Water Safety For Dogs- Can All Dogs Swim?

Water Safety For Dogs

We’ve all experienced that heart stopping moment when an overly exuberant puppy launches himself into a body of water without a second thought. Maybe your dog has a high prey drive and dives straight into the canal chasing a solitary duck. On the beach, your dog spots something in the distance and shoots off into the sea, totally oblivious of all danger. With some dogs having no concept of their own safety, owners should be extra vigilant about water safety for dogs.

Swimming with your dog is a great way to bond. It provides both physical and mental exercise, and is a great way to keep cool on a hot day.

Dogs with joint pain can greatly benefit from water therapy. This low impact exercise puts minimal pressure on joints and increases flexibility.

However, dogs don’t have the capacity to pace themselves, so supervision is required for even the strongest swimmers.

In this article we take a look at:

  • Dog breeds that are natural swimmers and breeds which may struggle or need extra supervision.
  • How to teach your dog to swim.
  • Advantages of a life jacket for dogs
  • Precautions needed for water safety with dogs.
  • Essential advice for first aid if a dog experiences difficulty in the water.


Water Safety For Dogs

Can All Dogs Swim?

Some dog breeds love water and are natural swimmers. However, some dogs have physical limitations or anxiety issues which make swimming difficult.

Natural Swimmers

Certain dog breeds have a natural affinity for water and excel at swimming. These breeds typically possess physical characteristics that enhance their swimming abilities, such as webbed feet, a water-repellent coat, and a strong tail.

If you love water sports, sailing, or live close to potentially dangerous bodies of water, you need to take this into account when choosing a dog. The following seven dog breeds are known to be water loving canines.

Examples of Natural Swimmers and Water Loving Dogs.
  1. Labrador Retriever:  These are often considered the ultimate water dogs. They have a natural love for water, excellent swimming skills, and a water-repellent double coat. Originally bred for retrieving game in water, Labs are often seen excelling in activities like  water rescue, and retrieving games.
  2. Chesapeake Bay Retriever:  A powerful and versatile water dog. Originating from the Chesapeake Bay region, this breed has a dense, oily coat that helps protect them in cold water.
  3. Portuguese Water Dog: The Portuguese Water Dog, or PWD, has a rich history as a water-loving breed. Originally used by Portuguese fishermen, these dogs are skilled swimmers. Their webbed feet, water-resistant coat, and strong swimming skills make them excellent companions for water enthusiasts.
  4. Golden Retriever: Golden Retrievers are not only beloved family pets but also exceptional water dogs. They have a dense, water-repellent coat, strong swimming abilities, and a natural love for water. Goldens are often seen participating in water sports, such as swimming and retrieving.
  5. Newfoundland: A large, powerful breed known for its water rescue abilities. With a thick double coat, webbed feet, and a natural inclination for swimming, Newfoundland’s have historically been used in water rescues.
  6. Irish Water Spaniel: The Irish Water Spaniel is a unique and lesser-known water dog breed. They have a dense, curly coat that provides insulation and buoyancy in water. These intelligent dogs are excellent swimmers and have been used for waterfowl hunting and retrieving.
  7. American Water Spaniel:  A versatile and skilled water dog native to the United States. Developed as an all-around hunting dog, the AWS has webbed feet and a water-resistant coat. They are known for their agility and adaptability in water.

Non-Natural Swimmers

While some dogs take to water effortlessly, others may have a more challenging time. Factors that can impact a dog’s swimming ability include their body structure, size, and temperament. Some dogs may require more guidance and support when it comes to swimming.

Water safety

Examples of dogs that MAY NOT be natural swimmers include:

1. Brachycephalic Breeds:

The physical characteristics of brachycephalic breeds, such as their short noses and compact airways, can make it more challenging for them to swim. Their facial structure can affect their ability to breathe properly and can make it more difficult for them to keep their heads above water.

Additionally, their body structure may not be as buoyant as that of some other breeds.

List of Brachycephalic Breeds Which May Have Difficulty Swimming
  1. Bulldog (English Bulldog)
  2. French Bulldog
  3. Pug
  4. Boston Terrier
  5. Boxer
  6. Shih Tzu
  7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  8. Pekingese
  9. Lhasa Apso
  10. Brussels Griffon
  11. Affenpinscher
  12. Japanese Chin
  13. Bullmastiff
  14. English Mastiff
  15. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

However, you may have a Brachycephalic Dog who loves water. In this case, just be extra vigilant to keep your dog safe.

2. Anxious Dogs

Some dogs are naturally fearful or have had negative experiences around water. These dogs may need special training using a buoyancy aid to give them confidence. With time and patience anxious dogs can overcome their fears.

3. Small Breeds

Extra precautions are needed with toy breeds like Chihuahua’s and Yorkshire Terriers. These tiny dogs are able to swim but do not possess the stamina needed to swim against currents, tides or waves.

4. Short Legged Dogs

Some dog breeds like Corgi’s or Dachshunds have short legs in relation to body size and may struggle to keep afloat

Water Safety Equipment For Dogs

It’s advisable to provide Brachycephalic breeds with a life jacket designed for dogs, which can help them keep afloat and provide additional support in the water.

You can find a great range of dog life jackets at PetSmart

Here, is just one of them :

Outward Hound Kyjen 22039 Fun Fish Life Jacket Dog Life Preserver, Small, Orange

Water Safety For Dogs

Advantages of A Dog Life Jacket

This life jacket is designed specifically for dogs and has lots of great safety features. The adjustable straps  ensure a perfect fit and a front float support keeps the dogs  head above water. Different sizes are available depending on the weight and girth measurement of your dog.

A buoyancy aid will ensure that a dog doesn’t use up too much energy in water and can enjoy therapeutic, relaxing and healing benefits.

Invest in a good quality life jacket when sailing with your dog. If the dog falls from the boat he will have extra buoyancy and visibility.  The  grab handles help to lift him/her back on board and reduce the risk of the owner entering the water on a rescue mission.

water safety for dogs


How To Teach Your Dog To Swim

If your dog is not comfortable in the water or doesn’t know how to swim, introduce them gradually and teach them basic swimming skills.

Essential Swimming Tips

Train your dog from a young age.

Take along a great canine swimmer who will show your dog what to do.

Make learning fun and never force your dog, just try again in a few days.

Get into shallow water yourself and use floating toys to entice the dog to paddle.

Keep a lead on your dog whilst training.

Gradually move to deeper areas as they gain confidence.

Place your arm under your dog’s stomach until he begins to kick all four legs.


Consider swimming lessons:

If you have a young puppy or a dog who is fearful of water, consider enrolling them in swimming lessons specifically designed for dogs. Professional trainers can help build their confidence and teach them proper swimming techniques.

It’s also important to note that dogs are individuals and even breeds renowned for being great swimmers can dislike the water. Again, patient training will be required if you need your dog to be confident in water.

Water Safety For Dogs

Water Safety For Dogs



Always supervise your dog when they are near or in the water. This is crucial to ensure their safety and prevent accidents.

Swimming ability:

Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and some may struggle in the water. Assess your dog’s swimming ability before allowing them to swim freely. If they are not confident swimmers, consider using a dog life jacket or vest to provide extra buoyancy and support.

A great range of life jackets are available from Outward Hound.

Choose safe swimming areas:

Select appropriate swimming areas for your dog. Avoid areas with strong currents, high waves, or deep water, as these can pose a risk to their safety. Look for calm, shallow waters where your dog can easily wade in and out.

Enter and exit safely:

Show your dog how to enter and exit the water safely. Teach them to use ramps or stairs if available, or guide them to gently wade in and out to prevent injuries.

Be aware of temperature:

Cold water can be dangerous for dogs and may lead to hypothermia. Avoid letting your dog swim in water that is too cold, especially for extended periods. If your dog starts shivering or seems uncomfortable, get them out of the water and warm them up.

Contamination precautions:

When swimming in freshwater bodies such as lakes or rivers, be cautious of harmful algae blooms, parasites, or bacteria that can be harmful to dogs. Avoid areas with visible signs of contamination or consult with local authorities about water safety.

Rinse and dry after swimming:

Rinse your dog thoroughly with clean water after swimming to remove chlorine, salt, or any other chemicals that may irritate their skin. Dry them off completely, especially their ears, to prevent infections.


Swimming is thirsty work!  Have drinking water to hand to stop your dog drinking salt or chlorinated water.

First Aid

Essential First Aid If Your Dog Experiences Difficulty In Water

  • Remove the dog from the water if it is safe to do so.
  • Check vital signs i.e. check if the dog is breathing and has a heartbeat.
  • Perform CPR if necessary- (ring your vet who will talk you through this)
  • If the dog is not breathing, tilt the head to open the airway.
  • Look in the mouth for obstructions.
  • If the dog is not breathing, seal your mouth around his nose and exhale until the chest rises.
  • Prevent hypothermia by keeping the dog warm.
  • Take the dog to the vet immediately.

Always prioritize your dog’s safety and well-being, and consult with a vet if you have any concerns about their swimming abilities or health conditions that may affect their water activities.

Additional Reading

How To Host A Doggy Pool Party

Heat Stroke In Dogs

De hydration In Dogs

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