August 28, 2007 / 4:17 PM / in 10 years

Swimming classes for New York's pampered pooches

<p>A dog swims in a file photo. If behavior therapists, designer outfits and gourmet food aren't enough to keep pampered pooches happy, owners can now try swimming lessons. The class for puppies is one of the latest ways New Yorkers are pleasing their pets in a city famed for owners indulging their dogs.Claro Cortes IV</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If behavior therapists, designer outfits and gourmet food aren't enough to keep pampered pooches happy, owners can now try swimming lessons.

The class for puppies is one of the latest ways New Yorkers are pleasing their pets in a city famed for owners indulging their dogs.

"We teach them how to swim, how to get in the pool," said Stacy Alldredge, whose Manhattan dog spa houses the swim classes and pool, complete with built-in dog steps.

"It's about becoming socialized."

Salty learned to swim by wearing a life jacket and having his paw held, but now he shows off his aquatic skills by constantly leaping into a pool.

Four months after his first lesson, the miniature schnauzer is the envy of his classmates, who excitedly bark and sniff the water but don't dare jump in without the instructor's help.

While some New Yorkers worry about whether their pet is sporting the latest fashions, other owners want their dogs exercised and healthy, said Alldredge.

"If you think that getting your dog to do fun things, giving them a great diet and making sure they are happy is spoiling them, that is wrong," said Alldredge, a canine nutritionist and behavioral consultant.

At a recent class, owners paid about $15 to let a swim therapist hold their puppy and encourage it to swim solo to the pool's edge. Several owners soothingly willed their puppies into the water or shouted "good girl!" upon a successful swim.

Other pooches just wanted to make friends in the class that began last year.

But don't dogs instinctively know how to swim?

"That's a myth. Dogs don't naturally know how to swim, although some dogs do," said Alldredge, citing breeds such as labradors or golden retrievers."

Other breeds "feel awkward" and need help, she said. "The Dog Run" facility she runs also offers swim hydrotherapy and massage for aging or injured dogs.

Salty's owner, Valerie Cortes, said it was all part of growing up.

"I mean, only in New York, but man, thank God. He loves it!"

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