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Hi there - new forum member here!

We have a 10 month old Vizsla boy, who has been swimming since he was probably 4 months old. Most of the time he's pretty good in the water (though still learning to really use his back legs). But it's obvious he's still a bit nervous. For one, he will venture out on his own but won't go too far, and comes back to do little laps around me when we swim.

The big issue is the biting! If he swims over and starts clawing at me to get up out of the water, I usually try to talk to him in calm tones and just gently redirect him to go off swimming again. This often works, but sometimes I think he thinks my hands underneath the water are some other creature trying to get at him, and his biting is pretty rough, which just ramps up the clawing with it. Once he starts it's difficult to calm him down in deep water and I've got to get him out to get him calm.

I'm mostly trying to give him encouragement every time he swims on his own calmly, and then try not to push too much if he's biting/clawing while just firmly saying NO.
But if anyone has any behaviour insights for this or tips for how to deal with the biting without getting out of the water are appreciated!
 

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You're in the water with him which is great!!! A lot of folks don't do that. They just work fro the shore.
In time, and with lots of exposure, this behavior will stop on it's own. Right now it's a combination of play, anxiety, and lack of understanding as to why exactly, you are in the water. It's also a confidence thing. You are his safety net. His safe spot.

When I start out all of my dogs in water it is a slow introduction. I'm not a "sink or swim guy". I literally will have them on a leash starting out in puddles, and gradually increasing the depth of the water untilt hey have to swim on the leash. But, I make sure that the water depth is such that they can stand on the bottom, for periods of time , but not get out of the water. From there we progress to deeper water work with toys and training dummies.
Once confident, I begin to work them in shallow water retrieves from shore. All of the retrieves are in water they can still touch bottom in. From this point I will toss the training bumpers a little further out, making them have to "swim" the last few feet to the training dummy. From there is just gets deeper and deeper. I am standing in the shallow water also, and sometimes from shore.
Once they are making bold, confident, water entries, I will start the work from a platform, or rock, which makes them have to jump into deeper water. Same process and sometimes I am in the water with a short check cord attached to them calling them to me, just as if on land. Work from a boat will start much later.
This whole process takes about a month as long as the water has been introduced to them while they are young. Starting adults that haven't been exposed to water is much more difficult depending on the dog.
You're in the water with him, which as I stated earlier, is fantastic!! Now start adding toys, retrieves, fetch, and games. Make sure there are periods where his feet are on ground and keep working him. Give him time and just have fun. Don't pick him up in the water, laed him to shallower water where he can get his feet under him and exit, or reenter from there.

Oh, and yes, I too have had many, many, scratches on my legs, abdomen, arms, and chest, from working with them in the water. Wear suitable clothing and just expect it to happen for a while.;)
You're doing great, it will come together soon for you.
 

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Ours did a similar thing, but it wasn't a panic behavior, but more of him wanting to play and having nothing but teeth to use above water. What we did was use the spray bottle that we had used for jumping and other behavior issues, and took it into the pool. Sounds silly, spray bottle in the pool, but it worked. We would spray him in the face and walk toward the steps so that he would know to just get out instead of trying to grab on to us. Eventually, he stopped the behavior with a firm NO, and now he mostly leaves us alone—mostly, haha.
 
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