Can All Dogs Swim?

And what to do if he can't 🏊‍♂️

dog swimming with life jacket

You’re headed out for a day at the beach, and your new pup refuses to let you leave without her. But you might be wondering: Can all dogs swim? Before you bring your dog along for a dip, there are some important safety tips you should know about having your dog around water.

We spoke to Lenore Harrison, practice manager at Lake Austin Blvd. Animal Hospital, to get the info you need so you can have a safe summer with your pup.

Can all dogs swim easily?

Contrary to what you may have heard, no!

“Not all dogs are able to swim,” Harrison told The Dodo. “Some are not able to float, [but] they all may attempt to doggy paddle."

While some dogs, like Labrador retrievers and Portuguese water dogs, do really well in the water, other dogs’ body types may make it more difficult for them to swim. Bulldogs and dachshunds, for instance, tend to have shorter legs and a weight distribution that makes it harder for them.

How to help your dog if he can’t swim

So your dog may jump into water the first time he sees it and immediately swim like a pro. But what if he doesn’t?

“You can help by supporting their belly and working with them like you would a child,” Harrison said. “Not all dogs are happy being water dogs, so never put your pet in a stressful situation that could scare them. Slowly introduce them to new surroundings.”

You don’t want your dog to associate water with being scared, so never throw your dog in the water or try to force him in if he clearly doesn't want to go in.

To help your dog become more comfortable, you can bring a toy to play with him at the edge of the water to help encourage him to go in. Start in shallow water to let your dog get his feet wet and get used to the water.

Once your pup is comfortable, you can help teach him to swim.

Be sure to show your dog the exit so he knows how to get out of the water, too — either the shore or the entrance to the pool.

Safety tips for having dogs around water

Whether your dog is a natural swimmer or not, you’ll need to keep him safe if you’re going to have your pup around any bodies of water.

“You can get your fur kids a life jacket to help if they are going to be around water or pools to keep them safe,” said Harrison. “A life jacket with a handle so you can easily grab them for safety is recommended.”

Even if your dog is a pro at swimming, a life jacket is a good idea if he gets tired while swimming — the life jacket will help him stay afloat while he paddles. A life jacket is also necessary if you’re taking your dog on a boat in case he accidentally falls off into deep or rough water.

A life jacket like this one has handles on the back and comes in bright colors so you can spot your pup in the water.

“Also, if visiting a new location with a pool, keep them in a secure area so they don’t fall in,” Harrison said.

It’s also important to remember general sun safety whenever you’re by the pool or beach — dogs can easily get overheated or even sunburnt, despite all the fur!

“Be aware if you are out playing in the sun to make sure your pet has a safe, shaded area to cool off in,” Harrison said. “Lighter-fur pets have the risk of sunburn or skin cancer just like people.”

You can try this dog sunscreen to protect your pup from the sun, particularly if he has short or light-colored fur!

Also keep an eye out for algae on the surface of the water, which can sometimes be dangerous for your dog, especially if he’s curious and likes to drink from the water.

“Harmful algal blooms are the rapid growth of algae or cyanobacteria that can cause harm to people, animals or the local ecology,” Harrison said. “Harmful algae or cyanobacteria can look like foam, scum, paint or mats on the surface of water, and can be different colors.”

And of course, sure your pup has plenty of drinking water and a shaded spot to rest for all summer activities!

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