Years ago, I taught my dog, Byzy, to swim. At least that’s what I like to believe. The fact is, he could always swim. After all, he’s a Golden Retriever. But he didn’t like the water as much as I thought he should, so I decided to teach him to love it as I do. When he was a puppy, Byzy was a bit timid about going out into the deep water. And since I thought it would be great fun to have a companion on my long swims around the lake, I had to do something to help him get over this fear. So I started calling him to me as I got farther and farther from the shoreline. It wasn’t long before he was swimming right to me, no matter how deep the water was.
The one thing I didn’t anticipate was that, when he caught up to me, he would always try to put his paws on my shoulders to keep himself afloat. This was fine when he was a little puppy. But now, Byzy is close to one hundred pounds, huge for a Golden, even an alpha male. He is powerful and muscular and, even at fifteen and with a bit of hip dysplasia, he can still swim much faster than I can. So as soon as he gets to me, he still puts his paws on my shoulders, and down I go. When I come up again, he seems relieved to see me and swims over and again puts his paws on my shoulders.
You can see where this is going. I have tried to retrain him, and, failing that, to explain to him in plain English why this is not the great idea he seems to think it is. On certain issues, Byzy seems to understand plain English. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. Try as I might, I couldn’t get him to change his behavior. So now he stays on the screened porch while I swim. Then, afterward, I throw a ball into the lake and he fetches it and sighs. We still swim together on occasion, we just don’t venture into waters so deep that neither one of us can stand up. He doesn’t like that as much, but I’ve explained to him in plain English that this is better for me. He sighs. And then, the first chance he gets, he shakes the lake water out of his fur onto as many unsuspecting people as he can find.