Can I Take My Puppy Swimming?

What you should know before her first day at the pool 🏊‍♀️

puppy in a kiddie pool

Getting a new puppy is super exciting, so you might want to spend all your time with her — including your time at the beach or pool. But you also might be wondering if puppies can actually swim and whether it’s OK to take your puppy swimming.

The good news is that you can take your puppy swimming as long as you follow some basic safety tips.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian and veterinary journalist, to find out everything you need to know about puppies and swimming — and how to make sure your day at the pool or beach is both fun and safe.

How old should puppies be before they go swimming?

You can start swimming with your puppy when she’s still very young — it may help her learn that water is fun at a young age (though it’s really up to the individual dog whether she grows up liking the water).

“Puppies with long noses as young as 8 weeks can be introduced to water and swimming in a small, shallow body of water,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo. “Puppies with smushed faces (brachycephalic) may need to be older. Check with your veterinarian before you take brachycephalic puppies or dogs swimming, and remember — some dogs do not like to swim.”

(That’s because dogs with smushed faces, like pugs, English bulldogs and French bulldogs, often have more trouble breathing because of the shape of their face and nose, which can make swimming more difficult for them.)

How to teach a puppy to swim

The first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t make your puppy go in the water if she doesn’t want to.

“Puppies should never be forced to swim. Allow your puppy to enter the water at their own leisure, and show them how to get in and out,” Dr. Wooten said.

Encourage your puppy to get close to the water with treats or toys so she has positive associations with water.

“Make it pleasant — use lots of calm, praising words. You can even offer some treats to help them get their feet wet,” Dr. Wooten said.

If your puppy doesn’t seem to know how to swim on her own (and not all dogs do know how to swim), you can help teach her by supporting her belly and letting her paddle her legs while you hold her in the water.

Show your puppy the way out of the water so she doesn’t get lost, too. If you’re in the ocean or a lake, make sure you help her walk out onto the shore, and if you’re in a pool, show her the steps.

“Show your dog where the steps are, and then take them a foot or two away from the steps and allow them to swim back and exit,” Dr. Wooten said. “Placing a visual marker by the steps may help your dog orientate themselves. If your puppy does well, then gradually increase the distance.”

You can also try using a kiddie pool for your puppy’s first swim lesson to get her used to the water in a safe, shallow area. (This pool is made specifically for dogs! It comes in multiple sizes for different sized pups and is foldable for easy storage. You can get it from Amazon for $41.62.)

Dogs and water safety

Don’t let your puppy swim alone or hang out near the pool (or any body of water) by herself. Any time your puppy is swimming or near water, you should be chaperoning her.

“Never leave your dog unsupervised around water deep enough for drowning (above their head while standing),” Dr. Wooten said. “If you have a pool, install a fence or alarm. Most dog drowning is due to dogs falling in and not knowing how to exit the pool.”

You should also get your puppy a life jacket. (Like this one, which you can get from Amazon for $15.20. It has adjustable straps so your dog will be comfy, and it has a handle on top so you can easily guide your puppy in the water.)

“It is also a good idea to practice with the life vest in a controlled environment so your dog doesn't panic in an emergency situation,” Dr. Wooten said.

Be sure to stay in shallow water and keep your swimming lessons short so your pup doesn’t get tired out, Dr. Wooten said.

So yes, you can take your puppy swimming. As long as you keep these safety tips in mind, you’ll have a fun beach day with your new pup.

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