It would seem strange to come across a Siberian Husky that doesn't howl or a Greyhound that doesn't like to run. The same can be said for the American Water Spaniel that doesn't like to swim or has an aversion to water. Nonetheless, these quirks can be found in a number of breeds from time to time. Though it can depend quite a bit on environment, and temperament, an American Water Spaniel's personality may just lead it to be the type that does not enjoy swimming or hunting altogether. Although no animal should ever be forced into taking on a task they are not interested in, owners can easily help their American Water Spaniel become more confident in or around water.
Most dogs that do not enjoy water are those who may have had a bad experience at the imprinting stage; or they may simply have a nervous temperament. Dogs with a nervous temperament are often distracted by many things at once, giving them a sense of anxiety. This unease can cause them to become somewhat frazzled, even aggressive. In a case like this, owners must be sure to take their time and help their American Water Spaniel gain confidence. As long as a dog knows that no harm comes from the hand of their owner, they are often willing to try new things. Owners themselves must be willing to have patience and work with their Water Spaniel as long as it takes to get them comfortable.
While some American Water Spaniels may have a complete aversion to water, others may demonstrate a wariness that causes them to paw or sniff at a water's edge. A good way to get any dog used to water is to first control the setting. As a first step, owners can set up a small wading pool with ankle deep water to stand in with their Water Spaniel. Adding a favorite toy to the water can further encourage the dog to stand in the water on their own. Any small step the Spaniel makes should be supported and praised. The dog should never be shamed, forced or dragged into the water as this will only cause further trauma. Water sessions should be fairly short and kept light and cheerful.
Once the Spaniel has become accustomed to the wading pool, owners can increase the amount of water or take their chances on introducing their dog to water in other settings. Owners should once again step into the water with their dog and also offer the same toy that was used in the wading pool. Having another dog present that likes to swim may help persuade the Water Spaniel to explore further. Until he or she is more confident, the dog should either stay on a leash or wear a life vest made for dogs with a handle on the back. This handle allows an owner to lift or pull their Spaniel out of the water if and when necessary.