Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kiddie Pool Success!

For a year now, we have had a couple of sad, unused kiddie pools just begging to be romped in but to no avail.  See, kiddie pools need to be filled up with the hose to be enjoyed on a hot summer day and folks, the hose is considered to be evil around our house.

Last summer was an epic fail in regards to introducing the pools to the dawgs.  Silly me, in my human overconfidence, assumed that dogs that love water + kiddie pools filled with water + hot temps would automatically = success.  Luckily, my dawgs were around to squash such overconfidence and completely shunned the pool.  This summer, I was determined to try again and this time, approach it as we do any training goal - by taking baby steps towards the end goal and using lots of extremely yummy rewards.

Can I haz yummy noms?
Here are the skills Hurley needed to be successful:
- "In" command - we clicker trained Hurley to get in a box when he was a (rather large) puppy.
- Love of Noms

Here are the skills Sadie needed to be successful:
- Desire to please Mom
(Sadie did not previously know the "in" cue but learned it as we trained getting in the kiddie pool)

Several weeks ago, I placed the empty kiddie pool in the middle of the backyard.  We clicked and treated both Hurley and Sadie getting in the pool.   Maggie looked at us like we were crazy as all get out (girl does not walk under, over, or through objects.  ever.).

Maggie worked up the courage to bob for ice cubes but that's about as close as she will get.
Then I put the dogs inside where they were not able to witness what happened next.

I filled the pool.  With the EVIL HOSE.  See, I thought that if they saw that the hose was involved, I would have no chance.  I also knew that Hurley would absolutely jump in the pool without realizing there was water in there if we had been practicing with a dry pool moments before.  I didn't know if he would then be OK with the water or if he would look at me like I had betrayed him.  He hated me for about 15 minutes after that.  (sorry, buddy.  I had to try!)

Sadie, however, was more than happy to jump in and out whenever I wanted.  She didn't particularly like standing in the water but hey, it makes Mom happy and that makes her happy.

This is where we have been for a couple weeks.  Until yesterday, that is.  I realized that my strategy to trick Hurley into leaping into a filled pool probably wasn't the best idea.  For whatever reason, he has some mild water apprehension and for known reasons, distrusts us in relation to artificial water sources. 

So I decided this time my only trick would be the super delicious treats I was using.  I loaded up my treat bag with beef liver sausage treats, grabbed the clicker and started from scratch.
We did it!
 Here are our steps to success:

1.  Click and treat for getting in the empty pool.  Because of the previous experience, Hurley was a little apprehensive about getting in the empty pool but after Sadie had tossed back several handfuls of beef liver, he was not about to let his sister get the rest.

2.  When the dogs are not in the kiddie pool, place the hose NEXT to it.  Ask for an "in" and click and treat several times.

3.  Again with the dogs out of the pool, place the hose in the pool (water off).  Click and treat several times for getting in and out of the pool.

4.  Now turn the hose on at a low pressure (you want the pool to fill very very slowly).  I had placed both kiddie pools next to each other at this point so at first, Sadie was the only one getting in the pool that was being filled.  I still worked Hurley in and out of the empty pool but gave bigger and more enthusiastic rewards to Sadie. 

5.  Get in the pool yourself.  Hurley absolutely refused to get in the pool that was filling until after I started getting in myself.  I stepped in to show him that it wasn't going to swallow me alive and for the rest of the training session, I was in the pool until the very end when he wasn't thinking twice about leaping in and out of the pool.
Hey, my paw is wet!  How did that happen??

6.  The very first time your dog dips a toe, immediately ask them for an "out" or call them away from the pool.  When you are asking your dog to accept something they feel is uncomfortable, use the concept of functional rewards to make them more comfortable.  Getting out of the pool is a functional reward for a kiddie pool suspicious canine.  So the first few times Hurley was brave enough to put one or two paws in, I threw a little party and immediately asked him to get out. He learned very quickly that getting in the pool is immediately followed by getting out and over a few repetitions began to realize the kiddie pool wasn't that big of a deal.

7.  When they finally place all 4 paws in, throw a treat party.  I slowly and continuously fed Hurley several handfuls of treats while he stood there with all 4 paws in.  After that, he had no problems showing off his wading skills.

I'm King of the Kiddie Pool!

Do you have a kiddie pool lovin' or kiddie pool suspicious canine at your home?  If you've been successful at encouraging kiddie pool love, what steps did you take? 


  1. Oh man. I actually upgraded to a stock tank two years ago, because the kiddy pools don't hold up well enough to heavy use. And right now my biggest problem is keeping Koira out of the tank, because she has stitches that shouldn't get wet. She does not appreciate this at all.

  2. Good work! I considered getting a kiddie pool for the dogs but it was only hot enough for a couple days:/ Oh well...

  3. We've always loved the idea of a kiddie pool, but...we don't have a backyard. I never realized that it could even be scary for some pups, but it's good to see that they can enjoy it now.

  4. Lucas is seriously water-averse. Unless it's in his bowl for drinkin' he's not coming near the stuff. We put a kiddie pool in the backyard, and Cooper loved it! In and out all day! Emmett liked it, too. But the whole time it was out, Lucas hid under the patio table or begged to be let inside. I think our yard was too small for him to feel like he could stay far enough away from it. So, when we moved a few weeks ago, we didn't bring. Reading through your steps, I think I could've worked with him to make him feel a little more comfortable, but... it just didn't seem worth it!

  5. I'm so impressed you got this to work! I had a baby pool for a couple years and not one of my dogs would even acknowledge it!

  6. I like the idea of "out". Never thought of that one. My dogs will only bobbed for treats in a pool. I can't get them in it. But it's great for a giant water bowl!! LOL

    I like your steps. I'll have to try them myself. :)

  7. I thought along the same lines that you did that my water loving labs would love a pool of their own and was wrong. We tried a few things with a baby pool but ended up giving up and giving the pool away to someone who would actually use it to relax in not just as an over-sized water bowl. I should have done more training with them just like you did.

  8. Oh my word... your doggies in the pool are so cute!! So glad Hurley and Sadie were willing to give it a try... even if it took a endless supply of noms!

  9. Great work!

    Stop on by for a visit

  10. Sampson loves the wading pool, goes right in and lays down as soon as we get back from our walk.

    Delilah is not afraid of it, she just prefers it to be a giant water bowl.

  11. Our 2 love water but hated the kiddie pools. We ended up donating them to the shelter after a lot of noms! :)

  12. A kiddie pool at our house has always just been a large water dish so we don't waste our time ;) I still have dreams that our dogs will swim in the real pool but we haven't tried to work on it like I thought we might.

  13. What a great idea for using functional rewards! We have a couple of kiddie pools that bring us great joy around here. My favorite thing is when Fozzie puts front paws in, sticks his nose under the water, then proceeds to dig furiously in the water :) Doesn't get much better than that.

  14. Hi Sarah - You have beautiful dogs! I have a quick question for you and was wondering if you could send me an email when you get a chance?

  15. I have been considering getting pool for my dogs. This has given me some good ideas if I have any trouble getting them to use it. looks like they did enjoy it.

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