Well, finally got a chance to take the Golden to a lake to get completely wet. We loaded in the boat to go for a spin and see how he liked that, but Murphy interviened and jambed up the steering cable. For the brief time we were on the water, he was just fine with being in a boat.
We got back to the launch and I tinkered with the motor to try and fix my new steering problem while the dog was busy splashing about on the boat launch and exploring the water line. I decided there was no hope for the steering problem in the field, so I figured I'd play with the dog for a bit before we left. Of course I didn't bring any "official" bumpers or anything with me as this was rather impromptu.
He's never been swimming yet (16 months old now), but he loved to splash around in the break-up puddles so I figured he'd be a natural for the water. Well, I found a stick and this is where I screwed up. I got him all fired up and made a short toss out on the water over the boat launch. It was about 2' too far. He went charging in and just short of the stick, his front feet went off the edge of the boat ramp and the entire front half of his body dropped underwater... head and all. His rear feet are still on the boat launch so his tail and behind is sticking up in the air. His head is underwater for what seemed like a really, really long time. Long enough that I was taking my first step into the water to grab him by the collar, but it was probably only 4-5 seconds. Finally, he pops up and is paddling his way back to shore with wreckless abandon. Forget about the stick.
Realizing that this was a really bad first experience to water over his head, I quickly took him and walked him back out into the water until I had his body floating with his head above water in correct orientation. As soon as his feet left the bottom, he began to panic despite my efforts, so we went back to playing in the shallow for awhile. He had no problems there and would retrieve and all without hesitation. As soon as I tossed the stick just a bit further into the water, he'd only run in up to chest deep, then stop and back up, but always trying to figure out a way to get that stick without going into deep water. So I quit trying to get him out there and ended up with some shallow water play.
So, before I screw this up any more, what should be my next step to introduce him to swimming? I'm not sure if I should be going baby steps with this to get his confidence up or if it should be more of a forced leader-pack member issue.