Overall, can dogs swim? Tips for teaching your dog to swim

can dogs swim, teaching dogs to swim

With the unofficial start of summer behind us, it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you like camping, biking, hiking, or hitting the beach, now’s your chance to soak up some sun with your dog. If you’re headed to the beach or lake for some swimming or surfing, you may have considered taking your dog swimming with you. But can all dogs swim? 

No, not all dogs can swim. Some dogs love swimming and take to it right away, while other dogs hate getting wet or may not be able to paddle strong enough to keep their body at the correct buoyancy in the water.

Tips for teaching your dog to swim 

1. Dog life jacket

Safety is the most important consideration when taking your dog swimming. No matter how good of a swimmer you think your dog will be, you should purchase a dog life jacket to help keep your pup safe. A life jacket helps keep your dog level in the water and makes them feel more comfortable. It will also help keep your dog’s head above water while they are just learning to swim and keeps them from getting too tired too quickly. Without a lifejacket, your dog may panic when they get into the water and forget to paddle their rear legs. This can cause them to become unbalanced and they may begin swallowing water, which is very scary for them. Once a dog has gone through a scary experience involving water, it may be a lot more difficult to get them to overcome their fear. That’s why you want to give your dog all of the tools they need to learn to swim successfully.

2. Other floatation devices

Certain breeds of dogs may need more than just a lifejacket to help them swim comfortably. Some dogs require a neck floatie or a floatation belt to help regulate their buoyancy in the water. If you’re unsure what type of floatation devices your dog may need, check to see if there's a dog pool near you that may be able to help fit your dog with the right gear, and even provide some swimming lessons to your pooch.

3. Teaching your dog to swim

The absolute worst thing to do when teaching your dog to swim is to just throw them in the water and hope they will figure it out. That is a good way to ensure your dog never goes near water again. Instead, make swimming fun for your dog. Use your dog's favorite toys (that float) and convince your dog to retrieve them for you, gradually throwing them farther and farther away in the water. If your dog prefers treats to toys, use some treats—like Beefy Bites—and use them to coax your dog in. The most important thing to remember is to make swimming fun for your dog so they learn to love it and willingly go in the water.

4. Water safety tips

You should always take precautions when taking your dog swimming, especially if you’re going to be taking them swimming in natural bodies of water. Some bodies of water can develop blue-green algae, a type of cyanobacteria that is fatal to dogs when ingested. The temperature of the water is also an important consideration, as swimming in water that is too cold can cause hypothermia. If your dog swallows too much water while swimming, a life threatening condition called water toxicity can occur.

You’ll also want to consider what other types of wildlife are in the area you take your dog swimming in so your dog doesn’t get snapped by a turtle, or something worse - like an alligator. Discarded fish hooks and fishing line can also pose hazards to your dog.

Swimming is a very strenuous exercise so give your dog a lot of breaks and find shaded areas for them to rest and cool off. Bring your own water along for your pooch to drink so they aren’t tempted to drink the water they’re swimming in. 

5. What if my dog just won’t swim?

After following all these tips and making swimming a fun and safe activity for your dog, they still may not like swimming. If that’s the case for your dog, that’s ok! Instead, set up a baby pool in your backyard and use it to help cool your dog down in the summer. Set up a sprinkler and enjoy the spray of water as you play fetch with your dog in your yard. You can still have fun and cool off with your dog without going swimming.

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