Gorgeous Vizsla are wonderful companions that have been called Velcro dogs because of their tendency to stick to their owners like, well, Velcro!
If you own a Vizsla or are considering one, you’re likely a great lover of the outdoors and are wondering if you can take your dog swimming. Does this breed enjoy the water and can they swim?
Overall, yes, most Vizslas enjoy water and swimming, but it does come down to the individual dog.
Here, we go into more detail about how Vizslas feel about water and the best ways to teach a more reluctant dog how to swim.
A Little Background on the Vizsla
Understanding a dog breed’s background is an excellent way to become more familiar with the breed’s instincts and temperament. The Vizsla’s ancestors ran alongside Magyar warriors on horseback in ancient Hungary. This breed was more than capable of keeping up with the warriors’ horses. Hungarian nobility and warlords bred and refined this breed, which was eventually used for hunting. They were bred to be pointers and retrievers and were used for hunting birds and hares. Over time, they evolved into the Vizslas that we know today.
The first Vizsla to grace North American shores did so in 1950, which led to the recognition of the breed by the American Kennel Club in 1960. As of 2023, the Vizsla is the 33rd most popular dog out of 287 breeds.
Do Vizslas Like to Swim?
Most Vizslas will take to water and to swimming without any issue, but there are individual dogs that won’t want to touch the stuff.
In the past, Vizslas have worked as retrievers, which essentially means they are accustomed to working near and in water. They have webbed paws, a physical trait commonly found in water breeds. The webbing also assists the Vizsla with extra balance when traversing uneven land during a hunt. They are physically muscular yet sleek dogs, so when you combine their athleticism with those webbed paws, Vizslas can make excellent swimmers!
But if a Vizsla has had a bad experience while in the water, this will create a negative association, and they will likely be reluctant to go into the water.
How to Teach Your Vizsla to Swim
These tips will be useful if your Vizsla needs help becoming more comfortable in the water and even learning to swim. But bear in mind that you should never force a dog into the water if they are anxious and afraid. This is a slow and gradual process that requires a great deal of patience.
Use a Life Jacket
A life jacket that will fit your Vizsla snugly is essential. It will keep them safe and give them more confidence in the water, since they can’t sink. A dog nervous about swimming is more likely to panic, which can quickly lead to drowning. It also helps teach the dog the right way to swim. The life jacket balances the dog, so they will learn to paddle with all four legs. Without the life jacket’s buoyancy, the Vizsla might only paddle their front legs.
The life jacket must fit your dog but still have room for adjustments, so it should be snug but not tight. Look for one with reflective material in a bright color with a handle on the back. The handle must be strong enough to enable you to lift your dog away from danger, so it must bear their weight without ripping off.
Lastly, it should have a D-ring, which will enable a leash to be attached, which will come in handy in public areas, such as beaches.
Use a “Bribe”
If your Vizsla is reluctant to put their feet in the water, try to entice them with a treat or toy. Make sure the life jacket is on your dog, stand in the shallowest part of the water, and throw a ball (but only along the shoreline).
You can also try just playing with your dog in the shallows, and if they seem comfortable, you can gradually move in deeper and give them plenty of praise and treats if they follow you. In this way, you’re building up their trust and creating a positive experience with the water.
If your Vizsla seems uncomfortable or nervous at any time, move back to shallow water or land. You need to keep the entire experience as positive as possible. These lessons are best where there’s a gentle slope into the water, like at a lake or beach.
Swimming pools aren’t recommended because the shallow end is still quite deep for a dog, and the artificial blue color and smell of chlorine might be unsettling for your Vizsla.
Keep Your Vizsla Safe
Vizslas have smooth and short coats and are not double coated, so you shouldn’t allow your dog to swim if it’s too cold. There’s a chance for your dog to experience limber tail (known as swimmer’s tail) or hypothermia.
The main sign of limber tail is the dog being unable to use it, though it doesn’t always occur right away. If your dog can’t wag their tail or is uncontrollably shivering, take them to your vet immediately.
You should also look out for water intoxication, which can occur if a dog swallows too much water while swimming. The most common sign of water intoxication is your dog throwing up right after they’ve been swimming.
Other hazards to be aware of around natural bodies of water like ponds are dangerous animals. In certain areas, these can include snapping turtles, snakes, alligators, or crocodiles. There are also sharp rocks that can injure your dog if they fall on them.
If you’re heading to the ocean, ensure that your dog doesn’t drink any salty ocean water, and look out for rip currents. Finally, keep your dog away from algae in the water; if you see red, greenish-blue, or olive-green growth in the water, ensure that your Vizsla stays away from it.
It’s vital that you are well-prepared when you take your Vizsla swimming. Bring fresh, clean water, and ensure that they have plenty of shade.
Not every dog is excited about swimming. If despite your best efforts, your Vizsla just seems happier when on dry land, swimming is an issue that you should let go of. But most dogs, particularly if you start while they are puppies, will take to water quite well.
Remember to never force your dog to go into the water if they are nervous and reluctant. This will only teach them that water is something negative, and they will want to avoid it more.
Only use positive reinforcement, and if you do everything with patience and love, your Vizsla might even be thrilled to accompany you to the beach!
Featured Image Credit: valery.kruk