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Why Do Dogs Develop an Aversion to Water?


This excerpt is borrowed from the FETCH Member webinar, "Designing Water Marks for Young Dogs". If you enjoy these types of conversations, check out FETCH! Enrollment closes June 6th!

The Importance of Early Water Marks

First, let's address a common misconception: when working with young dogs, some trainers might think they can skip water marks, instead focusing solely on yard work. This approach is flawed and can set you and your dog up for failure.

Why Do Dogs Develop Water Aversion?

Over the years, I've worked with many dogs who were terrified of water due to previous negative experiences. Understanding the reasons behind this fear is crucial:

Poor Introduction to Water:

  • A negative first experience, like a puppy falling into the water, can cause lifelong fear.
  • Proper introduction techniques, as outlined in FETCH, are vital to prevent this.

Pushing Beyond Comfort Zones:

  • Forcing a young dog into the water can reinforce fear rather than build confidence.
  • If your young dog hesitates, simplify the task and try again later.

Improper Use of Pressure:

  • Using excessive pressure or punishment around water can create negative associations.
  • Early stages of training should focus on building confidence, not correcting mistakes.

Lack of Proper Teaching:

  • Teach your dog the correct response and help them understand the task before enforcing standards.

Imbalance in Training:

  • Avoid asking your dog to perform difficult tasks every day without balancing with simpler marks.


Preventing water aversion requires a thoughtful, patient approach. By ensuring positive introductions, respecting your dog’s comfort zones, and balancing training challenges, you can foster a confident and water-loving dog.

For a complete, detailed water training plan, check out FETCH. Happy Training!