I have a dog that loves to swim.
Her need for water goes way beyond the normal frolics that most dogs get up to when you throw a tennis ball in the water. She enters water regardless of the need to retrieve anything; most times it will be to swim parallel to shore as we mere mortals walk the beach or towpath.
Every now and then, however, she will throw her left paw up to create a little splash and then she will toss her head back in pure ecstasy. Her eyes will glaze over as if hypnotized by the water splash. She will let out an excited yip, turn in circles and as she repeats the process she will turn away from the shore or the riverbank and swim out towards the open water; sometimes so far away that if you didn’t know any better you would think it was a seal bobbing up and down beyond the line where the waves break….
She is a strong swimmer; stronger than any of my other Chessies, ( including the males); so if allowed, this process can easily run on for the duration of our ‘walk’.
And I have often allowed her to do so but not in the early days, when she was younger; in those days this thing called ‘waterfreaking’…freaked me out far more than her!!
The most frustrating aspect of waterfreaking, ( and I use this term in the losest of its meanings as, in my humble opinion, the dogs involved are in no way , shape or form ‘freaked’ by water), is our inability to immediately correct a behaviour which , comparatively speaking, is no different from a young dog running freely chasing birds and butterflies and oblivious to all sense of danger or direction from their owner.
And in our ignorance and frustration we let the behaviour slide into an entrenched pattern . And anyone who knows Chesapeakes will know that once a Chessie develops a habit for a pattern of behaviour that stubborn streak is most unwilling to relinquish something which, to them, is so much more fun than being told what to do.
We may be advised incorrectly that our young dogs antics are simply a young puppy learning to swim…so we let it continue in the hope they will grow out of it. It won’t happen.
We may think from their antics that they are panicking in water and so may take a softly, softly approach and encourage them in soft soothing tones that everything will be alright. It doesn’t work.
We may even try to put some sort of control over where and how they enter water by only allowing them to retrieve from ACROSS water and not FROM water. This method is bound for failure in the initial stages at least…..
And all the time this most frustrating of Chessie quirks becomes more and more embedded.
To fix it…
Firstly, well I’m afraid , you are going to have to be prepared to get wet. If not full immersion at the very least you will require waders !! As the most important thing your Chessie has to realise is that you have as much control of them in water as on land.
Secondly find yourself a good trainer, one who believes in you and your dog.
The good news is that more than any other behaviour that might befall a Chessie, this is one of the easiest to get a handle on, if you recognise it for what it is.
You see one of the great things about Chessies is that they like to be rewarded for a job well done and with a dog who waterfreaks the motivation to work in water is there from the outset in their pure passion for the stuff you are asking them to retrieve from.
Once the holy grail of Chessie training is applied..that is fairness, consistancy and control…I promise you it will be worth it as the dogs that generally are gifted with waterfreaking tendencies really are in the elite league when it comes to swimming.
With the help and guidance of a good trainer, in my case, Mr Ronnie Farrelly of Tealwood kennels, Uisce has developed into the strong, controlled and confident swimmer I always knew she could be. Two weeks ago she competed in a working test where four of her six retreieves were from or across water and she finished second in Open/ Unclassified.