July 16, 2021 5 min read

Can All Dogs Swim? Breeds That Can and The Breeds That Can’t

Can All Dogs Swim?

It may seem like an odd question that pops into your mind while you’re heading down to the beachfront with your dog. Although, don’t be so quick to dismiss this very important thought that involves your dog’s safety.

Most of us have been told that all dogs can swim, this is a common misconception that has been circling the dog community for years! It is suggested that if dogs enter the swimming pool or the sea, they will instinctively start performing the famous doggy paddle, but actually, not all dogs can swim or even like swimming!

While swimming is a fun activity and exercise for most dogs, there are some breeds you need to be aware of that struggle in the water due to their physical characteristics.

Flat Faced Dogs

Boston Terrier

Brachycephalic dog breeds have a flat, wide skull shape with short noses close to their face. Their flat faces make it more difficult for them to breathe, making them prone to many respiratory problems as well as heat exhaustion. Their short airways mean they are at a much higher risk of inhaling water than other breeds because they breathe through their mouths.

Brachycephalic dog breeds will try to keep their head above water by tilting their heads back which is a very difficult way of swimming. Their short legs and heavy bodies also make it harder for them to swim because they haven’t got long legs to push their large bodies along.

Dogs with Large or Heavy Heads

Bulldog

Some dog breeds have heads that are disproportionately large in relation to their bodies. Breeds with large, heavy heads and a dense bone structure will find it harder to keep their head in an upright position when swimming. Their heads will naturally tilt forward when they are trying to stay afloat, making it more difficult for them to keep their heads above water, and as a result, they are more likely to drown.

Dog Breeds That Struggle to Swim

Dogs Who Struggle to Swim

  • Pug - Brachycephalic
  • Dachshund - Very, short legs
  • Bulldogs - Brachycephalic and large, heavy head
  • Boxers - Although they have long legs, they are considered a brachycephalic breed
  • Shih Tzu - Brachycephalic and short legs
  • Bull Terriers - Short legs and dense bone structure
  • Basset Hound - Large heads, short legs, and dense bone structure

While these dog breeds generally find it difficult to swim, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t swim or don’t like swimming. A lot of dogs love to swim and splash about, and it’s a fantastic way to burn energy as well as keeping them cool especially in the summer months!

It’s just these dog breeds need more assistance than other breeds. If you are planning to teach your dog how to swim, they should always have a life jacket to help them stay afloat and keep their heads upright, out of the water. It is also recommended that you should swim with them so you can hold them up and assist them as they paddle.

Alternatively, a small paddle pool in the back garden is just as fun for dogs who are not great swimmers. It keeps them cool during hot weather and they are less likely to drown.

Dogs Breeds Who Are Strong Swimmers

Dogs Who Are Strong Swimmers

While there are some breeds who are just not physically designed for the water, there are others that are certainly built to be pro swimmers and who love to splash!

  • Labrador Retrievers - Perfectly built to paddle in the water, Labrador Retrievers have strong, compacted webbed feet which makes them great swimmers. They even have a double-layered coat that rebels against water!
  • Golden Retriever - Similar to Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers have water-resistant coats that are able to tolerate cold water temperatures.
  • Portuguese Water Dog - As their name suggests, these dogs love the water because they have webbed feet and powerful limbs. Their dense coats also make them capable of swimming in cold water and it rarely bothers them!
  • Newfoundland - Webbed-like feet and thick, water-resistant coats, these dogs are known to swim long distances and their coats protect them against icy waters.
  • German Shorthaired Pointer - A strong swimmer, this breed naturally loves the water and has a water-resistant coat.

These are just a few of the long list of dog breeds that are typically great at swimming. Dogs who have long, powerful legs and coats that are water-resistant are the type of breeds that will race down to the sea and throw themselves in water.

Even if your dog is a strong swimmer, there are a couple of things you should be aware of if you want your dog to join you in the pool or if you take them for a day out at the beach.

Dog Swimming Safety Tips

Dog Swimming Safety Tips

  • Teach Your Dog How to Swim - Teaching your puppy to swim from a young age will make them more likely to enjoy swimming, be less frightened and be strong swimmers when they are older.
  • DO NOT Force Your Dog in Water - Whether your dog is a breed that is known to be a great swimmer, a brachycephalic breed, or dogs who have disproportionately sized heads to their bodies, some dogs do not like to swim. Forcing your dog into the water or throwing them into the pool is very dangerous because if they don’t know how to swim they can quickly drown and it can be a very frightening experience if your dog is afraid of water.
  • Life Jacket - Even if your dog is a pro swimmer, a life jacket is always a good idea if you are unsure of how they will perform. Swimming can also get very tiring which makes it harder for them to paddle and stay afloat for long periods of time.
  • Always Supervise - You should always supervise your dog when swimming in the pool or when they are in the sea. It only takes a couple of minutes for a dog to drown and currents can make it harder for your dog to get back to shore.
  • 10 to 30 Minute Sessions at a Time - Not only will these timed sessions make it less tiring for your dog, but it gives them the opportunity to go for a toilet break, catch their breath and hydrate. If it is a particularly hot day, you should always stick to short swimming sessions to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Did You Know About All the Breeds Than Can and Cannot Swim?

Can All Dogs Swim?

It may come as a surprise to many dog owners that not all dogs are physically built to swim because we have all been told that all breeds can. As a dog owner, being well informed about our pups is always beneficial especially when it comes to their safety.

If you’re looking to know more about dog-related safety topics particularly for the summer, have a read of our previous blog on The Signs and Symptoms That Your Dog is Dehydrated. Discover everything you need to know if your dog is dehydrated and how to prevent it in the first place.


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