Everything You Need To Know About Swimming With Your Dog

According to experts 💦🏊‍♀️

dog swimming in the pool with a bone

There are few things better than hanging out at the beach or pool, especially when your dog’s involved.

But before you go, there are some things you should know to keep your pup safe around water.

To help you out, The Dodo put together this guide that has all the information you need to safely swim with your pup.

Can all dogs swim?

Contrary to what you may have heard, not all dogs can swim! (But you can still teach them.)

“Some are not able to float, [but] they all may attempt to doggy paddle,” Lenore Harrison, a practice manager at Lake Austin Blvd Animal Hospital, told The Dodo.

Whether or not a dog likes the water is due to his individual personality and his genetics.

In most cases, certain breeds of dogs love water because they were originally bred to be used for water activities, like retrieving during hunting.

“Dogs that have historically been bred to work in and around water usually love to swim,” Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian on the advisory board for Pet News Daily, told The Dodo. “Some of these breeds have developed physical characteristics that serve them well in the water.”

An example of a dog breed that was originally bred for water activities and typically loves water is the Labrador retriever.

“Labs are notoriously fond of swimming, and their bodies are made for it,” Emily Brown, a veterinary technician with Hello Ralphie, told The Dodo. “Labs have a thick coat with a water-resistant outer layer that keeps their skin dry and staves off the cold, plus it dries quickly. They also have webbing on their paw pads that helps them propel through the water.”

Another type of dog that’s usually fond of the water is the Chesapeake Bay retriever. Chesapeake Bay retrievers are super strong and energetic. Like Labs, they were bred to hunt in the Chesapeake Bay (hence the name).

“They have an even more oily, waterproof coat than Labs, and the fur is wiry and has a wavy pattern that helps them both move through the water and prevent getting too cold,” Brown said. “They also have webbed feet and a powerfully built body that can even break through ice in winter.”

Some other water-loving dogs include golden retrievers, poodles, Newfoundlands, English setters and Brittanys.

Dogs and water safety

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 should never let your dog swim in a body of water alone — whether it’s a pool, lake or ocean — because if he gets tired or can’t find his way out of the pool on his own, he’ll need your help.

Even if your dog is a pro at swimming, a dog life jacket is a good idea if he gets tired while in the water. The life jacket will help him stay afloat while he paddles. It’s also necessary if you’re taking your dog on a boat in case he accidentally falls off into deep or rough 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,” Harrison said. “A life jacket with a handle so you can easily grab them for safety is recommended.”

You can get this dog life jacket from Amazon for $19.99

You may also be wondering if it’s OK for dogs to drink salt water or pool water.

Luckily, if your dog drinks minimal amounts of pool water (just like humans accidentally do when they swim), you don’t have anything to worry about. But if he drinks a lot, he could get sick, so be sure to monitor how much water he’s lapping up.

Your pup could also get sick by drinking too much ocean water, which can cause salt poisoning.

So if you’re swimming with your dog, it’s best to try to prevent him from drinking the water altogether.

Can puppies swim?

You can take your puppy swimming as long as your vet says it’s OK!

If you start swimming with your puppy when he’s still very young, it may help him learn that water is fun at a young age (though it’s really up to the individual dog whether he 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. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian and veterinary journalist, 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.”

Just make sure your puppy actually wants to go swimming first and that you teach him to swim and practice water safety when you have him around bodies of water.

How to teach a dog to swim

If you spend a lot of time around water or if you have a pool, it’s important to make sure your dog can swim so he’ll be safe, even if he doesn’t particularly like swimming.

“If you have a dog who isn't thrilled about your chosen summer activities, you want to at least ensure that your dog is comfortable enough in water that they are able to swim to the exit of the body of water and get out in the case of an emergency,” Lauren Novack, a dog behavior consultant and trainer with NYC Behavior Vets, told The Dodo. “If they know how to do that and have regular practice, they are less likely to panic, ingest water or drown if they fall in [if] they are unattended.”

It’s actually not that hard to teach your dog to swim if you just follow a few steps (and make sure your pup wants to go swimming first!).

First, show your dog how to get in and out of the water. You can use treats or toys to entice him to come in with you.

Once your dog gets in a little deeper, he may start swimming on his own. If he doesn’t, you can support his belly while he paddles.

Stay in the shallow end, and keep your swimming lessons short so your dog doesn’t get tired.

Swimming with your dog can be really fun! And he’ll love it, too (but probably not as much as this pittie). As long as you teach your pup to swim and follow some safety tips, you’ll have a swimming buddy in no time.

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