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Luckily, bichon frises are natural swimmers. As such, whether it’s to cool down or a way to burn off calories, swimming is a fantastic exercise for bichons of all age groups.
However, because of their size, and since they are more used to being companion dogs, they may be a bit nervous about it at first. Nevertheless, it is an extremely healthy outlet for them, so it is always worth taking the time to get your bichon frise to engage in this activity safely under supervision.
Do Bichons Frises Like Water?
The bichon frise may not like water if it comes in the form of a bath. However, they can be taught to love swimming. As they are descended from the barbet, a water spaniel, and the poodle, another water-loving breed, swimming is in bichon frise’s genes. But they are very small dogs, and a giant pool can look intimidating and scary.
If they have never swum before, their natural neophobia (fear of the unfamiliar) may make them nervous about coming too close to the pool. Therefore, it is vital to resist the urge to throw them or force them into the water. Being overwhelmed by a new stimulus, such as being tossed into a swimming pool, causes “flooding” and can result in your dog shutting down or panicking. This can create a bichon frise that is permanently afraid of water.
However, if they are introduced to water gradually and safely, with loads of positive reinforcement, the bichon can learn to love water as much as its ancestor, the barbet.
Can Bichon Frises Swim?
A small dog, like the bichon frise, that is swimming for the first time can tire or panic quickly. This can interfere with their ability to stay afloat or find their way out of the pool. Therefore, always be close by to help them if you need to.
But if they are introduced to the pool carefully and properly, especially when they are young, the bichon frise can become an accomplished swimmer.
4 Reasons to Get Your Bichon Frise to Swim More
With all that said, why should you even try to turn your Bichon Frise into a swimmer? Well, there are at least four good reasons to do so.
1. It is good for their joints and bones.
Swimming is the best exercise for joints and bones. Being elevated by the water removes the strain that normal walking and running exercises place on their joints. Meanwhile, the resistance of the water increases bone density and helps prevent brittle bones.
This makes swimming a fantastic exercise for bichons frises of all ages. Still, it is particularly for old bichons, those recovering from injury, or overweight ones. It provides all the benefits of regular exercise without the same strain on their musculoskeletal system.
2. It improves their general health.
Regular swimming improves the bichon frise’s circulation, is good for the heart and the lungs, reduces inflammation, and speeds up their metabolism. This is because a minute of swimming equates to four minutes of running.
It also involves their entire body and works more muscles than most other types of exercise, which is excellent for building lean muscle mass and keeping your pup fit and healthy.
3. Swimming relieves pent up energy and reduces behavior problems.
Bichons frises are particularly prone to separation anxiety. Studies show that the leading causes of separation anxiety in dogs are a lack of exercise and hyper attachment to their owners. Bichons frises can get their exercise requirements met by swimming regularly, helping them better deal with anxieties over being left at home alone.
The endorphins and other feel-good hormones from swimming also help the bichon frise relieve stress. This can ultimately improve their mental well-being. It is also a fantastic source of mental stimulation.
By incorporating different activities such as swimming into your pup’s life, you can help enrich it. A fuller life means a happier dog and can ultimately help fend off disease and age-related problems such as doggy dementia.
4. It helps control your bichon frise’s weight.
More than half the dogs in the USA are overweight, causing something of a canine health epidemic. Unfortunately, bichons frises are particularly prone to obesity. Regular swimming is good for overweight dogs and an excellent calorie-burner for dogs of any shape.
By keeping your bichon frise a healthy weight through exercises like swimming, you can help reduce inflammation in their body and their chances of chronic diseases such as heart disease, pancreatitis, or diabetes.
It also reduces the strain on their joints and relieves problems that they may struggle with later in life, such as arthritis.
How to Teach Your Bichon Frise to Like Water and Swim
As mentioned earlier, bichon frise puppies have natural neophobia—fear of the unknown. Likewise, even adults might be unsure about approaching water if it is something they are not used to.
For this reason, it is vital to ensure that you make every interaction with the pool a calm and positive one and that you use patience and positive reinforcement to introduce your dog to swimming gradually.
You can use the following steps to teach your Bichon to love swimming:
Give your bichon frise time to become comfortable in their safety vest before going near the pool. Allow them to run around in it and give lots of treats until it no longer seems to distract them.
Accept that it may take a few days to overcome your bichon frise’s natural wariness of the pool or agitation with the safety vest. Take some time to sit inside the pool yourself, with the bichon on the outside.
Use toys to lure them to the side and play with them without forcing them into the water. This way, they associated the pool with something positive without being overwhelmed.
As your bichon gets used to having fun on the edge of the pool, gradually begin to lure them in using a toy or a bit of food. Resist the urge to pick them up and put them in the water.
Instead, reward for every step closer to the shallowest edge of the pool. Make a big fuss over every incremental step until they are dipping their front paws into the water. Give them time to become accustomed to the feeling.
Use a safety ramp that runs from the edge of the pool to the first step. To a little Bichon, the jump from the edge to the water can look huge and daunting.
You can make it less intimidating and safer by securing a ramp that allows them to walk to the edge of the water rather than leap. This also gives them a safer way to get out of the pool.
Continue to use treats or a toy to encourage your bichon frise to leave the ramp and venture into the water. Once they start to swim, stay close to help and show them how to get straight back on the ramp. Make sure to reward them for being brave!
Encourage your bichon to make bigger and bigger laps around the pool using positive reinforcement and patience. Remember, it may take a few days or even a few weeks. In the beginning, keep guiding them back to the ramp so that they learn how to climb out on their own.
8 Bichon Frise Swimming Safety Tips
Be careful to take the following safety precautions when it comes to your bichon frise and swimming:
- Keep the pool off-limits when nobody is nearby to supervise your bichon frise. If there is a fence around it, make sure there are no gaps they can fit through.
- Do not use a leash in the pool. Your pup can become tangled up in it, or the water-logged leash can become a weight pulling them down. Having something attached to their collar can also interfere with their throat and breathing if you are forced to pluck on it while they are in the water suddenly.
- Only allow your bichon frise to swim with a safety vest (canine life jacket).
- Never allow your dog to swim while the pool is full of people, children, or bigger dogs. The bichon frise is very small and could be swept underwater by too many moving bodies.
- Make sure there is a safety ramp your dog can climb out on. Many pool steps are too deep to help you bichon climb out safely.
- Teach your bichon frise where the ramp is so that they know how to get themselves out if they ever do fall in unsupervised.
- Take frequent breaks when swimming. A dog may look like they are enjoying themselves, but too much can leave them over-exerted and vulnerable to heat stroke or exhaustion.
- Don’t overdo it. Swimming is harder than it seems, and a few laps, depending on your dog’s age and health, should be more than enough.
Swimming is a fantastic exercise for the bichon frise. It’s a great low-impact way for them to burn off some energy and also cool down.
It may take some patience to teach them to love it as much as you do, but with the proper reinforcement and safety precautions, swimming can become an excellent and healthy way for you and your bichon frise to bond.