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Do All Dogs Know How To Swim?

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Thursday 22 September 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Do All Dogs Know How To Swim?
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Dogs love the idea of going out with their owners. Moreover, apart from walking and playing in the park, they also get extra excited to go to beaches or lakes. So, there’s no doubt that some dogs enjoy splashing in the water. 

Yet, as pet owners, we get curious sometimes whether all dogs can swim or not. Also, is it safe to let your pet dive into the open water? If you want to know the answer to these questions, read this article from top to finish.

Do All Dogs Know How to Swim?

It’s been a common thought that all dogs can swim. Yet, according to Dr. Lori Teller, a professor from Texas, that is only a myth. She added that some dogs know how to paddle, whereas others don’t know how to keep their heads up in the water.

Dr. Frank Fish, a Biology Professor, conducted a study about how dogs paddle. He found out that dogs swim the same way they walk on land. Also, he stated that dogs move their legs faster in water than on land.

Dogs that can’t swim are known to have the brachycephalic syndrome. These dog breeds have shortened skulls. Moreover, when their heads tilt upwards to catch air, their bodies form a vertical position causing them to sink. 

Meanwhile, Stanley Coren, Ph.D., also claimed that the ability to swim depends on the dog’s breed.  For instance, breeds like the French bulldog and Pug have short legs and elongated bodies unsuitable for swimming. 

On the contrary, some dogs love the water because they possess more prominent webbed toes. Moreover, breeds such as Golden retrievers and Water Spaniels are natural-born swimmers.

Dog Breeds That Are Born Swimmers

For some dogs, a small splash in the water is enough. Yet, for others, a good dive is what they need. Hence, here is a list of some famous swimming dog breeds.

Irish Water Spaniel

Aside from being playful, these dogs are also intelligent hunters and retrievers. Irish Water Spaniels are named the tallest of all the spaniel breeds. Also, they have thick curly hair that is water repellent. Further, they also have webbed toes that support proper gliding in the water.  

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dogs are medium-sized boat dogs. Moreover, they were guard dogs for boats and fish on the coast of Portugal. Also, apart from the webbed feet and water-repellent coat, this dog has a tail that acts as a rudder in the water.  


Poodles are water retrievers. Like other water dogs, poodles also have webbed paws and dense hair to keep them warm while swimming. Also, these dogs have slender bodies for agile movements and long necks to keep their head up in the water.


Despite their huge and bulky appearance, Newfoundland dogs are pro swimmers. Plus, they have huge webbed feet too. Newfs have their swimming styles. Unlike most dogs that can swim paddling, Newfs swim in a down-and-out movement similar to a modified breaststroke.


These dogs were originally used during the late 16th century as water hunters. Aside from being family pets, these dogs are natural swimmers. Also, barbets have thick curly hair that protects them from cold waters. Moreover, they have webbed paws, a unique feature of all canine swimmers.

English Setter

They are medium-sized dog breeds that were first used for hunting and retrieving birds on land and water. Unlike most water dogs, the English setter doesn’t have webbed paws. Yet, they have the instincts to love the water since they were bred to locate birds in marshy spots.


Otterhounds used to swim and hunt otters. Moreover, they have greasy coats that resist water. Also, they have webbed paws that make them swim effectively. Further, this dog breed can paddle in the water for as long as 5 hours while chasing otters.

Labrador Retriever

Labradors were originally bred to retrieve waterfowl. Also, they are the closest living relative of an extinct dog breed, St. John’s water dog. Hence, they also have a dense undercoat that keeps them warm in the water. Moreover, they have webbed feet too that help them paddle efficiently.

German Shorthaired Pointer

These types of dogs are excellent swimmers. Also, German Shorthaired Pointers are athletic dogs bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl. Their slender bodies and thin coats help them not to sink.  Further, they have webbed paws that act as a propeller into the water.


They weigh only 10-16 pounds and are among the smallest hunting dogs. Moreover, they were used as boat dogs in Belgium and thus, were named “Belgian barge dogs.” They chase pests and guard fish in boats. Hence, that’s the reason why they’re so comfortable in the water.

Dog Breeds That Can’t Swim

Swimming is a good exercise for dogs. Yet, not all of them share the same reaction since not all dogs can swim naturally. Moreover, here is the list of dog breeds that don’t know how to swim.


Pugs aren’t good swimmers because they have short legs and short-muzzled faces. Also, they don’t have webbed paws. However, pugs can learn how to swim if taught young. Yet, they need life vests since their heads are heavy and prone to sinking. 

Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus were not born to be swimmers. With their short legs, they cannot paddle that much. Also, they have narrow airways that make it difficult for them to breathe. Moreover, they have long hair that can get heavy when wet and dragged down in the water.


Even though most people thought that all dogs do swim, still some dogs didn’t make it to the cut. Well, Bulldogs are among those that can’t do so. They have bulky bodies that sink and flat nozzles that have trouble breathing. In short, their bodies definitely weren’t made for swimming.


These dogs have a dense undercoat that can be quite heavy when submerged. Also, Pekingese dogs have flat faces, so they have trouble breathing when swimming. Plus, they have short legs coupled with a short body that can’t move much and thus, is prone to sinking. 


Corgis have very short legs that have difficulty paddling. Yet, one thing is unique about them.  Their butts are composed of 79.4% air, thus making them float in the water. Still, leaving them in the water is not safe since they can be washed away by the current.


These dogs have shortened nozzles, so it can be difficult to catch air when swimming. Also, the boxers’ muscular build and heavy heads can make them sink at their disadvantage. Yet, if boxers want to play in the water, make sure they wear a life vest.

Bull Terriers

It is possible to teach Bull Terriers to swim at an early age. Yet, that doesn’t make them natural swimmers. That is due to their dense muscular build and heavy heads that can make them sink. Moreover, Bull Terriers have short legs that don’t give off strong paddles.

Basset Hounds

Basset Hounds are good family dogs. Yet, there’s only one downside, and that’s because they can’t swim. These dogs have short, stocky build coupled with short legs, making swimming challenging. Also, they have droopy ears that often get wet and get infected.


The short legs and elongated bodies of dachshunds make them poor swimmers. On the contrary, dogs, including Dachshunds, can learn how to swim. But, they prefer land to water since they were originally bred to hunt badgers. Further, dachshunds’ short legs serve better in hunting than in swimming.

Chow Chow

The main reason why chow chows have difficulty in swimming is due to their coat. They have a very dense undercoat that gets too heavy when wet. Moreover, they also have flat nozzles that make breathing hard. Plus, they have short legs, so paddling is difficult for them.

How Can You Help Dogs Learn to Swim

American Kennel Club expressed that even though some dogs don’t like the water, others only need constant practice. Moreover, here are some ways how you can help your dog achieve its first swim.

Let Them Wear a Life Jacket

The first step in teaching dogs how to swim is ensuring their water safety. All dogs get tired of paddling. Thus, she added that life jackets give them protection from drowning. You can also use dog pool floats to ensure their safety.

Bring Them Often to Safe Pool Areas

Keep in mind that not every dog knows how to swim naturally. Melanie Lewis, a dog enthusiast from Rover, said that dogs should be guided to the pool gently. Then, after some time, they will get the hang of it and begin paddling.  

Teach Your Dog to Swim

First, encourage your dog to get into the water on its own by bringing toys. Yet, another way is to let your dog watch other dogs swimming. Then, your pet will follow the paddling movements of other canines. You can also use dog pools and train your dog at home.

Hire a Professional Dog Trainer

All dogs will eventually know how to swim, provided they have the proper training. Yet, if you’re having difficulties bringing your dog to the water, it’s best to hire a trainer. Also, you may choose to enroll your dog at swimming schools.

Water Safety Tips For Dogs

Dogs, even though they’re one of the strongest swimmers, can still drown. The safest water level for a dog is always shallow water. Swimming dogs might ingest contaminated water. So, make sure your dog has updated vaccinations to avoid leptospirosis.

Meanwhile, ponds or lakes with red, blue-green, or brown algae should be avoided. Hence, those algae are called cyanobacteria, and their infection has no treatment.

Because not all dogs enjoy swimming or feel comfortable doing it, owners should not force them to swim.

We wanted to share further important safety tips:

  • Never allow any dog to swim without supervision.
  • A dog should swim in calm and shallow water.
  • Don’t urge any dog to swim unless they’re comfortable.
  • Pool chemicals like chlorine should be kept from your dog.
  • Avoid water areas with algal blooms.
  • When at the beach, bring fresh water for your dog.
  • Wear life vests.

Dogs come in different abilities. Some are natural-born swimmers, whereas others are family pets. Yet, according to some experts, all dogs can swim if taught early. Swimming is good for a dog’s health. Further, we must exercise precautions when allowing our dogs to swim in the water.

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