How Tycho Became A Swimming Dog


Well, every few months I have a client call me with a dog in need of swims, yet the dog is categorized as a non-swimmer. Non-swimming dogs present quite often but it is important to determine why the dog is not willing to swim. Is it that he comes from a non-swimming breed? Has there been an accident or incident that caused fear? How old is the dog? Here is where a smile often crosses my face. And, I will tell you why, in the case of Tycho.

Tycho is a Shepherd crossed possibly with a Corgi. He has the shep coat and yet large oval ears and short legs. The brown and tan coat running down his back has a characteristic Corgi wave to it.

Tycho is guardianed by a lovely woman named Jessica. Her day job takes her to work at an excellent veterinary clinic in North Vancouver where she has been employed for many years as a vet assistant. Jessica is bright, engaging and loves her dog. Tycho was recently diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia and the veterinarian suggested swimming for him.

Jessica called me and had many questions. She told me of rescuing Tycho at an early age and that he had a fear of strangers and a hatred of water. He was shy in new environments, not aggressive, just stressed. Jess said she really was not sure how he would handle entering the pool. “Has he ever retrieved?” I asked. “No”, she said, “He has not shown an interest in bringing back a toy on land”. I then knew, from what she had told me, that we had some work to do with this dog.

We talked some more and Jessica had grounded concerns for her dog. I decided that based on her history of Tycho, if things went from bad to worse on the first swim, she should be prepared to come down the ramp into the pool and sit with him there, offering comfort. She was pleased to hear this and agreed. So, we made an appointment for a swim and Tycho, as it turns out, would be on Terri’s shift.

The day arrived. I had briefed Terri: a non-swimmer, non-retriever, nervous but not aggressive dog with sore hips and some muscle loss. We discussed how to swim him and how gentle to take the swim. Jessica arrived wearing her swim suit under her clothes. I greeted Tycho at the door, avoided eye contact with him, engaged Jessica and told her our plan, had cookies in my hand and kept my fingers crossed. We were all on Team Tycho.

Terri walked over to Tycho and showed him his lifejacket and whispered to him. Jessica helped put it on and crooned sweet words in his ear. Together, he was gently led to the ramp.

Without hesitation Tycho proceeded to walk down the ramp, enter the water, swim out and retrieve a toy!

We had to help Jessica pick up her jaw off the deck! Then we teased her about bringing the wrong dog!

Honestly, I don’t know why the swim went as it did. People have told me that there is an energy here on the deck. I suppose that could be so. Dogs do not seem to equate a bath to a pool swim or a lake swim to a pool swim. It is different here. We take the dog to a new environment that is away from Mom, off into the pool with a stranger in a wet suit. New skills must be learned such as how to use the ramp and not scramble on the walls. Somehow water ignites retrieving much more than land. Perhaps that is innate instinct. But having a gentle confident soul like Terri’s to work with certainly instilled a foundation confidence in Tycho and he stunned us all. Or maybe it was what Terri whispered in his ear!

Tycho is showing signs of a more stable gait and now comes from North Vancouver on a regular basis to swim at K9H2O.