Can all dogs swim? The truth about dog swimming

Lots of dogs enjoy swimming. In fact, they love it so much there’s even a special name for it: the Doggy Paddle! Dog swimming is great exercise for them, a five minute swim is the equivalent of a 5 mile walk. It builds strength and flexibility, keeps weight stable – and because it’s low impact it can even help dogs with reduced or low mobility. 

But here’s the thing. When it comes to dogs and water, not all dog swimming is recommended. Yes, sadly, doing the doggy paddle isn’t for all of our furry friends – and there are some breeds who should never even attempt it. So in an effort to get the splash on the do’s and don’ts of dog swimming, we asked our head vet, Sean, and he surprised us with the answers.

Can all dogs swim?

No. Some dogs can’t swim because of the way they’re built physically – so be careful with any breed with short legs, a long back, or flat-faced brachycephalic breeds (their short airways mean they’re at much higher risk of inhaling water, because they breathe through their mouths). Dogs that shouldn’t swim include:

  • Dachshunds
  • Basset hounds
  • English bulldogs
  • French bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Boston terriers 

How to teach a dog to swim

Most dogs can swim instinctively so they don’t need teaching – but if you think your dog needs a helping paw, we’ve got some great tips to get them splashing about safely. 

Start young

Puppies that learn to enjoy water at an early age are much more likely to enjoy it in later life. 

Go slow, and use treats

With young puppies, start off slow to build confidence and use treat-based rewards. Support the tummy if you notice your pup sinking, and give lots of praise.

Try a pool

Puppies tire quickly, so choose a shallow spot at first – or even a dog swimming pool (paddling pool to you and I!) is a great way to start. Check online to see if there are any special dog pools you can take them for lessons.

Be water safe 

Go clean, not green: watch out for algae when you’re outside (algae can make you and your dog sick). Be wary of any potentially dangerous swimming conditions, too – rapid flowing water, like weirs or lakes where there might be a drop in height, tidal waters, and rip tides at the seaside.

If your dog is going to be out on a boat – or swimming for a longer period of time – you can get swim vests to keep them safer.

Rinse and repeat

Water can carry certain diseases, like leptospirosis, so don’t forget to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date. And give them a good rinse when you get home!

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