How I Taught My Dog to Get Into a Swimming Pool

How I Taught My Dog to Get Into a Swimming Pool

A white hound dog with brown on his face and ears is standing, smiling next to a kids' above-ground swimming pool

I don’t do many reruns, but it seemed timely to update and republish this post from June 2022 about teaching Lewis to get into a swimming pool. I hope it gives some ideas to other people who might be acclimating their pups to a pool.

In a place with sweltering summers, a way to cool off an active dog like Lewis is a must! And it’s a bonus if he can have fun doing it. So I got a doggie swimming pool. They have improved a lot since I got one for Clara about 10 years ago. I got a moderately large one for Lewis, not thinking about the challenges that might present for him.  

He was unwilling to jump into it at first, so I’m going to share the systematic way I introduced him to the pool.

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Dogs Who Love Each Other (Or Don’t)

Dogs Who Love Each Other (Or Don’t)

Two dogs lying on a bed, a tan one with a black muzzle and a white one with a brown ear and ticking. Both dogs are asleep, and the white dog has his front leg draped over the other dog and his muzzle tucked into her chest.

Is this an “Awww!” photo or what? Answer: more like “what.”

First, it’s not a deceptive photo. It really happened; Lewis and Clara slept like this for at least ten minutes. So it’s not one of those “split second in time” photos that can be so misleading.

But the photo creates a false narrative in most of our minds because of how we interpret certain positions and behaviors.

Lewis had his legs draped over Clara and his muzzle tucked under her shoulder. Both dogs were relaxed, with no tension in their faces; they were sound asleep.

The problem is not that the photo is deceptive, but the “Awww” narrative most of us can’t help but make up in our heads is wrong. Lewis putting his “arm” around Clara evokes big feelings in us ape-people. Oh wow, a hug! We primates get off on anything that looks like a hug, and this photo fits the bill.

Do an image search of “dogs hugging each other” if you want to cringe.

My photo doesn’t show two dogs who adore each other and mutually seek each other out. (Spoiler: neither do most of the photos that come up on that search.) Mine shows a sociable dog, Lewis, who also tries regularly to get Clara to move away by invading her space. He is usually aiming to move closer to me or trying to get Clara to leave so he can take over the spot she warmed. It shows a less sociable but tolerant dog, Clara, who is not moving away (this time). Dogs will stay in uncomfortable situations if there is a competing reinforcer, a stronger motivator present. I’m not sure what it was, but Clara stayed, and they ended up in a cute pile.

Granted, they know each other well. And Lewis really likes and seeks out other dogs. They would not be in the cuddly position shown in the first photo if they were strangers, and we can see a degree of genuine comfort. But they are not best friends, I regret to say. They get along. But Lewis blew his chance at being true buddies with Clara. He didn’t adapt his behavior in response to her clear, regular, but non-assertive signals to knock it off earlier in their relationship. He’s often rude and bratty. I still put a lot of energy into preventing nuisance behaviors through constant vigilance. But that’s a post for another day.

Two dogs a lnteracting on a bed, a tan one with a black muzzle and a white one with a brown ear and ticking. The white one has his foot on the other dog's back. Both are looking at the camera, and the tan dog has a pleading look on her face.

The photo on the right, taken later in the morning, shows both Lewis’ obvious intrusiveness and Clara’s typical, quiet protest.

Why Dogs End Up Close to Each Other

What a funny heading, but hear me out. Dogs don’t always end up in each other’s space because they are seeking the other’s company. It’s wonderful when they do. I always hope my dogs will be friends, and I love seeing bonded dogs who enjoy each other.

But with my current dogs, I can’t assume that when they end up in the same place, it’s to hang out together. It might be, sometimes. But here are two other reasons dogs may end up adjacent that are not about being buddies.

Local Enhancement

Local enhancement is a type of social behavior in which one animal goes to the same location as another animal (or to a location where another animal has been) because of a potential resource there. If Lewis is in the yard and drops his head and starts sniffing intensely, or starts to dig, it’s likely Clara will join him and also sniff or dig. I have several video examples of local enhancement in this post.

Local enhancement is often about prey or food, but there are other reasons a location may be desirable. Clara knows all the best places in the yard for sunning herself. When she lies down, Lewis will often come to join her. In the picture below, they are also in an excellent location for viewing some action in the neighborhood. I don’t know who lay down first in this photo, but they’re at a distance Clara is comfortable with. Not all mashed up together and cozy.

Two dogs are lying in a grassy yard, a tan one with a black muzzle and a white one with a brown ear and ticking. They are about 6–8 feet away from each other. They are facing the same direction and looking at something in the distance.

In the photo from 2013 below, Summer, Zani, and Clara are surprisingly close. They were comfortable together, but this arrangement, too, was at least partly about the sunny spot.

Three mixed breed dogs are lying in the sun by a fence: a tan one with a black muzzle, a mostly black hound with brown on her face and legs, and a sable (brownish black) one.

Resource Guarding

Another common reason dogs may end up next to each other that isn’t about affection is resource guarding. Most people include in the definition of resource guarding not only protecting resources that one already has, but trying to get resources.

This is one of Lewis’ major hobbies. In a perfect world for Lewis, anytime Clara had anything: a toy, a piece of cardboard, or even a hole in the ground—he would get it away from her. If Clara were snoozing on the couch, he would sniff her feet or sit on her until she moved off. Then he would grab her place. He would block and herd Clara away from the yard fence if his buddies, the neighbor dogs, were out there.

Of course I run vigorous interference, so he doesn’t get his perfect world.

Such a little ray of sunshine he can be! I describe all that to let you get a sense of how guardy he is. Now check out the photo at the top again. Does it look a little different? Maybe it was social; maybe it was an attempt at Clara’s place. He would get something he likes in either case.

How many “Awww” photos from the sentimental animal story sites are of this type?

I take my job of protecting Clara from the teenager seriously, making sure she can have items she enjoys and hang out in comfortable places. It’s of utmost importance to me; she should enjoy life unmolested.

Different Behaviors in Different Places

Beds are tight spaces, so it’s no wonder that dogs end up crammed together sometimes.

Two dogs are curled up symmetrically on a bed. Photo is shot from above and they look like two bagels. One dog is tan and the other is sable (brownish-black) with a longer coat.

But there’s another reason (besides fondness for each other) dogs may accept being up close and personal on the bed. The environment controls behavior. The bed is where we sleep and relax. Lewis is on his least obnoxious behavior on the bed at night and in the morning while the dogs sleep and I work. Clara can relax. His behavioral history predicts that he won’t suddenly pounce on her, which is a definite danger in the yard, in other parts of the house, and at other times of day. As the morning progresses, they both get active, and his tolerable behavior becomes…less so.

The Message

I didn’t write this to complain about Lewis. I’m used to managing dogs who aren’t perfect with each other, and this is not the worst situation I’ve had. I work hard at keeping Clara comfortable and safe from harassment. And Lewis is getting less bratty as he grows up.

My reason for writing about this is that I like to explore the way we make stories up about dogs. There is a whole industry around churning out “Awww” stories for people to share. It’s a multi-million dollar business, promulgated on specialty sites like The D*d* (convert the asterisks to the letter o) and, of course, general sites like TikTok and YouTube. Some shared videos about animals are lovely. Many are horror shows, but presented as sweet and sentimental.

Our assumptions and beliefs about dogs can hurt them, even endanger their lives. I’m not being dramatic. Rather than going into the potential problems with dogs and babies, I’ll refer you right now to Family Paws. This is a wonderful educational resource for parents and anyone who may be in situations where both children and dogs are present. (That means most of us at some point, right?)

My cozy little photo is not endangering anyone. It’s a tiny drop in the bucket and doesn’t even meet today’s “cute” threshold. Even so, I’d rather post it and talk about it here than to put it up as cute on social media. If I posted it on Instagram, I would get several bot requests from parasitic repost sites because it fits a certain algorithm and narrative. One that isn’t always true, unfortunately.

How about your dogs? Do they end up in an accidental cuddle sometimes? If you have dogs who are frenemies, how do they work out sharing space?

Copyright 2023 Eileen Anderson

Related Posts

• The Right Words, Revealed (example of a deceptive photo)
Before You Share that “Cute” Dog and Baby Photo
• Shelter Pup “Smiles” from FEAR after She’s Adopted
• Guess What! That Dog Video Is Probably Fake!

Dog Food Toys, Rates of Reinforcement, and the Matching Law

Dog Food Toys, Rates of Reinforcement, and the Matching Law

Three dog stuffable food toys: a blue Westpaw Toppl, a red Kong, and a Greenish-yellow Westpaw Tux

Can you tell which one of the food toys in the photo above likely offers the highest rate of reinforcement when full? Your dog knows!

Lewis taught me this lesson. He is happy to lick and munch on a Kong (center) stuffed with frozen food when there’s nothing else going on. But if he’s excited in the car, he will ignore a Kong full of the same food. It’s not high enough value in that situation, but the same food in a “Toppl” toy (left) is.

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“The Negative Effects of Positive Reinforcement” by Michael Perone: Another Misrepresented Article

“The Negative Effects of Positive Reinforcement” by Michael Perone: Another Misrepresented Article

Three orange and red bags of Cheetos snacks are standing up in a row

Note: I have been working on this paper for 18 months. Today when I published it, I was unaware that Dr. Perone was the head of a recent task force that concluded that contingent electric skin shock of of a population that could include people with developmental disabilities,  emotional disorders, and autistic-like behaviors could be part of an “ethically sound treatment program.”  It casts his paper in a different light. I’m leaving my writeup published for now because I think we need these answers to what is an often quoted paper. Please don’t consider it in support of Dr. Perone in any way.

“The Negative Effects of Positive Reinforcement” by Dr. Michael Perone is a scholarly article some trainers like to use to muddy the waters about positive reinforcement training. They throw out Dr. Perone’s article title like a bogeyman and use it to defend aversive methods in dog training. That usually indicates they haven’t read it. It’s a thoughtful article and has some interesting things to consider, but it doesn’t say what they seem to think it does. Not even close.

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Positive Punishment—With the Touch of a Cotton Ball

Positive Punishment—With the Touch of a Cotton Ball

a white ball of cotton on a black background

I accidentally punished my dog’s behavior with a wad of cotton.

Lewis and I are participating in Dr. Mindy Waite’s husbandry study on ear cleaning. The goal of the study is to be able to wipe the dog’s ear with some cleaning solution on a cotton ball while he happily cooperates.

The protocol starts with training a chin rest. We completed the steps for the chin rest in my lap on a little towel (see below), then I proceeded to the steps of lifting his ear, bringing my other hand close to his ear while it was lifted, moving a dry cotton ball toward his ear, then touching the cotton to the inside of the ear flap.

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Does My Ultrasonic Humidifier Hurt My Dog’s Ears?

Does My Ultrasonic Humidifier Hurt My Dog’s Ears?

ultrasonic humidifier with a white base and a clear blue plastic top

No, Your Ultrasonic Humidifier Doesn’t Hurt Your Dog’s Ears

The mechanism in an ultrasonic humidifier has a frequency much too high for dogs to hear. Ultrasonic humidifiers use frequencies ranging from approximately 1,600,000 Hz to 3,000,000 Hz. Dogs can hear up to 45,000 Hz. The sound produced by this very high-frequency device is profoundly out of hearing range for both dogs and humans.

Although sounds outside our hearing range can in some cases damage humans’ ears and possibly dogs’, I’ve seen this documented only for extremely low-frequency sounds (Kugler et al., 2014), not high.

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When a Dog Suffers a Trauma

When a Dog Suffers a Trauma

The scene is the back interior of a car. There is a bowl of cat food in the foreground. In the back is a dog crate with a distressed brown dog looking away.

Here’s a photo that breaks my heart. Clara the bold, refusing to leave her car crate, even to eat some cat food.

This is what happened.

Early in December, I took Lewis and Clara to the house my sister is going to move into so they could mess around while I cleaned house. It was raining and dreary. There were leaves layered on the lawn and on the steep driveway.

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Happy Gotcha Day to Lewis!

Happy Gotcha Day to Lewis!

Closeup of a brown and white dog's face while he rests his chin on a green toy. He is looking straight at the camera.

I can’t believe it has been a year. But indeed it was December 28, 2021, when I welcomed boisterous eight-old-month Lewis into my life.

If you want to see the list of things I first identified as difficulties, here it is. But instead of creating a progress report based on that list, I’m just going to write about the ways we have learned to live well together.

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Dog Facial Expressions: Can You See the Stress?

Dog Facial Expressions: Can You See the Stress?

A white dog with brown ears lies on a purple mat in a vet clinic. The muscles in the dog's face are very tight and bunched up.

In February 2013, I published a set of photos of formerly feral Clara at the vet. Trainers worldwide have used those photos, with my permission, as examples of extreme stress in a dog’s facial expressions.

Clara was terribly afraid. She panted, paced, and panicked. We were working on desensitization and counterconditioning to people slowly, in much more controlled situations. But every once in a while she had to go to the vet, and we just had to get through it.

Her fear and panic were obvious.

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Calling My Dog off Rabbit Scent at Night

Calling My Dog off Rabbit Scent at Night

A black and white photo shows a bright white dog standing in a dark backyard with leaves on the ground. The dog is alert and his tail is curled over his back.

I love training recall. When my dogs come to me, I love making it worth their while. I love being generous with treats, toys, and fun.

It’s hard to stage a surprise recall with Lewis. Whenever he is lingering in the yard and I get the bright idea to go get a high-value treat and practice his recall, I find him waiting for me at the door when I get back. He and his nose are too smart for their own good. (He’s not the first one of my dogs to have that problem!) But the other night he was very turned on by recent rabbit visits in the yard. He was enjoying it so much I let him spend quite a bit of time out there. I sat on the cold cast iron patio chair longer than usual, taking occasional videos while he galloped, paused, stopped, sniffed, and galloped some more.

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