Do Al Dogs Swim Naturally
Your Dog And Your Life

Do All Dogs Swim?

I love taking my dog along whenever I can, and he loves adventure too! If you want to bring your dog into the pool or out on a beach day, you might be wondering about their swimming abilities.

Not all dogs can swim. Body proportions and long, double coats can weigh some breeds down in the water, making them unable to stay afloat. Brachycephalic, or short-snouted, breeds struggle to keep water from their noses and might hold their head high out of the water, causing their hind end to lower until they drop beneath the surface.

In this article, we’ll talk about whether all dogs can swim, which breeds swim the best, which breeds cannot swim, how to teach your dog to swim, and safety precautions you can take to keep your dog safe in the water.

Table of Contents:

Can All Dogs Swim?

It’s a common myth that all dogs can naturally swim. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

Some breeds have proportions that don’t make it easy to stay above water. For instance, Bulldogs are stocky with a weight distribution that makes it difficult for them to stay afloat. Dachshunds’ long bodies and short legs present the same challenges.

It’s vital for these breeds to wear a life jacket in the water. Most dogs will benefit from wearing a life jacket, especially as they’re first learning how to swim. It can be life-saving, especially if you’re swimming in an area with waves or a fast current.

Dog Swimming In Pool
Swim Little Pup!

Do Most Dogs Like to Swim?

Every dog has their own personality. Some can’t get enough of the water, while others hate getting wet at all. Though your dog’s breed has an influence, even that can’t guarantee how they’ll feel.

Personality, history, and other factors all play a role as well. For example, a Labrador with a bad experience in the pool might learn to fear the water despite their duck-hunting instincts.

And a dog who struggles to swim, like a Dachshund, might learn to love the water once they have a life jacket on!

What Breeds of Dogs Can’t Swim?

A few characteristics make it difficult or impossible for dogs to swim. These include:

  • Brachycephalic snouts – Dogs with brachycephalic, or short, snouts have been poorly bred for aesthetic purposes, damaging their health. They have trouble breathing, amongst other health problems. They’re also more likely to inhale water due to their shortened snouts.

Brachycephalic breeds include Pugs, Boxers, and Bulldogs.

  • Barrel-shaped bodies – These dogs have heavy bodies, and it can be difficult for them to hold themselves above the water. Barrel-shaped breeds include Bulldogs and Bull Terriers.
  • Long bodies and short legs – These dogs’ proportions also make it difficult for them to stay above water. This includes Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Corgis.
  • Thick, long, double-coats – Dogs like this can be weighed down by the weight of their own fur! Shih Tzus are an example of this.

Lastly, some dogs can’t withstand the temperature change from going in and out of the pool. It can be a shock to the system!

Which Breeds of Dog are Best at Swimming?

Some dogs are literally bred to swim. It might be harder to keep them out of the water than to make them get in!

These dogs are often retrievers, bred for hunting waterfowl, and have water-resistant coats.

Here are some AKC-recognized breeds that are great swimmers:

  • American Water Spaniel
  • Barbet
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • English Setter
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Newfoundland
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Otterhound
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Standard Poodle

How to Teach a Dog to Swim

While not all dogs love swimming, many will enjoy it once they know how! The key is to build their confidence in the water.

This starts by fitting your dog with a life jacket. Whether they’re a Bulldog who will always struggle to stay afloat or a Labrador with an instinctual urge to get in the water, a life jacket helps to build confidence and prevent drowning.

Never toss your dog into the pool without a life vest. This can traumatize them and make them unwilling to swim in the future.

Instead, keep the experience positive. Let your dog sniff around the pool and watch the family splash around first. Lure them in with tasty treats or toss their favorite toy into the water for them to chase.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs will often try to paddle with their front legs and stretch their hind legs downward, looking for the bottom of the pool. This, of course, is a dangerous instinct—and a life jacket can prevent this while your dog is still learning.

Once they get the hang of paddling, they may not need the life vest in all cases. However, be very sure the water is safe and that your dog is a strong swimmer before you remove it.

The AKC also recommends wearing a life jacket yourself if you cannot touch the bottom of the water. Scared dogs might try to climb onto you, pushing you under.

Never force your dog into the water, but instead, let them make the decision on their own. This will build their confidence and make them see swimming as fun, not scary and forced.

If your dog just isn’t into swimming, that’s okay! Not every dog will love the water.

Here are some extra tips:

  • Allow your dog to watch another dog have fun in the water
  • Show your dog how to get out of the pool, so they don’t feel or become stuck
  • Start with shallow water, gradually walking deeper
  • Reward your dog for every step forward, no matter how small!
Dog Wearing Life Jacket On Surf Broad
Surf’s Up!

Keeping Dogs Safe in the Water

There are risks to everything, and swimming definitely isn’t an exception! Here are some tips to keep your dog safe during your adventures:

  • Avoid bodies of water with large waves or fast-moving currents.
  • Make sure it’s warm enough for a swim—the water and air temperature should add up to at least 100 degrees.
  • Watch for dangerous animals in the water like snakes, jellyfish, snapping turtles, or alligators.
  • Look out for fishing lines, bait, and hooks. Your dog can step or lay on a hook or eat the bait and get the hook stuck in their mouth. Never pull the hook out yourself, but instead rush your dog to an emergency vet immediately if this happens.
  • Never leave your dog unsupervised. Even the strongest swimmers can drown or be otherwise injured!
  • Use sunscreen on light-colored or hairless dogs. If your dog has a pink nose, protect it with sunscreen as well.
  • Watch for signs of water toxicity. This occurs when your dog swallows too much water while swimming. If your dog throws up, that’s a sign it’s time to stop swimming and keep sessions short in the future.

Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API