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Do All Dogs Know How to Swim?
Apr 20, 2018

Can all dogs swim? Because we call a specific swimming stroke the “doggy paddle,” and plenty of furry pups do seem to take to the water without ever needing swimming lessons, many people assume all dogs are good swimmers — but this is a common, and potentially dangerous, myth. While there are plenty of dogs that swim, some struggle with water, and some are even at risk of drowning.

Do Dogs Know How to Swim?

Some dogs take to the water naturally, but some may struggle. For example, never push a furry friend to swim if:

1. They Are One of the Breeds That Are Not Natural Swimmers


Boxers, whippets, greyhounds, Dobermans and other dogs with low body fat are not as buoyant and may not take to the water as well. Some dogs are top-heavy or don’t have the long limbs to swim easily. Pugs, bulldogs, boxers, dachshunds and other breeds fall into this category.

dog on board

Some small dogs, like chihuahuas, can get scared and cold easily and aren’t usually the best swimmers. If you have any of these breeds, introduce them to water at their own pace and only after you have spoken to a vet.

2. They Have a Phobia of the Water


Some furry friends have had scary experiences with water in the past, and this can make them panic. Trying to push them can only make it worse.

3. They Are Older


Older dogs may have hip, weight or back problems that can make it harder for them to swim easily. Some older furbabies may get tuckered out faster, too, so you need to keep an eye on them to make sure they are okay in the water — even if they have been swimming their whole lives.

4. They Have Medical Conditions That Can Prevent Them From Swimming Safely

dog in ocean
Hip dysplasia and other conditions that impact mobility affect swimming skills, too. If your furry family member has been diagnosed with a medical condition, be sure to ask the vet about any activities to avoid.

If you have a dog who is not great with swimming but you want to add water play to your furbaby’s life, start by talking to your vet about safety. Start slow and in shallow water and be ready to intervene. Consider a doggy life vest, too. It helps your furry friend stay afloat and helps you supervise more closely.

The Best Swimming Dogs

Some dogs take to swimming like a duck to water. These tend to include breeds such as:

  • Labradors
  • Retrievers
  • Newfoundlanders
  • American Water Spaniels
  • English and Irish Setters
  • Poodles
  • Schipperkes
  • Portuguese Water Dogs
  • Spanish Water Dogs
  • Irish Water Spaniels

labrador retriever swimming

Even with these dogs, though, keep in mind that medical conditions and other factors can impact their ability to swim. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your vet before jumping in.

Remember, your furbaby can still enjoy the water without swimming, too. Some non-swimming dogs have a blast going to a beach or lake, taking in all the smells and hanging out by the water or even in the shallow end.

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