If you spend enough time around dogs, you’ll notice some take to water like they were born to swim, while others seem content to stay dry. Why is that? The reasons may surprise you, which we explain in this article. Not all dogs can swim naturally, for several reasons, including body composition, traumatic experiences, and lack of experience.
For obvious safety reasons, regardless of your dog’s aquatic prowess (or lack thereof), they must be comfortable around and in water.
Can All Dogs Swim?
Although we tend to associate dogs with water, it doesn’t mean they all are natural-born swimmers. That’s right: Not all dogs can swim. Yes, certain breeds are drawn to water; however, some dogs struggle — even the dog paddle can’t help these breeds out. Swimming underwater also draws a line in the sand (pun intended). Some breeds take to it with ease, while others don’t.
Are Some Dog Breeds Better Swimmers Than Others?
Thanks to breeding, some dogs are natural swimmers and excel in the water. Just add h2o, and these breeds (not an exhaustive list) will spend their days and nights splashing around:
- American Water spaniel
- Curly-coated retriever
- English setter
- Flat-coated retriever
- Irish water spaniel
- Labrador retriever
- Portuguese water dog
- Spanish water dog
- Standard poodle
On the other hand, some breeds aren’t designed for water. These breeds share common characteristics, such as short snouts (brachycephalic breeds), which tend to be a drowning risk. It’s easy for water to go up into their noses. Long-bodied, short-legged dogs and large, barrel-shaped body dogs all struggle to stay afloat. While these breeds may enjoy splashing and wading into the water, they are better off staying on land.
If your pet enjoys the water but belongs to one of the non-swimming breeds, you can do a few things to make their water experience safe and enjoyable.
Tips for Swimming with Dogs in Pools, Lakes, and Oceans
Regardless of your dog’s swimming ability, always take precautions any time your dog is around water. You never know: Conditions can change, your dog can tire out or get disoriented. He can also have trouble treading water, staying afloat, or getting back to dry land safely.
10 tips for dogs that love swimming
- Your pet should wear a properly fitting, durable, and adjustable life vest. The life vest should also include a handle so you can pull your pet from the water if necessary. Another feature to look for is a D-ring to attach your pet to a leash which would be ideal for public areas like the beach.
- If you have a backyard pool, put a fence around it to keep your pet out of it.
- Supervise your pet at all times when they are around water.
- Never throw your pet into a body of water to see if he will swim, especially if your dog hasn’t had experience with water (even if you’re unsure). This could cause your pet to panic, become fearful of swimming or worse, drown.
- For poor or non-swimmers, stay in the shallows so your pet can enjoy splashing or wading in the water without the worry of going too deep.
- Invest in a kiddie pool for dogs that aren’t keen on being in large bodies of water.
- If your pet is drawn to water (like your pool) but isn’t a swimmer offer your pet busy toys to keep him distracted and out of the water.
- Ensure the water temperature and the air temp together are at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent swimmer’s tail (tail droops and can not lift or wag) and hypothermia.
- Watch for water toxicity which occurs when a dog swallows too much water, often leaving them throwing up.
- When your pet is in a natural body of water be cautious of other aquatic critters like water snakes, snapping turtles, alligators, etc.
How far can dogs swim?
Always discuss any exercise concerns or limitations with your veterinarian. The general rule for how far a dog can swim is more about time than distance. Allow your dog to swim for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, then come to shore or land for an equal rest. Of course, the more your dog plays in the water, the longer they’ll be able to last. Never leave your dog unsupervised in the water.
Can dogs take swim lessons?
Want to teach your pet how to swim? AKC recommends you allow your pet to learn by observation. Find a (friend’s or neighbor’s) dog that’s a good swimmer and gets along well with your pet. Although your dog can learn what to do by watching a fellow canine you must supervise the “swim lesson” and make sure your pet wears his life vest.
Even if your pet isn’t a natural-born Micheal Phelps kind of swimmer, with a few precautions, they too can enjoy the water life.