Can All Dogs Swim? (On-Demand Information)

Dogs and Swimming

Can all dogs swim? Depending on the breed, your dog might be an expert swimmer or find swimming difficult. Regardless of whether your dog enjoys swimming or would rather stay on dry land, it is crucial for safety that your dog develops comfort with water. You can visit the beach, go boating, or take a cottage getaway. Read on to understand more about your dog.

Dog swimming in water

Can All Dogs Swim?

Can all dogs swim naturally? You will draw some breeds to the water if you consider their traditional use. Because they were specifically for aquatic jobs, several breeds were born with the ability to swim. Take the Labrador or the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, for example. These dogs were specifically to help hunters retrieve waterfowl. 

Some breeds, like the Portuguese Water Dog, were specifically for working in the water as a fisherman’s assistant, and the Irish Water Spaniel, with its peculiar curly and water-repellent coat, even includes the word “water” in their names. These dogs can swim well, and most will like nothing more than splashing around in the water.

Some species have a natural ability to swim the moment they come across a body of water, but others don’t feel the need to do so. Additionally, some breeds, like Bulldogs, have weight distributions that would prevent them from swimming properly without a life jacket. Breeds with large bodies and short legs, like Dachshunds, may have difficulty swimming. 

As a result, can dogs swim in lakes? It’s a fallacy that all dogs can swim, but with a life jacket and little instruction from you, any breed should be able to navigate the water.

Typically, dogs fall into one of three groups:

  • Dogs who adore the sea. These dogs typically have webbed feet and thick, waterproof coats. Consider the Labrador Retriever or the Portuguese Water Dog.
  • Dogs that can learn to swim despite their reluctance. Physiologically dangerous breeds of dogs, such as Brachycephalic breeds like the Bulldog, top-heavy breeds (again, the Bulldog), or short-legged types like the Dachshund and Basset Hound. Additionally, dogs with fine coats or no hair frequently dislike the water because they become chilly rapidly. Nevertheless, every rule has exceptions, as is obvious.
  • Some dogs require assistance or support because they are afraid to swim. Some dogs are fearful of the water, while others lack the self-assurance to swim. In these scenarios, it can be necessary to introduce swimming to the dog in a novel and pleasant method. You may need to enroll your dog in swimming lessons if they don’t enter the water, even with you and the toys present. Dog training pools are frequently heated, and the teachers have certification to teach swimming to your dog. Swimming in a supervised environment makes them feel more at ease and gain confidence.

What Dogs Can’t Swim?

Dog breeds that are incapable of swimming typically share several traits. For instance, those with flat cheeks or exceptionally small snouts are typically not good swimmers since it is too simple for them to get water up their noses and drown. 

Dogs with long bodies and short legs, as well as those with huge, barrel-shaped bodies, have difficulty staying afloat. Long-haired dogs with thick double coats may have trouble swimming.

And last, some breeds are just not built to handle the shock to the body that cold water immersion causes. Which dog breeds can’t swim, you ask? The more well-known dog breeds that favor remaining on land are in the list below:


Bulldogs with flat faces, barrel-shaped bodies, and short legs are a triple threat, and both English and French bulldogs have them. Bulldogs aren’t built for swimming, to put it another way. 

Even if these dogs only possessed one of these characteristics, imagine what they would be like if they had all three! Bulldogs thus reign supreme in the domain of canine breeds incapable of swimming.


Pugs may enjoy swimming and wading in shallow water, but their flat faces make breathing difficult even at their best. Pugs find it challenging to maintain their head above water when you add the effort of doing. Many brachycephalic breeds, especially Pugs, must bend their heads back so much that their back ends sink too low to keep their faces above water.

Bull Terriers

Despite being a member of the group of energetic terriers, the Bull Terrier has trouble staying upright due to its thick chest and short legs. Even the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a near relative of the breed and a much larger dog, wouldn’t necessarily make a better swimmer as these canines also struggle in the water due to the breed’s dense, heavy muscle and enormous head.

The Basset Hound

A basset Hound’s body isn’t best for swimming, and their giant heads and tiny legs make it difficult to keep afloat. In addition, the breed’s enormous, floppy ears are vulnerable to infections if water gets in their ear canals.


Another huge, athletic breed that you may assume has a natural affinity for the water is this one. However, swimming is just as risky for these dogs as it is for the more small pug due to the flat face of the boxer. Boxers may tire easily and face the risk of drowning if in the water for an extended period due to the effort to breathe and keep their noses above water.


The Cardigan Welsh Corgi and Pembroke Welsh Corgi are both fond of water. Neither breed is a strong swimmer. This results from the triangular chest, long body, and abnormally short legs. It is, therefore, better to allow them to splash around in shallow water.


Dachshunds don’t swim well because of their short legs and long bodies, similar to corgis. The Dachshund’s little legs can become dangerously fatigued even while swimming in shallow water. Whenever they are near water, keep a tight check on them.

Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus, like many other petite breeds, have several swimming limitations. Their long, luxurious hair can weigh this breed down and conceal their face, making breathing even more difficult. 

In addition to having a shorter muzzle and short legs, these dogs may have difficulty keeping their nose and mouth out of the water. Overexposure to the water can also cause these tiny dogs to become chilled.

How Long Can Dogs Swim?

Your dog’s maximum swimming time is between 5 and 10 minutes if it starts in the water. After they have completed the first 10 minutes of the task, you can gradually add a few minutes to their time limit each time. When you take them swimming for the first time, you need to make sure that you keep a constant eye on them to ensure that they do not drown.

You might be wondering what the ideal time is to take your dog swimming and how you can make the most of swimming as a form of exercise for you and your pet. Swimming has a plethora of health benefits that are equally beneficial to your dog. The time your dog can swim depends on the breed and the individual dog. 

Certain canines are innately better at swimming than others. If this is the first time you have taken your dog swimming, you should always stay supervised in the water and limit their swimming to a few minutes. They will be able to improve their swimming technique and boost their self-assurance. 

The average dog can only swim for around five to ten minutes the first time they go swimming unless they are of the water retriever breed or another breed specifically for the swimming activity. Every dog needs time to rest, especially puppies and dogs with limited swimming experience.

Every dog, regardless of whether they are recovering from an injury or are getting on in years, needs exercise that is both gentle and gradual. If you take your dog swimming regularly, they can increase their stamina over time and swim for longer and longer periods on subsequent trips.

How Do Dogs Swim?

The ‘dog paddle’ was the first swimming technique most adults can recall mastering successfully. You can use this standard move to describe swimming in armadillos, turtles, and even people; you can use it to describe swimming in almost anything other than dogs. 

Most research has focused on the swimming behaviors of marine mammals like whales. Dogs and other marine mammals inherited the ability to swim from their terrestrial predecessors, much like humans inherited the ability to walk.

You may observe that the dogs swim with a gait comparable to a well-known trot on land. When a dog trots faster than it walks, its legs’ diagonal pairs move together. When the dog swims, its legs move in a manner analogous to how they move when it trots, but even more quickly than a trot, and they travel further than the range of motion for a trot. 

This indicates that the swimming dogs employ a fundamental movement, although one has undergone modifications in some way. 

Additionally, while the movements that make up terrestrial gaits like trotting can vary from one breed of dog to another, the dog paddle gait revealed minimal variance across the different breeds. This is because the dog paddle gait performance is on water.

Dogs can swim, but it is not a natural gait for them in the same way that walking or one of their other terrestrial gaits is. Because of these coordination disparities, we can now investigate the development of swimming in other mammals from the beginning. 

Did the first swimming mammals make many mistakes when they first started to move around in the water? How terrible are you when you first start? There is compelling evidence that the progenitors of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) were long-limbed terrestrial quadrupeds. 

Changes to the musculature and the skeleton eventually led to the limbs becoming more like paddles. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are examples of cetaceans. 

Even though dogs are not the ancestors of cetaceans, they can serve as a model for the antecedents of early swimming mammals because of their similarity to cetaceans. Dogs have a positive attitude, and they enjoy their jobs.

Can Dogs Swim Underwater?

Taking your dog swimming is always fun, whether in a cute small pool, a lake, a river, or a beach. But as it abruptly dives underwater, you start to worry. Can dogs keep their breath when submerging, or do they risk drowning?

Many dogs are born with the ability to dive and swim underwater, just as they can paddle when they enter the water. Breeds of dogs renowned for being strong swimmers are also stronger divers. On the other hand, not all dogs are born with the ability to swim, so it’s better to introduce them to the water gradually and securely. 

It’s important to remember that, even if your dog dives in like a fish in water, it would be incorrect to assume that it has human-like skills. Dogs can typically only go as deep as 6 to 7 feet (1.83 to 2.13 meters), whereas people can dive untrained to depths of up to 20 feet (6.1 meters). Dogs, like many mammals, are born with the ability to hold their breath underwater. 

This is because they are swimming underwater, which triggers an instinct. A dog’s windpipe naturally closes when it descends below the surface to prevent breathing problems. Its heartbeat also decreases to lessen the body’s requirement for oxygen.

But remember that dogs can be very harmful when submerged in water. For instance, a dog might attempt to breathe underwater if it accidentally falls into the water or swims too hard.

Dogs can only hold their breath for an average of five to ten seconds, unlike humans, who can do so for quite a while. However, a lot relies on the characteristics of their breed. Dogs with longer snouts tend to fall toward the higher end of the spectrum, while those with shorter snouts usually go toward the lower end.

Remember that three to five minutes without oxygen will cause lifelong brain damage in dogs. There is almost no possibility of surviving anything longer than ten minutes.

Some dog breeds naturally move more easily when splashing around, just from a physical standpoint. Long legs, a long snout, “webbed” paws, and a bigger lung volume will help a dog dive deeper and more successfully.

Dogs that swim and are good at diving include:

  • Labradors
  • Landseers
  • Newfoundlands
  • Retrievers
  • Sheepdogs

Throw something into the water as you play fetch to see whether your canine companion can dive underwater. Your dog can dive and swim underwater if it dives to get the item.

Dogs that are not good at diving include:

Some dog breeds aren’t made for diving underwater. These breeds frequently have elongated bodies, short necks, and short legs. They struggle to breathe more than larger canines and are less adept at paddling, so they have a lot working against them.

These dog types include:

  • Boxers
  • Bulldogs
  • Dachshunds
  • Pugs
  • Pekingese

Shorter-nosed dogs have always had trouble breathing, making it hard to hold their breath. Dogs naturally can hold their breath underwater; some are drivers with skills. But it doesn’t mean they’re always in charge, so watch out for your four-legged companion when you’re out for a swim.

Here are some suggestions for improving it:

  • Dry your dog: Even though dogs naturally shake out their fur after a wash, you should dry them off with a towel. Their ears are especially crucial because if water gets in them too much, it might affect a dog’s equilibrium.
  • Refrain from forcing anything: You should refrain from forcing a dog to have a bath or dive if they have already had unpleasant experiences with or in the water or are still very inexperienced. A stressed-out dog is incapable of swimming. It can become anxious and not be able to hold its breath. Never try to submerge a dog by the head!
  • Take breaks: Dogs are poor at calculating depths and distances and their strength, so it’s essential to take frequent rests and monitor them closely.
  • Purchase diving toys so your dog may hunt for them: Examples include sand-filled rubber tubes, bite-resistant balls, and stronger ropes. Avoid stones because they can harm the dog’s teeth.
Dog swimming in a pool

How to Help Unnatural Swimmers to Swim

Given the prevalence of the term “dog paddle,” most individuals believe that all dogs are inherently good swimmers. Dogs may have trouble swimming, though, depending on their breed, the size of their legs, or how much body fat they have. 

Although forcing your dog into the water is never a smart idea, there are techniques to train them to swim more proficiently. Remember that some breeds are unsuitable for swimming; if you have any questions, see your doctor. Here are some suggestions on how to assist your unnatural swimmers in getting better at swimming.

Start Slowly

Expect your dog to avoid jumping in the water when they see it eagerly. Start slowly when teaching them to swim. Take them to a dog-friendly beach and keep them in the shallow water before venturing deeper. 

Go back to shallower water if they seem uneasy at a particular depth. While in the water, be sure to observe your dog’s body language. Swimming can be taxing and mildly distressing for a dog that is fond of being in the water. Always be cautious and remove your dog from the water before they tire or become agitated.


Your dog might not particularly appreciate swimming when it comes to water. They might favor a straightforward game of fetch or tag in the shallows. When playing in the waves or a kiddie pool, include soft, floatable toys that are easy to see and simple for them to hold with their teeth. 

It is not advisable to play fetch with surrounding twigs or sticks in the water (or anywhere else). They might have jagged edges that damage your dog’s mouth tissues. Additionally, they might use their teeth to gnaw through them, creating a choking risk.

Life Jackets

Over time, the use of dog-specific life jackets has grown in popularity. These jackets should be snug enough to allow people to move freely, see clearly to the left and right, and use the restroom without difficulty. Thanks to the jackets, your dog will gain more confidence in the water and can float without using a paddle. 

Life jackets are strongly advisable when bringing children on a boat, even if they are good swimmers. Most dog life jackets come with a handle so you can easily help your dog out of the water when they need to take a break.

Pool Party

Strong swimmers like your dog would likely like swimming in pools. Despite how much fun it may be, you should never leave your dog unattended, and you should always make sure they are wearing a life jacket in case they get too exhausted to paddle. Please make an effort to keep their swimming activities close to the pool’s exit. 

They might stay in longer and become exhausted if they can’t see a simple exit, like steps. Watch while your dog paddles, so its toenails don’t accidentally hurt one of its fellow swimmers. You should clean your dog with clean water after swimming so that no chlorine or other pollutants remain in its fur.

Going Through the Motions

When in water, the majority of dogs will paddle their legs instinctively. They might not, though, depending on the breed, be able to survive. Short-legged dogs may have trouble swimming since they can’t generate the necessary push with their legs alone. Conversely, dogs with low body fat, like Dobermans or Greyhounds, find it challenging to maintain buoyancy.

Each dog, however, is a unique individual regardless of breed. Some people could dislike being in the water, depending on their characteristics. Keep your dog in extremely shallow water if swimming is not something they love doing. 

The quickest way for them to cool down when the weather gets hot is to submerge themselves in water that is only high enough to cover their paws, so don’t worry. Start slowly and minimize your dog’s time spent in the water, whether you’re introducing them to a pool or a beach. Water sports will become a fun part of your dog’s summer if you keep these suggestions in mind.

How to Choose a Canine Flotation Device

Do all dogs know how to swim? Whether your dog is a breed that is just learning to swim or a breed that needs more buoyancy, be careful to get the best sort of life jacket. And even the most seasoned swimmer needs a life vest that fits properly. The increased buoyancy will aid in safety and confidence because your dog can grow fatigued or lose its bearings. 

Last but not least, a dog flotation device is necessary for boating. There might be choppy water or strong currents when your dog slips overboard, and that life jacket could save their life. Choose a life jacket that is sturdy and constructed of water-resistant materials. Additionally, it must be adjustable to ensure your dog can fit snugly. 

Consider reflective trim if you intend to engage in evening water-based activities. In a similar vein, brightly colored clothing improves visibility. If you require additional assistance to keep your dog’s head above water, you might search for a flotation device under the chin.

Make sure the tool has a handle as well. As your dog learns to swim, you can use this to help you hoist it out of the water, grasp it if struggling, and direct it. However, the handle should be strong enough to bring the dog out of the water, according to Godlevski. Search for a D-ring so you can attach a leash to it. For instance, public beaches could benefit from this.

You may ask yourself if a life jacket is necessary for your dog while in water. Let us take a look at its importance to our canine friends:

Some Dogs Aren’t Good When it Comes to Swimming

You would assume that because we’ve all heard of the “doggy paddle,” all dogs are inherently good swimmers. But the reality is that certain dogs, regardless of size—large, tiny, or medium—have problems keeping afloat and require some flotation support. A dog’s swimming ability depends on its health issues and how buoyant their bodies are.

Low body fat makes breeds like greyhounds less buoyant and prone to floating. Other breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, are top-heavy in the water due to their huge, girthy chests. Additionally, extra-small dog breeds like Yorkshire Terriers and Shih Tzus frequently begin their swimming careers strong but quickly fatigue.

Even the Best Dog Swimmers Get Tired

Some dog breeds, such as the Portuguese Water Dog with its webbed feet or the Labrador Retriever, excellent swimmers, are better adapted to water and water activities. But let’s face it, most dogs don’t know when to rest. 

If a dog isn’t wearing a life jacket with supportive belly straps, even the strongest swimmers can become easily exhausted in the water and get into trouble very quickly.

Accidents Happen

Accidents and crises can occur anytime but pose a greater risk in deep water. Fortunately, your dog’s head will stay afloat thanks to a high-quality life jacket like the Outward Hound Granby dog life jacket, which has neck closure fastenings for a snug fit. 

A trustworthy life preserver will keep your dog safe even if the worst happens, whether it is kicking it shoreside or has its paws on a boat.

There may be unseen hazards in the water.

Even though it can seem safe for your dog to swim, the water may contain hidden dangers. Swimming pools are generally safe, but lakes could include submerged branches and vegetation your dog could get tangled in. 

Additionally, swimming against the flow of a river or stream can quickly deplete a person. Strong currents in the ocean can push your dog out to sea if it is swimming in it. A life vest can keep your dog’s head above water in any of these scenarios, possibly saving its life.

Life Jackets Keep Your Dog Warm

Can dogs swim in cold water? In chilly water, dogs with thick coats might develop hypothermia. A dog’s typical body temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). It may compromise their physical functions, and hypothermia may develop if their body temperature goes below 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 degrees Celsius).

How to Teach a Dog to Swim

Some dogs may be born with the ability to doggy paddle, but for the majority, swimming is a talent they must learn. It’s a frequent misconception that dogs have natural swimming abilities. While some breeds, like Irish Setters, might fit this description, other types, like Bulldogs, might not be as bouncy. But can Bulldogs swim?

You can teach most dogs to swim, so if you follow these simple steps, you’ll soon have a dog that can swim like a fish!

Pick a Safe Place

Look for a body of water with a shoreline that slopes gradually; a shallow lake is perfect. When deciding, consider factors such as ocean rips and waves, water depth, underwater vegetation or seaweed, and whether or not dogs have permission (many beaches and national parks do not allow dogs). 

The transition from one step to the next is only sometimes evident to dogs; therefore, swimming pools often challenge you to expose your dog to water and subsequently teach them how to swim. However, you can accompany your dog into a pool and aid with their education.

Pack the Essentials

Bring food and toys to motivate your dog to enter the water and commend them for their bravery. Bring a towel and swimsuit, and be ready to get wet.

Get Your Dog Used to the Water

Try throwing a tennis ball or toy not too far from the water’s edge but close enough so your dog can still touch the ground when they try to collect it. Give your dog a treat as a reward for entering the water, then repeat the practice many times.

Provide Hands-on Support

With a treat, encourage your dog to go deeper into the water. As soon as you put them in the water or their feet come off the ground, take a supporting position with your hands. Ensuring your dog’s bottom and head are in line is essential to teaching them to swim. 

You can do this by placing one hand beneath their rear. To prevent your dog from moving at this time, make sure they feel comfortable and that you are holding them steadily. Speak gently and lavish them with compliments.

Gently Let Them Go

Point your dog toward the water, then gently release them. Ensure that you assist them if necessary; hopefully, they will begin swimming toward it. They will follow you if you move in that direction. 

Ensure that your dog’s bottom is still in line with its head at this point, and assist in correcting its technique if its rump is sinking. Repeat the practice several times before rewarding them with lots of praise and a treat.

Here are some essential pointers to remember when you train your dog to swim more proficiently:

Start Slowly

You want to keep your dog safe while teaching it how to swim. Never push or throw your dog into the water, and make sure it’s not too cold. Instead, entice it in with a treat or water toy. Many dogs will happily enter the water if they can feel the bottom.

Get Regular Breaks

Some dogs can’t get enough of the water. It’s time to get out of the water and relax if your dog’s breathing becomes labored or its behind starts to droop.

Rinse Off to Keep Your Dog Healthy

Both chlorine and germs from lakes or rivers can harm your pet’s skin and eyes. Rinse or clean your dog’s coat after swimming, and pay close attention to thoroughly drying out its ears.

Have Fun Teaching your Dog to Swim

Dogs typically try to please us, but you’ll be able to tell if your dog is having fun in the water. Only some humans or canines are a good fit for some sports. It could choose to wade in the tiny pool, or perhaps it is a land lover at heart. However, if your dog is enjoying itself, so will you!

More Water Sports

You can perform many additional enjoyable activities with your canine companion once it learns how to stay afloat and enter and exit the water. You and your favorite pet can do canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, dock diving, retrieving competitions, and even team swimming. Just bear in mind to exercise patience and make your teachings brief. You’ll soon be splashing around with your dog and enjoying yourself!

Swimming dog in the pool

Our Canine Water Safety Tips

It’s important to keep your pup safe around water (whether in a pool or boat). Here are some helpful tips for things you can do:

  • Invest in a high-quality dog life jacket and always wear it on your pet while around water, even in your swimming pool. Find one with a handle on top so you can swiftly bring your dog to safety; that is waterproof material and rated for its size and weight. The fit should be snug enough to prevent sliding out while still being loose enough for comfort.
  • Stay in the shallows when taking your dog to the lake or the beach. If they enjoy splashing or wading in the water, encourage them; if not, don’t make them do so. Keep them from diving in too deep in either case.
  • If you have a pool, enclose it with a fence to keep your dog out.
  • Even the strongest gates can’t keep some dogs out, so think about building a ramp so your dog can get to safety if they fall into the pool.
  • Teaching your dog to swim safely is another smart move. The ideal approach is to let another dog train your dog. Find a canine buddy or neighbor who enjoys swimming and can play well with your dog, then extend an invitation to them for a supervised swim and play session. 
  • By observing the other dog, your dog will learn what to do. Just be certain that your dog is wearing a life jacket while taking swimming lessons. Keep a watchful eye on your dog whenever they are near water, even shallow water.
  • If you still want to give your poor swimming dog a chance to cool off during the sweltering summer, think about making a tiny plastic kiddie pool your next purchase. Your dog may stand in them and yet enjoy swimming around in the pool because they are shallow enough.

This is not an entire list; not all dogs are proficient swimmers. Even canines that were specifically for swimming and aquatic sports occasionally dislike swimming. 

Except for bath time, you should never make a dog that dislikes the water swim or participate in water activities. Even though dogs naturally know how to paddle, they can sometimes tread water with equal ease.


Get into the water with your dog if it is non-disabled but nervous about swimming. This will help it overcome its fear. Take it easy and begin in the shallows; as you progressively deepen, give yourself plenty of praise. 

You might try a lifejacket explicitly developed for dogs and create a positive association by luring your dog into the water with goodies or a toy they can fetch (which will often float for a minute before sinking). Be sure to steer clear of any areas with waves since they could frighten and drown your dog. 

Many anxious dogs can quickly develop a passion for swimming if their owners keep the experience upbeat and exciting. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise because it is gentle on the joints while still providing an effective cardiovascular workout. You should recognize that certain dogs are better off living on the beach because there is absolutely nothing wrong with it!

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