Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.
During my time as a vet tech, I’ve seen quite a number of owners come in with a bite, in particular one from their own dog.
Occasionally, I come across someone who would tell me that they got bitten while swimming. That’s a really odd and confusing behavior and might even scare you a bit, especially in an environment where you’re supposed to be having fun and relaxing.
So, why does my dog bite me in the pool?
There are several reasons why your dog might bite you in the pool, and it’s likely due to a combination of fear and anxiety, overstimulation, or in some cases, just being playful. What’s important is to assess the type of bite and their body language to figure out if there’s a bigger problem at hand.
In this post, I will discuss the reasons in more detail as well as provide you with some solutions on preventing this from happening again.
- 4 Reasons Why My Dog Bites Me in the Pool
- Watch the Body Language
- Tips for Preventing Your Dog From Biting You in the Pool
- In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Bite Me in the Pool?
4 Reasons Why My Dog Bites Me in the Pool
If you are a dog owner who loves swimming with your furry friend, you may have experienced a situation where your dog nips or bites you in the pool.
It’s not exactly the relaxing swim you were hoping for!
So, what’s the cause, and can you do anything to stop it?
Let’s dive in and find out!
1. Fear and anxiety
Some dogs don’t like water, especially if it is their first time. It can be a terrifying experience, and they perceive it as a threat.
That’s likely why they might bite you if you throw them into a pool.
Additionally, dogs in cold climates tend to be less tolerant.
Some dogs naturally fear water due to their temperament, body structures, and health conditions.
Keep track of their energy level when playing with your dog in the pool.
Your dog may get overly excited and begin biting or engaging in rough play.
If this happens, it’s time to take a break.
Overstimulation can occur with activity overload and doesn’t get breaks from stimuli.
It’s just that they’ve gotten so excited that they need a time-out!
3. Protective instincts
When dogs bite you in the pool, it could be due to their protective instincts kicking in.
It could be anything from a threat to its safety, like discomfort or fear in the water.
Or maybe your dog is acting out to protect you from perceived dangers.
Dogs have a strong protective instinct toward their owners. If they sense any threats, they may bite you to act out to defend you.
4. Just playing
Another possibility is simply playing. Dogs often use their mouths to explore and interact; biting can be a natural part of their play behavior.
When playing in the pool, dogs may nip or bite their owners as a way of engaging with them or trying to start a game.
It can sometimes occur without warning or clear malicious intent—it’s how dogs play!
Doggy says, you might like this too: Do Bernedoodles like to swim?
Watch the Body Language
Dogs use body language to communicate their emotions and intentions.
Any dog bite should be treated seriously, regardless of the circumstances or the dog’s body language leading up to the bite.
Here are some body language signals which could lead to a bite:
- Stiff posture: A tense or uncomfortable dog may hold its body steadily, with its muscles tight and tail stiff.
- Dilated pupils: Dilated pupils can show stress or anxiety.
- Growling or snarling: Vocalizations are often a warning sign of a threat or uncomfortable.
- Raised hackles: A dog’s back hair may stand up when the dog is feeling defensive or agitated.
- Avoidance: A dog may feel uncomfortable if they avoid eye contact or turn away from a situation.
That said, you should also use your own judgment about what your dog is actually trying to do.
Is the bite a hard one? Or could it be something that is more of an accident? Although most dogs have “soft mouth” (bite inhibition), things might sometimes still go wrong.
And equally important is what happens afterward.
Does your dog try to do it again? What is its body language like?
All these can tell you what’s going on in your dog’s mind and help you decide if this behavior is problematic.
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Doggy says, consider reading this too: Do Schnauzers like to swim?
Tips for Preventing Your Dog From Biting You in the Pool
Imagine you’re swimming in a pool, having fun. All of a sudden, your dog enters the pool and bites you on the arm.
And of course, it’s painful!
You can avoid this scenario by following these simple guidelines:
Start with a small kiddie pool
One way to address your dog’s biting behavior in the pool is to start with a small kiddie pool.
- Familiarity: A kiddie pool can help your dog become familiar with the water.
- Controlled environment: A kiddie pool can help you watch your dog’s behavior more closely. It can allow you to intervene if your dog exhibits biting behavior.
- Gradual exposure: Starting with a small pool can allow you to expose your dog. You can let your pet get used to it without water, then gradually add water over time.
- Training: If your dog is comfortable in a small pool, it is also an excellent way to train them on good behaviors.
Always supervise your dog during pool playtime, and never leave them unattended.
Offer a life jacket (overcome fear)
If your dog fears being in the pool, offering a life jacket can be helpful.
- Increased buoyancy: It can help your dog float, making them feel secure.
- Increased confidence: It can increase a dog’s confidence and less vulnerable.
- Safety: It protects your dog while learning to swim or playing in the pool.
- Positive association: Wearing it helps a dog make a positive association.
- Bright colors and reflective accents for better visibility in the water.
- Front neck float keeps dog’s head above water.
- Ripstop material provides maximum buoyancy.
- The adjustable straps and side release buckles ensure a secure fit.
- Neoprene belly band supports their chest and belly while they swim.
Doggy says, you might wanna read this too: Can dogs get swimmer’s itch?
Desensitizing your dog
Desensitizing your dog in a pool is less likely to bite for fear of falling in.
Here are some steps:
- Introduce your dog to the pool in a calm, controlled environment. Let it explore to familiarize the pool.
- Gradually introduce your dog to the water by letting it get in the pool’s shallow end and move progressively to deeper water.
- Use toys or treats to encourage your dog to swim.
- Consistent practice can help your dog build confidence.
Swimming lessons are a helpful way to teach your dog how to swim.
Patience and consistency are essential when teaching your dog. Not all dogs enjoy swimming; some may take longer to become comfortable in the water.
If your dog’s fear, anxiety, or biting behavior persists, consult a vet.
Supervision of all interactions
Supervision can prevent biting behavior and ensure your dog’s safety in the pool.
Here are some tips:
- Never leave your dog unattended in the pool. Accidents can happen quickly.
- Stay within reach of your dog while it is in the pool. Doing so will allow you to intervene quickly.
- Track your dog’s body language for fear, anxiety, or overstimulation. If a behavior occurs, remove them from the pool immediately.
- Teach your dog a “leave it” command to prevent them from grabbing at your hands or other objects in the pool.
- Use toys or treats to redirect your dog’s attention if they exhibit unwanted behavior.
- Supervise all interactions closely if you have many dogs to prevent aggressive behavior.
Positive training can encourage your dog to exhibit positive behaviors in the pool and other settings. It works well when done right.
For example, if you want your dog to sit calmly and obey, you can create a positive association between desired behaviors and rewards. It means rewarding your dog with treats or toys when they do what you ask.
Positive training is a way to train dogs to obey.
Managing excitement is vital to prevent biting behavior in the pool.
Here are some tips for you:
- Start with short swimming sessions and gradually increase your dog’s time in the pool to prevent over-stimulation.
- Use toys, treat, or other positive reinforcement to redirect your dog’s energy away from biting behavior.
- Practice basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” to help your dog learn self-control.
- Encourage your dog to take a break on the pool deck and give them time to settle before resuming swimming.
- Use a calm, assertive tone of voice to communicate with your dog.
- Be patient and consistent when managing your dog’s excitement and create a positive experience for you and your dog in the pool.
Doggy says, you might be keen to read this too: Dog biting other dog’s tail
Are dogs able to become lifeguards?
Yes, dogs can assist in water rescues and support lifeguards. However, they cannot replace human lifeguards because of their limitations, including the inability to administer first aid or CPR.
Is biting behavior in the pool normal for dogs?
Biting in the pool is not normal for dogs. It can signify fear, overstimulation, or lack of training. If biting continues, training and modification techniques will help create a safe and enjoyable experience.
Is it safe for my dog to swim with other people or dogs?
It is safe for a dog to swim with other people and dogs if it is well-trained, supervised, and wearing a life jacket. Before allowing your dog to interact with others, check with other owners and swimmers.
Why does my dog go crazy when I get in the pool?
Your dog might go “crazy” when you get in the pool because they might be anxious or concerned for your safety. They may not understand that you can swim and might be trying to “rescue” you. Additionally, the sound and movement of water stimulate your dog’s senses more than normal.
Why does my dog hate the pool?
If your dog hates swimming, it may be because they are afraid or anxious, they had a bad experience with water in the past, or it’s their first time trying it out.
In Conclusion: Why Does My Dog Bite Me in the Pool?
Understanding why your dog might be biting you in the pool is the first step in correcting this behavior.
Whether it’s fear, anxiety, or a desire to play, there are strategies you can use to prevent your furry friend from biting you while swimming.
I hope that the tips shared above can help you enjoy a safe and fun swimming experience with your furry friend!
Check out other dog behavior articles on our blog too:
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