So why do you ask would I encourage my little dog (whom was bred to stay on land and hunt rodents) to swim? Outside of safety reasons, such as falling out of a boat or into a pool, venturing too deep into a lake or river, etc, swimming has incredible therapeutic effects for dogs.
Swimming is a zero-impact exercise that eliminates the forces of gravity on the bones and joints, therefore it is a great form of exercise for every pet, regardless of their age and health status. Water therapy can improve your pet’s cardiovascular health, muscle strength and range of motion. For healthy animals it is a great form of conditioning and a healthy way to release excess energy. For older animals, unhealthy animals, heavy animals, or recovering animals, it has great therapeutic effects for the body (and spirit!)
Fact: According to research, there is a 4:1 ratio of running to swimming. For dogs, 1 minute of swimming is equivalent to 4 minutes of running.
As a rehabilitation modality, it is particularly beneficial for pets with arthritis, for those who are recovering from orthopedic surgery, pets with neurologic disorders, geriatric pets and overweight pets. Pets are in a controlled swimming environment with a therapist, in warm water, which allows for muscle building and strengthening in a controlled, dynamic manner. The combination of warm water with the internal warmth generated by the exercise results in the release of endorphins and serotonin, creating both a therapeutic and calming effect. This makes for a very pleasurable exercise for the ailing animal.
Always consult with your veterinarian before beginning an exercise program for your dog, especially if they are not as healthy or agile as they once were. Swimming in a controlled environment can be very beneficial and fun for your animal. I am looking forward to seeing how my little terrier does in the next few weeks. A little training now will go a long way in her future health and body condition.