Can Dogs Swim | And If So, Do They Like It

Dogs and water, do they really mix? Everyone always says that all dogs love to swim, c’mon they invented the dog paddle for god’s sake.

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But I have truly always wondered if dogs really do like the water or does it strictly depend on the dog?  In my experience of owning 6 dogs in my life, currently having 2, that it really does depends on the dog.

Can dogs swim naturally or do they have to be taught, like we do.  Are there dog swimming lessons, or do they just come out as puppies learning to swim?

Dogs that like to swim

Dogs really fall into 3 different categories when it comes to swimming.  There are dogs that are natural swimmers, dogs that can be taught and dogs that just aren’t built to be in the water.

Bigger dogs typically are more likely to be dogs that like to swim.  They have longer legs and more force, to keep them up in the water when swimming.

Many dog breeds are known to be good swimmers, just because of their breed and certain physical attributes, that make it easier for them to swim.  For example dogs that have very webbed feet.

Now if you didn’t know, all dogs have some sort of webbed feet.  Check out your dogs feet and you can see how to some degree their toes are connected.  This of course makes it easier for them to move and swim in the water.  The top 2 dogs that have feet that are webbed the most are Portuguese Water Dog and the Newfoundland.

Extremely webbed feet or not, some obvious breeds that typically love the water we immediately recognize them like the:

  1. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  2. Labrador Retrievers
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. Portuguese Water Dog
  5. Irish Setters
  6. Newfoundlander
  7. Poodles
  8. English Setter
  9. Irish Water Spaniel

Of course, we all know that Retrievers are water dogs, they like to hunt and retrieve birds from the water, so that wasn’t much of a surprise.

But Poodles, that one really surprised me.  I never thought of poodles as big swimmers.  Poodles originally were bred to retrieve and as a water dog.  They typically love to be in the water.

Dogs like the Irish Water Spaniel, actually have curly hair that repels the water, making them excellent in the water.

Portuguese Water Dogs were raised around water and have even been known to herd fish into nets.  For this reason, these dogs love to be around the water, so if you are ever thinking of getting one of these dogs, be prepared to be around the water a lot.


Dogs that typically are not great swimmers

In more cases than not, smaller dogs are not known to like the water or to be very good swimmers.  Let’s think about it, smaller dogs, shorter legs and a heavy chest.  It totally makes sense why these dogs, may not be great swimmers.

The dogs that are not usually water lovers or big swimmers are dogs like:

  1. Basset Hounds
  2. Chow Chow
  3. Boxers
  4. Corgi
  5. Shih Tzu
  6. Bull Terriers
  7. Maltese
  8. Pug
  9. Dachsund

Now of course there are always dogs that break the general rule of thinking.  Our boy Boo for example is a Cockapoo who is a Cocker Spaniel Poodle Mix.  He absolutely loves to swim, and is a great swimmer.

He is all of 10 pounds, but boy does he love to get into the water and go.  So he definitely breaks the typical small dogs, don’t like to swim idea.

Testing your dog in the water

When you get a dog, or puppy it is important to try to get them into the water as soon as you can, even if it’s just to get their feet wet.

The old idea of just throwing your dog into the water is something YOU SHOULD NEVER DO!  This will end up back firing on you and your dog could very well end up terrified of the water.

The proper way to get to see if your dog likes the water, it is important to go slowly and try to walk them into the water.  Of course, it is a must that they wear a Life Jacket before trying to get them into the water at all.

Sometimes they maybe a bit hesitant to go into the water, so if you can walk in ahead of them and try to get them to come to you, it may entice them to follow.  When they do follow you take your time and try not to rush them into deep water to fast.  What you are really looking for here is a response from your dog whether they are enjoying the new water experience, or whether they are hating it.

See if you can get an indication about whether they seem like they are enjoying being in the water.  You could, maybe toss a ball, or Frisbee into the water and see if they try to go for it. If they do and try to bring it back to you, make sure to really praise them when they come back.

A natural swimmer will catch on pretty quickly and you will see them going for it out there.


So your dog is not a swimmer

Well you’ve tried hard and your dog is one of those dogs that really isn’t that thrilled with the water.  You can still enjoy the outdoors and being around water even if they don’t want to go in.  Let’s just think about the amount of people that go to the beach, and never actually go into the water.  Well the same applies for dogs.

You can still do a beach day or a day by the pool, all is not lost.  There is always playing in the sand with a ball, or Frisbee. Maybe it’s a day by the pool even.  I 100% recommend that you make sure that your dog has a Life Jacket on anytime they are around water.

Dogs can just as easy fall into a pool or accidentally go into the water on the beach.  Having a life jacket on can save their lives.  Even dogs that are strong swimmers, should always wear a Life Jacket, because just like people, strong swimmer or not, dogs still can get tired out.

Better to play it safe.

Water dogs, what’s the final swim lesson

I asked a question at the beginning of this article, are there swim lessons for dogs?  The answer is yes of course there are.  There are dog pools popping up all over the big cities.  Of course like a regular pool, they offer dog swim lessons for your pup with a group of other dogs.  Nothing like having your dog learn to swim from a professional.

Maybe your dog wasn’t keen on going in the water with you when you tried to slowly wade into the water or pool. Sometimes it takes your dog seeing another dog swim to really want to get excited and join in.

As we know dogs can mimic other dogs and learn to do things just simply by seeing another dog.

Many dog breeds love the water, but funny enough, my Labradoodle who should like the water, hates it.  We have tried to get him into the water many times, but it just isn’t for him.

This is just proof again, that they can say that this breed loves to swim and this one doesn’t but it really does boil down to every dog is unique.  My 10lb Cockapoo Boo, loves the water, but yet his brother Finn hates it.

The best way to really know if your dog is a swimmer of not is trial and error.  Get your dog or puppy out there and see.  Don’t let anybody tell you that your dog will or won’t like the water. Nobody really knows for sure.


8 thoughts on “Can Dogs Swim | And If So, Do They Like It”

  1. Wow, I really thought all dogs can swim! Every dog I’ve owned did it naturally and I had no idea that it was because of their breed. Oh and I’m sorry Labradoodle that you don’t like the water but I guess it’s really just not for everyone. I feel your pain…

    • I know it’s funny that we really believe that all dogs can actually swim, and then you realize that they all can’t. Yeah I was a bit disappointed that Finn didn’t like the water, but what can you do. I guess it isn’t for everyone. Thank you for your comments and input, I appreciate it.
      Thanks Coralie

  2. This is an interesting question as I have encountered dogs who like to swim or don’t like to swim pretty equally. And the breed doesn’t seem to matter, which is even more interesting. Labradors for example naturally should like to swim, yet I have encountered a fair share that will not set paw in water. I think dogs have particular personalities. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are really beautiful and I would love to have one some day. Your ABO Gear doggy lifejacket link is so cute! I have bookmarked it for future reference. 🙂

    • Hello Pentrental,

      I am glad that you enjoyed reading my post.  Every dog certainly does have it’s own unique personality.  Breed only takes them so far, then the character of the dog takes over.

      i love Chesapeake Bay Retrievers too, they are such beautiful dogs.

      Just because your dog has to wear a life jacket, doesn’t mean it can’t be stylish. LOL!

      Thanks so much,


  3. WOW, I was always of the impressions that all dogs are natural born swimmers. I was so wrong. This post was indeed very educational. I enjoyed reading about your dogs that go against their breeds love/hate for water. lol. I think for pet owners who love to swim(which is a fun and great exercise) should encourage their Dogs too, but with safety precautions(life jacket) and your recommended trial and error method.

    • Hi,

      I think it is always great when you and your dog can share something that you both love to do.  For someone that likes to swim to have a dog that also enjoys the water is a bonus.

      My dogs are constantly breaking the mold of their breeds, and I think it always surprises me when they do.  As always making sure your dog is safe by wearing a life jacket is so important.

      Thank you for sharing your comments.

  4. Hello Coralie,

    This is an interesting article about Can Dogs Swim, And if so, do they like it? Before reading your article I think that all dogs can swim but I was wrong. I have no dogs but I love dogs for any reason I can not bring it into my house. In my previous experience, I see that many dogs are afraid of water. it’s a great idea that we can also be a trained dog to swim. But I think many dogs are not interested in it.

    Really such a wonderful article. Thanks for writing an informatical and helpful post.

    • Hello,

      Thank you for post a comment on my article.  I always thought all dogs could swim as well, until I had dogs of my own.  It’s funny to see how some dogs love the water and others don’t care if they ever go in.

      I appreciate that my post was helpful. 
      Thank you


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