staff. She spent a ton of time that morning barking at squirrels in our apple tree, even after I played tug with her for an extended period. We even left early and had a short walk around North Clackamas Park to try and get her a little more focused. Things seemed iffy.

We were greeted by a team of three professionals when we arrived. This included Diane, the owner; another one of the regular swimming assistants; and a trainee. It was great to work together with them on the task at hand!


“Your job is to relax,” they told me once we were ready to get started. A welcome relief, considering how much doggy management I had done until that point of the day.

They put a Ruffwear doggy PFD on Rain and started by introducing her to a shallow platform area in the pool. The platform descended down a long ramp and over the next several minutes we worked on getting her down the ramp and then starting to swim little loops. Rain got tons of praise with each micro-step of progress she made.

Then Diane, the owner, brought in the big guns: a foot-long bully stick.

Soon the women had me take the bully stick out and entice Rain to swim to me to get it. I had brought a couple of balls for her but food was the only thing she had interest in on this day. I hung out further down the ramp and once Rain had the stick, I helped her loop back around to get back on solid ground.

Wading further into the water the first time, I realized about 10 seconds too late that I was still wearing my treat bag! The bait bag and all its contents got thoroughly inundated with water.

Lessons learned:

  • Charlee Bears float like CheeriOs in milk
  • Little treats turn to mush in water
  • My bait bag holds water really well.

Steven took photos of Rain swimming around the pool. She looked especially cute with the bully stick in her mouth—like she was moonlighting as a retriever.

Eventually Rain started looking like her happy self. She was starting to get the hang of this swimming business! Her ears were more perky and she was less reluctant to power around the pool without being able to touch the ground.

As Rain became more comfortable she also started turning into a fast little swimmer! I found it challenging to swim around while holding the bully stick aloft, so I was moving slowly. When she caught up with me and snatched the bully stick I tried to stay away from her paddling paws and the strong claws attached to them.

Rain did eventually swim all the way to the end of the pool before Diane thought we should end our session. After all, you don’t want a dog to get overtired and have any bad associations with their first time swimming! Rain had her final lap and we all exited the pool.

Now able to completely focus on the task at hand, Rain finished her bully stick in about ten minutes flat.


Once we were home she launched into her usual post-bath routine: dancing around the living room rubbing on all available surfaces. Wiggling on the vinyl couch, she launched her hind legs over her head. They then landed on the back of the couch with her front paws still on the couch seat below. Here you see her taking a brief pause from the silliness. (See that blanket? It will soon be on the floor. That blanket spends more time on the floor than on the couch.)


Rain’s first visit to the pool went—dare I say it?—swimmingly. It might take Rain one more visit assisted to be fully confident in her abilities, after which point WATCH OUT! She might be paddling your way.

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