Is Swimming An Instinct for Your Dog?

Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs know instinctively how to swim, or even like swimming. You could break it down like this:

  • Some dogs and some breeds are natural swimmers and can swim instinctively.
  • Any dog needs some practice to swim well.
  • Some dogs do not naturally know how to swim, but could be taught.
  • Some breeds are not good in the water at all.
  • Some dogs love water (but are not necessarily natural swimmers).
  • Some dogs just hate the water (mine can’t stand a cool sprinkler on a hot day or a warm bath).
So the first thing, do not just throw your dog in the water – especially deep water – and expect they will know what to do. If you don’t know if your dog’s a swimmer, you need to test them slowly and figure out their ability and temperament.

Natural Dog Swimmers

Dog SwimmingSwimming is a great exercise for your dog, and some dogs are born swimmers.  Your dog is likely a good swimmer if the word “water” is in the name of its breed, as in Portuguese or English water spaniel. In fact, you probably have a hard time keeping these breeds out of the water. other breeds aren’t as water-friendly. Dog breeds that love to splash and swim are Water Spaniels, Retriever, Setters, Poodles, Akitas, Barbets, Kerry Blue Terriers, and Hungarian Pulis.
Some dog breeds are not inclined to swim and not built for it. Breeds like bulldogs have short respiratory systems and are top heavy. In the water, they have the propensity to sync like an anchor.
But for a dog that has interest and an owner that has patience, a dog can be taught to swim.
Teaching Your Dog to Swim-Crash Course
  • Start with a calm environment. Not a lot of noise and distractions, so the dog can remain calm while you introduce a new activity. Start in as shallow of water as possible. Speak calmly and encouragingly.
  • Never just throw your dog in. Not only do you not know what they can do, you can traumatize him or her from ever being open to the experience of swimming. If your dog does not want to do it, do not force them. See if you can start small by sitting on the edge and just getting their paws wet.
  • Wear a life vest. If in water with any type of depth, when starting swim lessons make sure your dog feels safe and IS safe. Have him or her wear a dog life vest until you both feel more comfortable in deep water. Even with a life preserver, do not leave your dog alone in the water.
  • Support their weight until they paddle. Even with a life vest, support in the middle and back of his body while in the water until they start paddling and feel comfortable.
  • Be sure to show your dog how to get out. If in a pool show her where the steps are in the pool so they can easily get out.
Good Swimming Rules for Dogs
  • Whether your dog is diving off the deep end or just wading in a baby pool, you should follow some consistent rules for his or her safety.
  • Never leave your dog alone in a pool. Even a dog that knows how to swim can jump in a pool may not be able to get out.
  • Know about the body of water you are letting your dog get into. Dogs, just like reasonable good human swimmers, cannot always handle currents or rough water. Don’t let your dog swim in fast-moving rivers or in swift currents. In other bodies of water off lakes and ponds (particularly beachfront), know what dangers may be in those waters from jellyfish to eco li.
  • Always go with a doggie life-preserver if you have any questions about your dog’s safety and particularly if on a boat.