The basic skills you will teach your dog to enable him to enjoy his self in the water with you and to pass the tests are as follows:
He will need to learn that whilst he can swim with and around people he must never climb on or paw at people in the water, any climbing must be calmly and quietly discouraged teaching the dog to swim around people near enough to be touched but not climbing or pawing, this will keep both you and him safe in the water.
He will need to learn to fetch people and articles from the water from varying distances up to 30m away at the higher levels. Look through the regulations and see which articles are used and practice with all of them, starting with the easiest and working up to the paddle or oar, before you enter a test your dog should be happy with any of the articles he may meet in that particular test.
He will need to learn to do a directed retrieve i.e. when faced with two articles or swimmers out in the water you will need to be able to send him to either the left or right article ignoring the other one.
He will need to learn to swim safely beside you within 2m of your head but not so close as to climb on you or interfere with your swimming stroke, he will need to swim at your pace and turn left and right with you when directed, a bit like heel work in the water. Like heel work we start this in water just deep enough to enable the dog to swim but shallow enough for us to walk so we can guide and correct them, once this is working well then and only then can you start to swim yourself.
He will also need to learn pick a rope up from under 20cm of water and return it to you, this catches some out but if you start slowly in 2-3 cm of water and gradually go deeper until your dog is confident to submerge his whole face.
He will need to ride quietly in the inflatable boat and eventually he will have to learn to jump out of the boat either to tow it back to shore, or to rescue someone who has fallen over board, or at the very highest level to take a tow rope to a stranger in another inflatable that is “drifting” away
All of this is learnt one baby step at a time with safety first and fun a very close second.
A copy of the Water Test Regulations, available to download, is linked in the bottom of this page.
We hope that this has tempted you to dip a paw in the water please contact your nearest Water group and they will steer you in right direction.