Dogs Trained for Water Rescue

Read all about dogs and water safety training in this 1923 Dog World article.

Dog World 1923From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the longest published dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

A dog can be an amusing water companion and partner in a new type of water sport, and also a potential life saver in the case of a swimmer being seized with cramps or for some reason being too exhausted to make the shore.

A man or woman seized with cramps is by no means doomed to drowning, provided they keep cool, for a fair swimmer can keep the body afloat even with a cramp in one or both limbs, while a swimmer for some reason becomes too tired to reach shore, may keep floating until aid arrives.

Where a dog is at hand and trained to come at call, or sent to someone in the water, the swimmer waits until the dog comes up to him, at which point the dog should be grasped by the tail close up to the body. At the same moment as the dog’s tail is grasped, the swimmer should throw himself upon his back in perfectly horizontal position, the free hand at the side, or on the chest, and without motion of any kind permit the dog to do the rest.

Contrary to what might be at first thought, a person swimming with a dog and using the free hand to swim with is not assisting, but rather a serious handicap to the dog.

The position of the man and the weight upon the dog’s tail tends to force the dog’s forepaws up, lessening the driving power of the stroke. If the person hanging on be of more than average weight, the dog’s forepaws will even be forced clear out of the water at the beginning of each stroke causing it to splash, frightening the dog, and practically nullifying all driving power of the swimming stroke.

A man in this position also offers great resistance to the water, making towing very heavy, and greatly decreasing the distance the dog can go when compared with what it can cover when towing the body in a floating position.

Any dog owner dwelling upon a body of water can without a great deal of trouble, train a young dog of any water-loving dog breed to tow him about, thus affording a new form of water sport, and having at hand a potential life saver in time of need.


Excerpted from Dog World magazine, April 1923, Vol. 8, No. 4. For back issues of Dog World, click here.

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Dogs · Lifestyle