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  • Writer's pictureVickie Foster

Can All Dogs Swim?

The weather is heating up. Your pooch is too. You may be wanting to take your hot dog for a cool water dip. But have you ever wondered? Can all dogs swim? Your dog may seem like he wants to dive into that pool or pond, but are you sure he can swim? Can all dogs swim? It’s something you may wish you knew before letting your dog take the plunge.

Many dogs like to swim and swim on their own. Some, however, may not like it but follow you into the water just to be by your side. Or your dog may follow you thinking they are protecting you, even if they don’t like water.

Surprisingly, not all dogs can swim. Many dogs don’t like water. Some breeds find it difficult or even impossible to swim. “Breeds such as brachycephalic, or ‘smushed nose’ breeds, and dogs with long bodies and short legs such as corgis, dachshunds and basset hounds find it difficult to swim,according to veterinarian Kelly Diehl, DVM, senior director of science communication at the Morris Animal Foundation.

Fortunately, dogs can be taught to swim with lessons. A doggie life vest can also remedy the situation. Can all dogs swim with lessons? If your pooch doesn’t show any interest in being in the water or seems anxious while in the water it may be better to forgo water activities.

Some dog breeds take to the water naturally. They are naturals at water activities. But even a dog of these breeds may be a reluctant swimmer. Use your own judgment with your own canine swimmer. You will stand a better chance at having a water hound if your dog is one of the following breeds:

  • Chesapeake Bay retriever

  • Labrador retriever

  • Newfoundland

  • Standard poodle

  • Golden retriever

  • Portuguese water dog

  • Otterhound

  • Spanish water dog

  • English setter

  • Irish water spaniel

  • American water spaniel

  • Boykin spaniel

  • Curly-coated retriever

  • Flat-coated retriever

Certain breeds have physical traits that prevent them from doing a doggy paddle. Dogs with long bodies, short legs, barrel chests or massive muscle density just can’t swim. Smooshed face dogs like pugs, get water up their nose and struggle to breathe when swimming. Here are some of the dog breeds that are no fans of swimming:

  • Pug

  • Dachshund

  • Bull terrier

  • Basset hound

  • French bulldog

  • Boxer

  • Pekingese

  • Corgi

  • Shih Tzu

  • Chow chow

  • Sharpei

  • Staffordshire bull terrier

How can you tell if your dog can swim? Step into shallow water and see if your pet follows. If they are not interested, try going to a doggie park with a water feature. Sometimes a reluctant dog will dive in if other dogs do.

Dogs know naturally how to doggie paddle. Observe your dog. He may flail around at first, but will fall into the doggie paddle after he gets over the first few instances of panic. With more frequent sessions your dog will be more comfortable with swimming.

How to teach your dog to swim.

First of all, never just toss your dog into the water to sink or swim. He may be frightened of approaching water forever. Instead choose a cool, calm water area with a gradual slope. Outside temperature should be at least 50 degrees. Move to a deeper water area only when your dog is comfortable with not touching the bottom.

A dog will be more at ease when learning to swim if it uses a life vest that fits like a dog harness. You will need to get him acclimated to wearing one first. Let him wear it for five minutes without swimming, gradually increasing the time. When he is used to the vest then try swimming. Be sure to choose a vest with a handle on top so you can easily grab him if hegets into trouble. Look for one similar to this one:

Watch your dog carefully in the water. He may not realize his own limits. If he becomes tired, struggles to breathe or is panting a lot, bring him onto dry land and try another time.

Remember to rinse your dog off with fresh, clean water after swimming. This will remove chlorine, salt or any other irritants that he may get when licking his fur.

Now, go have a safe, grand swim with your pooch on a warm Spring day.



Thousand Hills Pet Resort and all its proceeds go to our affiliated non-profit New Life K9s.

A dedicated organization that provides service dogs to veterans and first responders living with PTSD at no cost to the recipient. In addition, the New Life K9s prison rehabilitation program educates and trains incarcerated men to become dog handlers and puppy raisers for potential service dogs entering the program. If you wish to learn more about our mission and ways to help visit

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