Both in real life and in the movies, dogs are portrayed as water-loving animals. They would frolic along the water and then eventually jump and start their signature doggy-paddling. Most pooches seem to have an innate talent for swimming. However, can all dogs swim?
Sadly, not all canines possess the natural ability to swim. There are several factors that cause this and impede them from keeping themselves afloat in the water. Yes, on some pooches, even doggy-paddling will not be able to help them much in swimming.
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If they are not innate swimmers, what’s up with the doggy-paddle?
Doggy-paddle is a natural instinct in canines that is believed to be hardwired in their genes as a result of their ancestor’s need to swim. Although it may look like an assuring gesture that a pooch knows how to swim, do not be fooled! Just because they know how to doggy-paddle, it does not mean that they can float and wade in the water.
In order to feel stable in the water, canines reflexively resort to making kicking motions. You can compare these impulsive movements to how we reflexively pull our hand away from a steaming hot plate of food.
Several pooches use doggy-paddle to push them forward in the water. They would commonly use the same movements to walk on land. Some dogs immediately learn how to swim, whilst others might take some time to get used to gliding in the water.
3 Types of Swimmers
1. Good Swimmers
Most dogs that are natural-born swimmers are water dog breeds. Their genes grant them their ability since they were bred to fetch waterfowls, do water rescues, and have a long-standing tradition of swimming. Thus, they have a strong affinity for water.
You can tell if a canine is built for swimming by observing their body characteristics. Most of them have longer legs, water-resistant coats, otter-like tails, and an evenly distributed body weight. One of the most evident indicators that a dog is a skilled swimmer is having webbed feet.
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Best Swimming Dogs
They are primarily bred for retrieving games from lakes and rivers, which makes them very acquainted with water. In fact, even their name is associated with it. Poodle came from the German term ‘pudel,’ which means to splash.
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NewfoundlandThese dogs may have huge bulky bodies but they are exceptional swimmers. They are famous working dogs both on land and on water. Newfoundlands were tasked with towing lines from ships to land in harsh seas and rescuing stray swimmers. Back in the day, these canines even became a requirement at lifeguard stations along the British coast.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever‘Chessies,’ as they are commonly called, are well-known as the toughest of the water retrievers. These dogs have the amazing ability to swim and dive in freezing cold waters. It is believed that their nearly waterproof coat, which is made up of a thick undercoat and a coarse, wind-resistant outer coat, help them ward off the coldness.
English SetterThey were mainly bred to point and fetch game in the English moors, so do not be surprised if English setters love wading in water more than trotting on land.
Irish Water SpanielThis canine is primarily bred as a water retriever and a sporting dog. Irish water spaniels sport tight curls and double coat that help them withstand rough weather conditions.
2. Bad Swimmers
Majority of the dog breeds that fall under this category have physical characteristics that inhibit them from swimming. Take note of these following features, which signal that they should not be left unattended in the water:
It includes brachycephalic breeds or canines with flat faces. They do not do well with water since they must tilt their heads up and their backs down to prevent drowning. Since this is a hard position to maintain, they would start to sink underwater.
It is hard for pooches to stay afloat in water since they will struggle to paddle for a longer period of time due to their short legs. Moreover, they also cannot wade much in the water, which hampers them from swimming to different directions.
Dogs with this physical characteristic must have a constant companion when swimming since they will more likely drown. They might not be able to support their weight because of the heaviness of their chest. Plus, their coat will become waterlogged and weighed down.
Dog Breeds That Cannot Swim (Although There Are a Few Exceptions)
Above all dog breeds, bulldogs rank first that need high supervision when going for a swim. They are brachycephalic canines with short legs, barrel chests, and large heads, which extremely impede them from doggy-paddling enough to keep them afloat. Home visit to check if family swimming pools are securely fenced is becoming a common requirement for several breeders and rescue groups.
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Although they have longer muzzles, their short statures and heavy chests hinder them from becoming great swimmers. If you want to take these pooches for a quick dip in the pool, make sure to let them paddle only in chest-deep water.
This breed possesses huge head, thick bone structure, and disproportionately short legs, which give him a very difficult time in swimming. Basset hound also has long ears that are prone to various waterborne diseases and infections.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Keeping his head above water for a long period of time will be very challenging for a Staffie since he has a compact and heavy muscle mass. Plus, the size of his head and weight are uneven with his body, which makes swimming even harder.
This dog breed has a short snout that shortens his breathing and prevents him from swimming for extended periods of time. Ultimately, it would also be difficult for him to keep his muzzle above water.
If your dog belongs to this category, it does not mean that he is ultimately restricted from swimming. You can provide him with a life jacket when out on the water to ensure safety, then both of you can enjoy the coolness of the sea.
3. Potential Swimmers
This category is composed of any type of dog breed that has the ability to swim. However, they fear the water, which stops them from having fun in swimming. If they dislike water, do not force them because it will only cause your canine to panic, which can lead to faster exhaustion. Instead, you can start by training him how to swim. Follow these handy tips to convince your pooch that wading in the water is not that bad:
If your dog loves to play fetch, use it to your advantage. Include floating toys or tennis balls in your dog swimming lessons.
Go in the pool first and let him see that it is not as scary as he thinks. If he follows you, be sure to praise him and reward him with treats.
Bring him to a dog pool where he can see other pooches swimming in the water. It will entice him to join in on the fun.
‘Natural-Born Swimmers’ Do Not Apply to All Canines
Although dogs are known for their signature move ‘doggy-paddling’ in the water, not all of them are excellent swimmers as we are led to believe. Dogs that do well in the water are mostly comprised of water breed dogs that are built for catching waterfowls in rivers, lakes, and moors.
Meanwhile, a dog breed that needs constant supervision has body features such as short legs and heavy chest, which make it difficult for them to swim. Provide them with life jackets if you want to take them out for a swim. Lastly, other canines have the ability to swim but are afraid of the water, which can be corrected through appropriate training.