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Can all dogs swim? How to tell if your pup is water-ready

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Can all dogs swim? How to tell if your pup is water-ready (image)


Not all dogs can, or will, swim. Some dogs physically built for the water may avoid it like the plague, and some not traditionally built for the water may never want to get out, despite their parents' best efforts! There are ways you can work on making your dog more comfortable in the water, but some dogs may never change their minds, and that’s okay too.

Dogs that are (somewhat) naturals

If your precious pup has webbed feet, a long muzzle, long legs, or a double coat, he is probably a natural swimmer. Since Boykin Spaniels, Otterhounds, and Flat-Coated Retrievers were originally bred for hunting with their humans, they don’t usually turn down a chance to have some fun in the water. Some other dogs that enjoy a good romp in the water include Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, and Labrador Retrievers.

Since "Rescue" is the favorite breed of most dog lovers, lots of pet parents have mixed-breed dogs that are each as unique as their humans. The mysterious history of rescue pups means you might not be able to determine how they’re going to do in the water without giving it a try.

Dogs that aren’t “built” for swimming

Let’s just say that pups that are top-heavy, barrel-chested, flat-faced, or have short legs aren’t exactly water babies. Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, and Dachshunds, since they fall into these categories, are not typically "built" for swimming. If you’re hoping to get one of these pups in the water, don’t give up! It’s not impossible - you just might need some water gear to help them feel up to the challenge.

There are always exceptions

When you hear "fearless", you probably don’t think of Chihuahuas, but that doesn’t stop some from developing a love for water! German Shepherds may not be textbook swimmers, but their body structure and high energy mean they’re usually pretty great at it. Dogs are individuals with unique personalities, quirks, likes and dislikes, so it’s quite possible to find a Labrador Retriever that is afraid of the water or a Boxer that, despite their parent’s begging, refuses to get out of the water when it’s time to go!

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Can you teach a dog to swim?

Yes and no. Just like people, some can be taught, and some just can’t catch on. If you’re not certain whether your dog can swim, test the waters with a pet flotation device. Never force a dog to swim or to stay in the water if he’s not comfortable. Doing this can create fear, lead your dog to panic, or create a negative association with water that may prevent him from wanting to try again. If your dog is getting in the water for the first time, be sure to check your surroundings for any distractions, and start in the shallowest area possible. Be patient and go slow.

There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding which dogs can or can’t go in the water. With patience and practice, your pup could become a confident swimmer.

Next stop:  A dog-friendly beach!

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