Why Doesn’t My Golden Retriever Like Water? 7 Causes & Solutions


Golden Retrievers are born to swim, right? Everyone knows that goldens love the water and that they are amazing swimmers.

But as with anything else, there are exceptions to the rule. Some goldens will just run away at the sight of water, which always surprises their owners the first time it happens.

If this is you, you may be asking; why doesn’t my golden retriever like water? Your golden retriever may not like water because of bad past experiences, lack of exposure to water before, they may be too young, they may not find it entertaining or engaging, they may be unmotivated to swim, or they may be scared of the waves.

If your golden retriever doesn’t like water, don’t worry, you can help him like it and teach them to swim. Most golden retrievers that are afraid of the water eventually change their mind and like swimming, but some do require more effort than others.

To learn how to help your golden retriever to like water and go swimming and splashing in no time, keep reading…

Why Don’t Some Golden Retrievers Like Water?

Golden retriever by the beach to explain why doesn't my golden retriever like water

Here are some of the reasons your golden retriever may not like the water:

  • Bad Past Experiences
  • Lack of Exposure at a young age
  • They are too young
  • Not interesting enough
  • Not Motivated Enough
  • Scared of the waves
  • A Generally fearful personality

Let’s take a minute to explain each of these reasons and how they may lead to your golden retriever running away once their paws get wet:

Bad Past Experiences

Your Golden Retriever may hate the water because of bad past experiences with swimming or the water in general. Here are some examples of what this bad experiences may look like:

  • They may have fallen into a deep pool or pond while young and struggled to get out
  • They may have been sprayed with a hose aggressively
  • They may have been punished by spraying water in their face (more common than you think)
  • They may have had soap or something else get into their eyes and hurt them while young
  • Bad bath time experiences in the past

Things like this, especially when they happen to them while they are quite young, can make the dog scared of the water their entire life.

Lack of exposure at a Young Age

If that’s the first time they see the beach, ocean, pool, or even a bathtub, they may be afraid of it because they have not been exposed to it while young.

Many goldens don’t live in areas where they get to see the ocean while young, and when they do finally see it when they are a couple of years old, they may be scared of it as it’s something completely new to them.

It’s normal for dogs to be afraid of the unknown, it’s basically the same thing as what happens with children.

They are Too Young

If your dog is exposed to the water while they’re too young, they may be afraid of it because they don’t know what it is or they have not built enough self-confidence to be open to such new experiences yet.

We’ll discuss later when should you expose your dog to water, but needless to say, their first exposure to water and swimming should not be in an ocean and should instead be in a controlled environment like your bath tub or kiddie pool.

Not Interesting Enough

Your dog may not hate the water but instead be indifferent to it. Some golden retrievers are just not as enthusiastic about swimming as the others are, and they may not find water or swimming as fun activities that are worth their energy.

This often happens when the dog hasn’t been trained to make a positive associated with water and swimming at a young age, so they haven’t gotten to know how fun it could be. Or they could just not find it fun at all.

Not Motivated to Swim

Your dog may look at swimming as an effortful activity with no reward. They may simply think “what’s in it for me” and decide to just turn around and go back to land because they are not motivated enough to swim.

This could happen when they dog hasn’t made a positive associated with water, has been neglected early in their life, has not been exposed to water at a young age, or when they simply don’t enjoy swimming as other dogs do.

Scared of the waves

Waves could be scary for dogs even more than they are for us. (Most) humans are intelligent enough to know what waves we can handle and how, and we are familiar with the sounds and sights of waves, but dogs are not.

If your dog has not been exposed to waves before, they are likely to be afraid of them.

Surfing dogs are an awesome exception.

A Generally Fearful Personality

Some dogs have a generally fearful personality that makes them more anxious of everything and especially new experiences. These dogs are very unlikely to welcome new experiences like swimming and they may will be stressed just looking at water or being near it.

If your dog is like that, you can learn why your golden retriever is scared of everything here and follow the steps and methods discussed in the post to help them be less fearful of water and new experiences in general.

Do All Golden Retrievers Like Water?

No, not all golden retrievers like swimming, but most of them love swimming instinctively and find it fun. Some golden retrievers also don’t like water instinctively and a portion of those never do like water, but the large majority of goldens can be trained to like water & swimming easily.

Your golden retriever may not like water at all, and that’s totally fine. There is nothing wrong with that. They are not hunting dogs, they are family members and companions, and it’s fine for family members and companions to not like certain things.

However, before you give up on ever playing fetch with your dog in the water, you should still try and use the methods we will discuss below in training your dog to like water.

Do female golden retrievers like water more than males?

This is a misconception. No, female golden retrievers don’t like water more than males. There is no proof, data, or logic that supports the hypothesis that females will like the water or be better swimmers than males.

There are many differences between male and female goldens, but this is not one of them. You can take a minute to learn all the differences between male and female golden retrievers here.

When to introduce your dog to the water?

You can introduce your dog to the water when they are 8 weeks of age or older but only after they have been trained on basic obedience skills and you have built a good connection that’s based on trust with them.

Introducing your golden retriever to the water for the first time is a very important experience and you want to be absolutely sure it goes as smoothly as possible.

for this to happen, you must choose the right time and place and have a good idea of what exactly you should do

Now, let’s discuss exactly what you should do to teach your golden retriever to swim.

How to help your golden retriever like water?

Here are some tips that can help you kindle your dog’s love for the water:

  • Make it fun: Make every part of it fun. Make a day of going to the beach. Give them treats for coming in the water. Go with them. Be happy and cheerful in your body language and tone.
  • Be calm: Be calm and confident so they can also be calm and confident.
  • Use treats: Give them treats for coming in the water. One very neat trick is to throw Doritos in the water just out of their reach so that they have to get wet to get it. Doritos float if you don’t throw it too strongly.
  • Bring another dog: Bringing a second dog that likes the water can boost their confidence and show them that water can be fun as they follow in the second dog’s steps.
  • Give them time: Give your dog time to explore the water, let them go in and out as they wish, let them smell it and touch it and taste it. Giving them time will play a big role in making them understand that it’s totally safe.
  • Go Slow: Take your time in every step. You don’t have to make them like the water in a day, week, or even a month. You can go slow as long as you’re making progress.
  • Start Somewhere Safe: Start somewhere your dog is comfortable with. This can be a 100 feet from the shore, in the bath tub, or using a Kiddie pool (Amazon)

If you have more than two dogs, this would be a very relatively easy process as one of the dogs will follow in the other’s footsteps, and it’s extremely unlikely that they both will be afraid of the water, so the anxious one will simply follow the steps and actions of the water-loving one.

You can learn about even more reasons why goldens are better in pairs here. And now, let’s see how you can teach your golden retriever to swim.

How to Teach Your Golden Retriever to Swim

Here are the simple steps to teach your golden retriever to swim:

  • Teach your dog leash pressure so that you can direct them
  • Get a Swimming vest – A swimming vest can build their confidence in the water and make sure they’re safe. I recommend the Outward hound vest which you can check on Amazon here.
  • Start in shallow waters – Ideally in a pool where you can get in the water with them as well.
  • Take a few steps in the water – then encourage your dog to follow you. You can use treats or toys to encourage them to follow you.
  • Ask them to get in further: Gradually ask your dog to step in further and further into the water.
  • Get away from the dog, and ask them to swim to get to you. Most dogs will instinctively start swimming, but some may need more encouragement.
  • Repeat: Repeat the process a few times on different days until they are completely comfortable with swimming and the water.

Important notes for teaching your dog to swim:

  • Some dogs will be too anxious for getting into a large pool or the ocean but may be okay with getting in a kiddie pool.
  • The sooner you start training your puppy, the easier the process will be. Try to start when they’re just 8 weeks old or as soon as you get them home and have them trained on the basic obedience commands.
  • Always be within an arm’s reach from your dog and gradually move away. This gives them enough confidence to get to you.
  • The process of teaching your dog to swim can take several days, go slow and make sure the dog is comfortable in every step.

You can also watch this video which is pretty useful:

Common Mistakes to avoid when introducing your dog to the water

Here are some mistakes that many dog owners fall into when teaching their dogs to swim:

  • Rushing it: Don’t rush things, give your dog plenty of time and let them decide on the pace of the process. As long as you’re making progress, you’ll get there.
  • Dragging the dog: Never drag the dog into the water, shove them, pull them, or force them in anyway. They should go into the water willingly.
  • Going in too deep: Never go in too deep. Always start in the shallow part and slowly progress deeper but never too deep.
  • Punishing the dog: Screaming or yelling at the dog for refusing to get in the water is a horrible idea.

Important Water Safety Tips for Dogs

  • Golden Retrievers can swim in cold water, but puppies should be trained in warm waters only. The water temperature plus the air temperature should equal at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit to be warm enough for your puppy.
  • Keep an eye on your dog’s tail; it should always be moving. If their tail suddenly droops or lifts up and stops wagging, the water is too cold for them. If it happens, take them out of the water immediately and get them to a vet.
  • Keep the sessions short and sweet and no more than 10 minutes each time.
  • If you swim in the ocean, check for water creatures first such as snapping turtles which can be dangerous on dogs in the water.
  • Give your dog fresh water before and after they get into the water so they’re not tempted to drink from the pool or ocean – both of which can be bad and even toxic for your dog.
  • Use small toys only. Large toys in the water can make your dog swallow too much water.

Well, that’s it. I hope you found it useful. If you did, consider sharing it with friends using the sharing buttons at the end of the post. I’ll appreciate it a lot ♥️♥️

Related Questions

Why Do Golden Retrievers Like Water?

Golden Retrievers like water because they were bred to have a natural aversion to water which means that when properly introduced to water, they tend to like it because they find it fun due to their bodies’ natural propensity for swimming.

Goldens quickly find that swimming is easy and enjoyable for them thanks to their double coats, webbed toes, buoyant chests, feathered tails, and strong legs – all of which make swimming easy and enjoyable for goldens.

You can learn more about how their webbed feet make them better swimmers here.

Why Your Golden Retriever Suddenly Hated Water?

If your dog has suddenly started hating water and is trying to avoid it actively, something could have happened that is making it painful for them to be in water. The two most common reasons are open wounds which could be in spots that are not easy to see and bad experiences.

An example of a bad experience that may have happed is that they got too deep into the water last time and now they are afraid it might happen again when they get into the water.

Helpful Resources

What to Do When Your Dog Hates the Water

Can All Dogs Swim? Safety and Training Tips for Dog Swimming

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