Talking dogs: Water work for better waterfowl retrieving
Sporting dogs in general, and duck dogs specifically, should be comfortable in all types of water. This starts with introducing the concept properly. While not given as much credit for importance as gunfire introduction, how you expose your dog to water can be a big deal.
For example, I have a buddy who owns a golden retriever. By most accounts she is a good bird dog, but she will not go into the water. Won’t even dip a paw, and goldens normally love water. Since she is primarily an upland hunter, the water issue is minor, but it does become an issue in wet cattail sloughs and other spots that pheasants often favor. Proper water introduction would have prevented her fear.
Right now, your local streams, ponds and lakes are getting warmer by the day. Most surface water is approaching 60 degrees or so, and that is plenty warm to a pup. Take him to a nearby body of water and scout a shallow area where you can wade in with him. Make sure it is shallow enough that he can walk on the bottom and won’t have to swim. Avoid dropoffs and holes, and never push your pup into deeper water. Ever.
If your pup is hesitant, back out and try another day. Use a treat to coax him if necessary, but don’t push it. Water work should be fun, and that’s the message you’re trying to send. Dogs have fun when they are comfortable with whatever they are doing. Approach it slowly, and take baby steps.
After two weeks your dog will have confidence in going into the water, and will realize that swimming is fun. From then on out his job as a hunter will be much easier, and so will yours.