What do you think? Are dogs natural swimmers? Let us change your perspective.
Ever observed your dog when he comes across a swimming pool, lake, or a river?
Be it a small lake or a big puddle, your dog will be seen speckling and splattering the water around everywhere.
But have you ever seen them swim?
We will help you figure out if dogs are natural swimmer or not.
Can Dogs Swim Naturally?
Can Dogs Really Swim? Is it safe to take them to the swimming pool or the lake around the neighborhood?
When your dog comes in contact with water, he might start paddling instinctively but that does not make him a swimmer.
Some dogs are smart enough to paddle and make their way out through the water, whereas some breeds may simply drown. Bulldog is one such breed who just can’t manage to enter the water without supervision.
Every dog is a different type. Some may enjoy staying in the water. Some are scared at the sight of water.
Dogs who are generally short or small cannot stay afloat in water for a long time. These breeds have short stature and a small muzzle or are short-legged, which does not allow them to reach above the water surface and breathe.
But again, certain dog breeds can be trained to swim. Dogs who are not comfortable at the sight of water, or are scared of being in contact with water should not be forced into swimming. This can make them feel nervous and uncomfortable.
Dogs are not natural swimmers.
But with appropriate safety precautions like getting a small swimming pool for your dog, keeping an eye out for your dog while he swims, buying him a life vest and training him patiently to swim, will help your dog to enjoy his ‘pool time’ with you.
But, never leave your dog swimming alone.
Dog Breeds That Can Swim
What are the characteristics that make your dog an Ideal Swimmer?
This depends on their breed and body type. Large to medium-sized dogs who have a narrow chest and a good height and body frame can manage swimming and paddling on the water.
The advantage is that a good height prevents them from drowning even in deep water areas.
These dog breeds usually have a waterproof coat, webbed paws, and long heads & snouts, which helps them breathe and float on the water surface.
Certain breeds that are known to be natural swimmers are Labrador, Golden Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Poodle, etc.
These dogs have almost waterproof coats and a dense undercoat, which not only protects them from ice-cold conditions but helps them swim even in freezing temperatures.
The names such as Irish Water Spaniel and Portuguese Water Dog suggest that these dogs are made for the water and love being around rivers and lakes.
Newfoundland is another breed that is bred for water activities and commonly found in lifeguard stations for rescuing errant swimmers.
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Labrador Retriever
If you are planning on having a quality time with your dog by swimming, having any of these breeds is an added advantage as they have natural swimming instincts and features which help them learn easily.
They can manage to stay afloat on the water and your efforts to train them automatically reduce. But no matter how much of an expert your dog is at swimming, keeping a watch and not letting him swim alone is a priority.
Dog Breeds That Cannot Swim
After knowing of the breeds that you can enjoy swimming with, you may want to consider the breeds who are stinkers at swimming.
They may look adorable but have a very unusual body shape, short legs and an extended body like the Dachshund, dense coat like the Maltese or Corgi, and a wide chest like the Bull Dog. These features make it difficult for them to swim and float.
These dog breeds have a ‘not so uniform’ body frame. They may also have a short snout and muzzle, which makes it difficult for them to reach their nose above the water level and manage to breathe.
Breeds like the Chow Chow, Pug, Dachshund, etc. are not great at swimming but can be taken for a dip with extra care and caution.
Provide them with a ‘life vest’ or make sure to not have them swimming in deep waters. Some dog breeds are not made for the water like the Shih Tzu, who may get scared or nervous at the sight of water.
Bull Terriers have a disproportionate body that makes it difficult for them to sustain and float in water.
Heavy weighing dogs are an ‘absolute no-no’ as their weight pulls them down, making it difficult to reach the water surface.
Densely coated breeds may end up carrying water weight while swimming, which automatically makes it unimaginable for them to swim easily. Imagine having to clean all the dog hair in your pool with such heavy-coated dog breeds.
Here is a list of top 5 dog breeds that cannot swim:
- Shih Tzu
- Bull Dog
- Basset Hound
There are exceptions to these as well. Dog Breeds who are not made to swim can be trained while some dog breeds who are known to be swimmers may end up being non-responsive when in water. Remember, if your dog is smart, he will make his way through.
Teach and Train Your Dog
No dog is a natural swimmer. But we can train them to swim. Swimming is one of the best exercises as it helps in maintaining your dog’s overall health and increases stamina.
First things first, you need to know if your dog’s breed is a swimmer or not. Gather all the information you can about your pet’s breed, from their eating habits to things that they like and dislike to the activities they like to indulge in.
Check if they are good to go in the water or prefer staying in dry zones. For dog breeds who are not swimmers, you can train them gradually but that may take time.
As a dog owner, be very patient while training them. Certain dogs are quick learners, but some dogs take time. Do not expect them to enter the water and start swimming immediately. If your dog paddles on entering the water, it’s a good sign.
You can use a ‘life vest’ for starters so that your doggy remains floating on the water and does not drown no matter what. Stay around and do not get your dog out of sight while he trains.
You can also use treats and toys that could help him indulge in swimming. Give him a treat once he follows your instructions well.
Start training with a shallow water zone, like a small pool or a pond where you can train him without the fear of him drowning. Gradually, you may take your pet to deeper water zones.
You can also play with them inside the pool. Ask them to fetch a ball or stick. If they can do it easily, they are gradually getting a hang of staying in the water. Praise them for every move. Dogs enjoy being praised and loved.
You could also consider enrolling your pet into special training for swimming.
Here a few steps you could consider to teach and train your dog to swim to perfection.
- Calm your dog. If your dog is anxious or aggressive, relax him off by talking to him about swimming and how enjoyable it would be.
- Don’t forget to have the life vest and leash on.
- Give him treats and praise them with each step they take towards the pool. By doing so, they feel more encouraged and positive about the idea of swimming.
- Take them to the edge of the pool. Approach the pool step by step. Ask your dog to observe. Some dogs are quick learners and may grasp your actions easily. Ask your dog to follow what you do. Keep the praises and treats going.
- It requires practice to master a task. Allow your dog to practice and repeat until they progress each day to perfectly approaching and entering the pool.
- Show your dog the exit route. You can command him to swim back to you. Dog ramps are of great help too, in case your dog needs support while climbing off the pool.
- You can gradually guide your dog to the pool with a leash. Once your dog is an expert, you could consider removing the leash and let him swim independently.
Be it any dog breed, or dog of any size, whether he can swim or not swim, safety is a priority. No matter how much of an expert your dog is at swimming, you have to keep a watch.
Here are a few tips and tricks you may want to consider for your pet before he jumps into the pool.
- Life Jacket
Some dog breeds have suitable features and body types that allow them to swim easily but certain dog breeds aren’t all that lucky.
That is when a life vest or life jacket helps them float in water. Even if they can’t manage swimming, they can simply paddle or stay inside the water during summers. Life jackets prevent them from drowning.
Look for a snuggly and comfortable life jacket before your doggy takes to swimming with you. You can choose from a range of attractive colors and sizes as per your dog’s size and breed.
- No Distractions
Your dog may get nervous looking at a crowd of people or with too much noise. While learning, avoid taking them to a noisy, public area. Instead, choose a quiet zone like a calm river or somewhere by the lakeside.
- Keep him Hydrated
No matter how clean your pool is, it is not very favorable if your dog ends up drinking the water he’s swimming in.
Carry a separate bottle of water for your pooch each time you and your pet go for a swim. Train your dog to drink water from the same bottle and not from the pool.
Drinking pool water can be dangerous and can cause diseases to your pet.
- Put a Leash
Especially when your dog is a learner, see to it that he is attached to a leash. That ways, you can direct him in the pool and pull him back when you sense danger.
Once your dog is used to swimming independently, you can consider removing him off the leash.
- Keep a watch
Most importantly, stay vigilant. You can never leave your dog to swim alone. Especially when you take him to a beach or a public swimming pool with you, make sure you are with your fido at all times.
As dogs aren’t natural swimmers, they may not be able to protect themselves from drowning and may get washed off with gushing water tides.
Talk about dogs being born swimmers, they are definitely not.
So, Are dogs natural swimmers? No, they are not.
But if he loves chilling at the beach or the pool with you, then you can be his best tutor. With a set of precautions followed, it would take a few days of training and practice before your dog becomes an expert.
Some dogs refrain from entering into the water while some dog breeds are absolute water babies. It is up to us to understand each feature and aspect of our pet and their behavior and choose to train them accordingly.
Investing in a life vest, avoiding distractions while swimming, keeping your dog hydrated and training him patiently to perfection are a few steps you can consider if you and your dog love to swim and chill.
After all, your dog should not miss out on all the fun.
- PetMD Editorial. (2020, October 14). Top 10 Swimming Dog Breeds. PetMD. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/breeds/top-swimming-dog-breeds#slide-3
- Summer Water Safety for Your Pet – Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. (n.d.). TUFTS University. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://vet.tufts.edu/summer-water-safety-for-your-pet/
Karen Valenzuela is a dog behaviorist & trainer from Brooklyn, New York, and a freelancer for DogLovesBest. Karen is so much into dogs that she decided to become a dog behaviorist since she was in Middle School, and she did it too! She pursued her career as a dog behaviorist and now she’s certified through ACAAB. She has trained more than 10,000 dogs to correct their behavior and helped them develop a strong bond with their owners. In her free time, she loves to explore new ways of making the pet canine’s life more interesting and also has the ability to give those ideas the form of insightful posts.