When it comes to swimming, all dogs have a natural instinct to stay afloat. It is not true, however, that all dogs know how to swim. Here are five things all pet parents should know when it comes to dogs and swimming.
Some Breeds Aren’t Built for It
Dogs that are built to be in the water — such as Labradors and Springer Spaniels — have significantly different bodies than those who are not. Dogs that are not bred to swim, such as the Bullmastiff, typically have large, deep chests that outweigh their hindquarters, making it difficult for them to stay on the surface, and they may also have short faces or muzzles that don't breathe well in the water.
Some Breeds Don’t Enjoy It
While certain dogs have been swimming for centuries, many breeds were not meant to set their paws in the water. The Bulldog is a wonderful example. In addition to being poorly designed for swimming, these dogs often dislike the water. They may be happy wading on a hot day, but probably won’t be voluntary swimmers.
Dogs Can Be Taught to Swim
Some dogs, whether or not they were bred for water, can be taught to swim. Many animals have a slight aversion to swimming, at first, but when pet parents take it slow and are careful not to push the pup into the water too quickly, most dog breeds can learn to enjoy the occasional swim.
All Dogs Will Doggy Paddle
For pet parents who have a dog that isn’t a natural swimmer, it is important to remember that if a pooch is held in water, they will instinctively begin to paddle to stay afloat. This is not the same thing as swimming and should not be mistaken for enjoyment or skill.
Lifejackets Can Help Build Confidence
For dogs that seem genuinely to enjoy water and display an interest in swimming with their pet parents, a lifejacket may be the confidence boost they need to take the plunge. There are dozens of doggy lifejackets on the market today, and you shouldn’t have any problem finding a model that fits your pup perfectly.
Although all dogs will exhibit survival behavior in the form of dog paddling, not all dogs are natural swimmers. While some breeds are simply not designed to survive in the water, others have never experienced a proximity to it in their breed’s evolutionary history. Regardless of where your dog falls, it is important to understand each breed’s unique water restrictions and take great care when deciding whether a dog can be taught to swim.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.