Do Wheaten Terriers Like To Swim?


Wheaton Terriers are one of my favorite breeds. They have cheerful personalities and radiate the type of energy that only terriers are known for. 

They were used as working dog, primarily on farms, and because of this, they need to be exercised regularly.

Do Wheaten Terriers like to swim?

Yes, most Wheaten Terriers enjoy the water and are excellent swimmers. Swimming provides a good amount of strenuous exercise and helps them burn energy. It helps to condition their muscles, keep their joints healthy, and is perfect for Wheaten Terriers that have joint issues as it’s a low-impact exercise.

All Wheaten Terriers can become comfortable in the water, even if they are fearful of it at first.

Most enjoy water naturally but some Wheaton’s may need to be trained.

9 Tips To Teach A Wheaten Terrier To Swim

If your wheaten doesn’t naturally like the water he is probably afraid of it. This fear can be overcome. Sometimes it’s instant and other times it’s gradual but it requires effort on your part.

If Veterinarians can help fearful dogs become comfortable in water during hydrotherapy sessions then you can get your Wheaton to get comfortable in the water too.

Tip #1 Use Warm Water

Coldwater can be a shock to him. 

If your Wheaten is already scared then cold water can turn him off even more.

Warm water will help your Wheaten Terrier learn to swim faster as it will be more comfortable for him.

Choosing a hot day when the pool/lake is on the warmer side will make things a little easier, or if your pool has a heater that would be even better.

A hot tub may also work as long as it’s not too hot.

If you don’t have a warm body of water available then just make sure the temperature is suitable for swimming. Don’t try it on a colder day or off-season.

Tip #2 Don’t Use Force

Never force a fearful dog to do something he is afraid of. This will make things worse and may traumatize him to where he becomes even more fearful of the water.

The most important thing you can do to get your Wheaten to swim is to be calm and use a gentle tone. You want to coax him into the water and get him to the point where he decides to get into the water himself.

Tip #3 Wet His Lower Body

If he isn’t able to make the decision on his own, as long as he is not visibly fearful, you can bring him into a shallow area and get his feet and legs wet.

Don’t submerge his body in the water. He should be able to stand on his four legs at first.

The sensation of being submerged into water might be too uncomfortable for him at this stage. It could cause him to panic. 

If he panics he will swim out of the pool or lake and not want to get back in.

Tip #4 Ease Him Into The Water

When your Wheaten is comfortable standing in water and is gaining confidence you can ease him into the pool/lake while he is in your arms.

You should hold him and try to keep his upper body, especially his head, above the water as much as possible.

This is a new experience for him and you want to teach him that there is nothing to fear. It’s ok if he is uncomfortable as long as he doesn’t panic.

You should be holding onto him the entire time. This requires him to trust you so ideally you are his owner or have a strong bond established already.

Tip #5 Use Positive Reinforcement

When your Wheaten Terrier is in the water you should praise him and make sure that he understands you are pleased with him.

Tip #6 Reward Him With Treats

As long as he is in a shallow body of water, and standing up, you can reward him with his favorite treat when he overcomes his fear.

If the treats are good enough you might be able to coax him in the water by using them. 

Just don’t give him food if he is submerged in water as he could choke

Tip #7 Expose Him To Water Early

Exposing your Wheaten Terrier to water early in life is the best way to help him learn to swim. 

Once he learns that swimming can be fun he will develop confidence and carry this skill into his adult life.

It’s easier to train a young Wheaten Terrier to swim but it’s completely possible to train an adult too!

Tip #8 Hire a Dog Trainer

If you are finding that training is difficult or you don’t have the time to train then investing in a trainer for your Wheaten Terrier could be a good idea.

Dog trainers usually have different areas of expertise. You’d want to find one that specializes in swimming and aquatics. 

Depending on what part of the country you live in, if you aren’t near a beach or lake, they can be harder to find.

A good alternative to hiring a dog trainer is the next tip on our list.

Tip #9 Order a Hydrotherapy Session From a Vet

If you are finding it difficult to teach him to swim then you can book him a hydrotherapy session.

Hydrotherapy is used by vets to rehabilitate dogs with injuries and joint problems. Swimming has a low impact on joints and is good for developing muscle strength and tone.

Your dog doesn’t have to have an injury to get hydrotherapy. The veterinarians and staff will be trained to help dogs that have fear of water. They have methods that help them become comfortable.

All you have to do is call around and explain your situation to them. I’m sure that many of them would be willing to help your Wheaten Terrier get comfortable in the water. 

Hydrotherapy For Dogs Cost

(price estimate by the American Kennel Club)

  • A consultation will cost between $35 and $45
  • A swim therapy session will cost $20 to $30

Before you call you should know that there are two types of hydrotherapy for dogs. 

The first one uses a pool and is what you are looking for, and the second type uses a water tank, which won’t be helpful.

Hydrotherapy is done in two ways

  1. The first method is to use a heated pool
    1. This is preferred as the pool will be large enough for the vet to hold and accompany the dog. 
    2. Some vets may allow the owners to help in the water as well. You can ask them this before your first visit.
    3. This mimics swimming in a real-life scenario
  2. The second method is done in an enclosed tank
    1. The dog is alone in the tank as water submerges the lower portion of his body
    2. Typically, the dog will be standing on a treadmill
    3. This is not the type of hydrotherapy you want if you are trying to get your dog to swim. 

If you call around be sure to ask them which type of hydrotherapy they provide. If they provide the type that uses a tank then be sure to ask them for a referral.

7 Dog Swimming Safety Tips

Most dogs, including Wheatens, love the water. It’s nice to be able to take your dog to the beach or a pool on a hot day, but before you do you should take some precautions.

Wheaten Terriers are intelligent but they generally lack the ability to plan ahead.

You should employ similar safety measures as you would for a child.

Tip #1 Keep Off Hot Sand & Hot Pavement

If you’re at the beach and the sand is too hot for your feet then it will be too hot for your wheaten’s paws as well. 

Many dogs have a high level of pain tolerance and may not show signs of pain. This can be dangerous as hot pavement or sand can lead to 3rd-degree burns and blistering.

It’s important to keep him off hot surfaces.

If you know in advance that you will be on hot sand or pavement then you can order a pair of dog booties.

Dog booties go onto your dog’s paws and make walking on hot surfaces bearable.

They need to be trained to use them in advance. Getting them at the last minute and expecting your dog to know how to use them isn’t a good idea.

Order them in advance and teach your dog to use them. They might be uncomfortable at first but he can be taught to keep them on and in time will become comfortable.

Tip #2 Dry His Ears

Wet ears are a breeding ground for infectious bacteria and increase the likelihood your dog will develop an ear infection, even if he is not prone to get them.

You should dry the inside of your Wheatens ears each time he gets out of the water. 

This can be done with a soft beach towel or other soft fabric. Don’t use anything that will be too abrasive as the inside of his ear is sensitive.

Tip #3 Apply Sun Screen

You might not realize it but dogs are just as prone to get sunburnt as humans are. The areas of concern for a dog will be on his nose, groin, and belly.

They make sunscreen that is specifically designed for dogs.

Human sunscreen can be used in certain cases, as long as it doesn’t have zinc. 

Zinc is highly toxic to dogs so avoid it at all costs.

Tip #3 Use a Lifejacket On Boats

Your Wheaten might love to swim but what if he falls off while the boat is moving? 

The impact of falling from a moving boat can be severe enough to knock him unconscious. There is a chance you might not notice it right away either.

It’s a recipe for disaster. 

If you’re going to be on a boat with your Wheaten Terrier you should get a life-saver vest that’s designed for dogs and is the appropriate size.

You might not want him to wear it the entire time but it’s especially important for when the boat is moving

Order the lifevest before your trip as you will need time to train him until he is accustomed to it. You will need to size and adjust it too.

Tip #3 Provide Plenty Of Shade

If it’s hot outside and the sun is strong make sure you have an area where your dog can rest in the shade.

Dogs can get heat exhaustion just like humans, so providing shade and freshwater is important.

Some signs of heat exhaustion in a Wheaten Terrier are:

  • excessive panting
  • extreme lethargy
  • inability to stand
  • Losing consciousness

Make sure you monitor him closely and move him to a shaded area if he shows any sign of a heat stroke.

Read this veterinary guide for more signs of a heat stroke.

Tip #4 Bring Fresh Drinking Water

Dogs should not consume saltwater or dirty lake water.

I understand that it will be your dog’s natural tendency to drink the water he’s swimming in, especially if it’s freshwater, but you should understand the risks associated with that.

  1. Salt Poisoning (Hyernatremia) can occur when a dog drinks excessive amounts of saltwater
  2. Freshwater lakes and ponds have lots of bacteria and algae that can make your dog sick and give him diarrhea or cause him to vomit

Stay away from water that looks dirty or looks like it has algae or bacteria in it. 

If your dog drinks some freshwater from the lake that appears normal it shouldn’t cause any problems but make sure it’s not excessive by encouraging him to drink the freshwater you prepared for the trip.

Tip #5 Watch For Rip Currents At The Beach

Do not let your dog swim unsupervised and don’t let him swim too far into the ocean.

The rip current can take him and pull him into unswimmable water, too far for you to reach. You’ll likely never see him again if this happens unless there is beach rescue.

Tip #6 Learn Pet CPR

Many veterinary colleges and universities offer pet CPR classes to the public.

Rutgers University has two online classes coming up next month.

If you don’t want to take a class then you should read up on the dog

CPR procedures and what to do if your dog becomes unconscious or can’t breathe.

Youtube is a good resource for dog training CPR techniques as well.

Tip #7 Use The Buddy System

If you are swimming with family or friends make sure there are others keeping an eye on your four-legged friend. 

When you’re swimming you are distracted, by nature. It’s not possible to swim underwater and keep an eye on your dog 24/7.

Coming up with a buddy system and recruiting 1 or 2 other friends/family to watch your Wheaten and alert you to any possible dangers is a great idea.

Still, wondering if Wheaten Terriers like to swim? I hope by now you understand that Wheaten Terriers like the water and do make great swimmers. 

If you are having issues getting your Wheaten to swim then try some of the tips mentioned.

Just be sure to be safe.

Andrew Sharpe

Andrew

I am a dog trainer and passionate about canine health and behavior problems. I train dogs of all ages but specialize in training dogs with behavioral issues such as aggression or anxiety. My favorite part of my job is watching the transformation that takes place when an owner starts to understand their pet’s needs and how to meet them.

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