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dramIt’s no secret that huskies love playing in the snow. Many husky owners can relate to their dogs refusing to come in after the first snow or even burying themselves in ice.
But what about good old-fashioned water? Do huskies want to jump head-first into the nearest pool, or would they rather not get their paws wet? Do huskies like water?
Although swimming does not come naturally to huskies, many huskies love playing in water once properly introduced. Not only is swimming excellent exercise, but even playing in the sprinkler can be fun for this playful breed. That said, some huskies may not enjoy water due to having double coats or negative associations.
When it comes to getting your husky comfortable playing in water, you have to consider many aspects unique to the breed. We’ll dive into the reasons huskies may or may not be fans of water (pun intended) as well as ways to safely introduce your dog to swimming.
4 Reasons Huskies Love Water
Even though the average husky probably won’t jump into the pool without a bit of coercion at first, it’s very common for huskies to become big fans of water. There are several key reasons why huskies can grow to be so fond of playing in water.
1. It’s Great Exercise
Centuries of selective breeding have solidified huskies as a breed with a high energy and long endurance potential. Without regular exercise, a husky can go from being an enthusiastic and theatrical goofball to a bored, destructive wreck. Thankfully, exercising your husky isn’t necessarily a matter of walking for 3 hours a day or having an acreage of land for them to run around.
Chasing a hose, running through the sprinkler, or hopping through waves can all get your husky’s energy out.
Outside of these great options, swimming is an amazing source of exercise that offers many benefits to humans as well as their canine companions. More specifically, swimming is a full-body aerobic exercise that expends a lot of energy. This is due to the fact that water provides 12 times the resistance of air to body movements while also being low impact and easy on your dog’s bones and joints.
Simply put, swimming is a super efficient way to let your husky get out all of its energy.
2. It Keeps Them Cool
Believe it or not, those thick double coats of a husky not only act as insulation in the cold, but also help keep away hot air and sunlight. But for as great as this natural cooling system can be, hot weather can be uncomfortable or even dangerous for your dog, especially when exercising. On the hottest days of summer, you may be faced with the unfortunate dilemma of giving your husky the exercise they deserve or letting it take advantage of the AC.
Luckily, water does an excellent job at absorbing heat from our bodies. Instead of attempting a painfully hot walk or staying indoors all day, your husky might love the chance to stay cool outdoors by going for a swim or playing chase in the sprinkler.
3. They Can Be Excellent Swimmers
While having a talent for swimming is mostly about practice and confidence, a husky’s build naturally predisposes them toward being great in the water.
Unlike other breeds such as Rottweilers or Boxers a husky’s weight is evenly distributed throughout their body, making it easy for them to stay balanced. In addition to this even buoyancy, a husky is able to steer by using their long, feathery tail as a rudder similar to other breeds like German Shepherds.
Finally, those webbed feet of theirs are not only good for navigating tundra, but also water. This breed possesses the endurance to swim for long stretches once they are experienced in the water, allowing them to get the most out of time in the pool without getting worn out.
But as we’ll discuss below, just because a husky is physically built to swim doesn’t mean it comes naturally to them.
4. They’re Social and Playful
Although they may not have been bred to hunt like a rat terrier or herd like a German shepherd, huskies have a powerful drive and desire to play, especially with others. For many huskies, chasing around a stream of water from a sprinkler or hose is just as much fun as lumbering after a pesky squirrel.
More importantly, if their favorite person or people are enjoying playing in the water, this pack-driven breed is sure to want to join in!
Whether you’re racing through waves or playing over a water spout, your husky will have fun with these activities simply because you are.
3 Reasons Huskies Might Not Like Water
With all of these great reasons for your pup to be fond of water, you may wonder why some huskies are water averse. The truth is, huskies can be afraid of water due to learned factors and their natural disposition.
1. It’s Strange and Unnatural to Them
Although they are known for their curiosity, many huskies can be scaredy cats on occasion. A husky may dislike large bodies of water or even the sprinkler just because it’s new not only to them as an individual, but to the breed itself.
Swimming may come naturally to dogs bred to retrieve game from water, but the ancestors of your husky were used to pull sleds before anything else.
And while diving into lakes comes instinctively to a Labrador retriever, jumping into arctic waters was certainly not on the daily agenda for your husky’s forefathers. In fact, jumping into these freezing waters could be potentially fatal to dogs in such a cold region. If anything, huskies are bred to fear the unknown, especially cold water.
2. They Have A Double Coat
Swimming may be a great way for your husky to cool off and get out their energy, but they may not enjoy the aftermath of getting wet. To understand why, imagine going for a swim in a cozy sweater. The added bulk may only be mildly annoying in the water, but the second you get out to walk around, you’re going to be pretty miserable.
Not only does your husky’s double coat do a great job of keeping them insulated by trapping warm air, but it is unfortunately excellent at holding in water. Most of the time, this is simply uncomfortably heavy, but in colder weather a double-coated dog can actually develop hypothermia and it’s not just single coats breeds that are at risk.
That said, the solution is NOT to shave your husky, but rather be conscientious about when you let your husky swim and be sure to take an extra towel or two. Per NADD Dock Diving Judge and Certified Dog Trainer Michele Godlevski, a simple rule of thumb is that the temperature of the water plus the air should equal at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, this is a liberal number and swimming is associated with hot days for a reason.
3. They Have a Negative Association With It
Unless your husky is a truly remarkable exception to the rule, taking a bath is not their favorite activity. After all, who would like being trapped in one spot and having all of your favorite smells washed off? Not to mention how scary a hair dryer can be!
If your husky is used to associating water with only unpleasant events, it’s no wonder they would be nervous to play in the sprinkler or go for a swim.
Thankfully, no matter how engraved this fear may seem, it is possible to reverse your dog’s negative association with water. We’ll cover a few tips to counteract your husky’s learned fears below.
How To Help Your Husky Enjoy Water
With all of the perks of playing in the water and all of the potential reasons your husky might not be a fan of getting their paws wet, you may be wondering how to make your husky learn to love the water. Much of teaching your dog used to getting wet is a matter of moving slowly.
Introduce Them Slowly
Many people have childhood memories of being pushed into the pool in an effort to learn to swim. While this may have worked out for some people, most develop a fear of water as a result!
Progressive exposure to a new stimulus is a great way to desensitize your dog and teach it that water is nothing to be scared of. On the other hand, flooding your dog with something new is much more likely to increase their anxiety. When it comes to playing in the sprinkler or a small pool, it’s a good idea to let your dog take the lead.
Aside from just being adorable, the video below shows how effective a slow introduction can be to making your dog love swimming.
If you are teaching your husky to swim, making sure they know where and how to get out of the pool is a key component to ensuring their safety and comfort.
Finally, having short sessions while your dog is learning to swim is especially important to avoid things such as limber tail and exhaustion.
Get a Life Jacket and Use Safe Practices
Life jackets aren’t just for humans— our canine friends benefit from them too! Swimming takes a lot of skill, energy, and practice, and nothing is scarier than your dog running out of energy in the deep end.
Life jackets may be required for some breeds such as bulldogs to swim, but even those who can swim without a flotation device can benefit.
It’s especially important to purchase a properly fitted life jacket for new swimmers, but having a literal handle on your dog can be useful no matter what.
While a life jacket may be one of the most critical ways of making sure your canine companion stay safe in the water, there are many other ways to keep your dog safe in summer fun.
A few things to consider are keeping fresh water readily available for your dog so they don’t drink pool water, teaching your dog to enter and exit water, and staying away from moving water whenever possible.
Counter-condition Their Fear of Water
Counter-conditioning may sound like a complex thing, but the principle behind it is pretty straightforward.
In simple terms, a dog who has a learned fear of something is conditioned to fear it due to having a negative association with the stimulus. In this case, your husky may associate water with the feeling of being trapped, cold, and uncomfortable.
The best way to counter-condition your dog is to instead pair that same stimulus with something pleasant, like praise, treats, or pets. Better yet, all of the above!
Before starting counter-conditioning, practice desensitization. This is a careful process of slowly introducing your dog to a stimulus so that they learn that something the negative thing they are expecting won’t happen.
This may be a matter of letting your dog play near water or getting comfortable wearing a life jacket even out of the water.
Counter-conditioning and desensitization are both time consuming if you’re doing it correctly, but having a dog that is happy and confident is well worth the effort.
Keep them Warm and Dry after a swim
As we mentioned above, it’s easy for your husky to get cold, heavy, and uncomfortable after playing in water. As a means of preventing hypothermia and general discomfort, your husky should be dried off immediately after it is done playing in the water.
If your dog is comfortable with the noise, a doggy hair dryer can be an excellent way to warm your pup up, but a good old-fashioned towel dry with an absorbent microfiber towel can do the trick as well. Surprisingly, it isn’t just your dog’s fur that should be dried– huskies can get to swimmer’s ear if their ears aren’t properly dried.
In other words. taking a little extra time to make sure your husky is nice and dry is important to keeping them comfortable and happy.
As we’ve discussed, playing in water isn’t as natural for your husky as other breeds. Not only is swimming alien to this breed, but their double coat can lead to discomfort the moment they get out of the water. But with a bit of effort and care, huskies can learn to adore water and benefit from what it has to offer. While not every husky is guaranteed to love playing in water, it’s always worth giving your dog a chance to try something new and healthy.