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Can All Dogs Swim? Busting the Popular Myth with Real Answers

Jul 05,2024 | Petbobi

Whenever the summer season rolls around, dog owners are quick to take out the kayak, rev up the engine, and head over to the nearest lake, pool, river, or ocean. While you may think an afternoon soaking up the sun and going for a swim is a fantastic way to beat the heat, your pup may have a very different opinion

Not every dog knows or wants to go for a swim. Before you run to the end of the dock and jump into your favorite swimming hole, you’ll need to ask yourself how long can a dog swim before drowning. Is my dog’s breed a natural swimmer? Or have I already taught my dog how to swim?

Here is a quick guide to help you make the most out of every waterway journey with your dog rich and rewarding.



Different Strokes for Different Breeds

Unfortunately, not all dog breeds are made the same. When you consider can bulldogs swim for one breed, you also may think about great Danes or Chihuahuas. Every breed has its own unique way of approaching the water.

Dog Breeds That Are Natural Swimmers

Some unique dog breeds seem to have been born on a sailboat and can easily pick up moving around in the water. These breeds typically have more athletic builds, stronger (and longer) legs, and water-resistant coats.

According to the American Kennel Club, the dogs who are most likely to swim naturally include:

  • American Water Spaniel
  • Barbet
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • English Setter
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Newfoundland
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • Otterhound
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Standard Poodle

This isn’t to say other breeds won’t swim. Only that when you’re asking do dogs know how to swim naturally, these are the breeds that tend to love and embrace water activities.


Dog Breeds That Cannot Swim Well

Back to our first question of how long can a dog swim before drowning, it will depend on the breed. If a long-legged retriever can swim for 20-40 minutes, a scotty may only last 5-15 minutes. Some of the breeds unlikely to want to get wet include:

  • Basset Hound
  • Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Dachshund
  • Pekingese
  • Boxer
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Bull Terrier
  • Shih Tzu
  • Chow Chow
  • Shar Pei
  • Scottish Terrier

Again, it really depends on your breed. Can bulldogs swim is a common question. While your bulldog may have been a mermaid in another life, the breed has shorter legs and a harder time breathing due to the structure of its head and body than larger dogs, so it may be a good idea to have a life vest on hand – just in case.



How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

The most important thing about do dogs know how to swim naturally is spending quality time with your pup. If they seem like they have an affinity for water, you can teach them. Here are some quick tips to help you get started.

Try a Dog Flotation Device

Measure your pup for a life jacket or similar flotation device. This ensures their heads, ears, and nose remain out of the water, so you don’t have to worry about tiredness leading to an intake of water.

Schedule Swimming Lessons

There are dog trainers that can help you train your dog how to swim. You can even go to your local pool or backyard lake and demonstrate doggy paddling in shallow water to help them get started.

Take Your Time

The water can be frightening to dogs, especially the ocean. Slow down everything with this process. You don’t want to rush and cause fear or stress to be associated with a fun day at the beach.

Always Keep Safety First

You and your dog’s well-being are the first priority. You want to create a safe and welcoming environment in which to enjoy an afternoon swim. Prioritize things like:

  • Avoid swimming in colder water, which can shock the dog’s internal systems.
  • Be conscious of water toxicity, which occurs when your pup takes in too much water in a short time.
  • Look out for hazards like weeds and other obstructions that can wrap around your dog.
  • Avoid other dogs and dangerous animals while you're teaching.

Provide Rewards

You always want to associate swimming with a fun and enjoyable experience. Offer your water-bound pup plenty of vocal praise, physical affection, and treats to reinforce good behavior.

We highly recommend using a favorite toy like our Petbobi Squeaky Dog Chew Ball to help you get started. Even tossing it a few feet from the beach can help your dog get more comfortable with a water environment.



Final Thoughts

While concerns around how long can a dog swim before drowning or can bulldogs swim may be floating around in your mind, rest easy. Not every dog breed will possess the intrinsic skills of basking in the sunlight as they float downriver on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.

Take your time introducing your dog to the water and relax. Let your pup lead how much they want to interact with the water. Over time, you’ll develop a fabulous relationship with water activities.