Given the term “doggy paddle”, you might think that all dogs can swim. Dogs have natural abilities and instincts to do many things, not limited to barking, licking etc… but what about swimming? Actually, swimming doesn’t come naturally to all dogs. So the short answer to the question “Can all dogs swim?” is no! But read on for more detail…
Not water babes?
There are the obvious ones – Labradors, English Setters, Golden Retrievers and Spaniels to name a few – that usually love water. This is a mixture of physical attributes and genetic predisposition. Those that are excellent swimmers have strong limbs which of course helps. This talent may stem from their genes as many would have been bred to perform tasks that involved swimming, such as retrieval of waterfowl. Then there are dogs that are not suited to swimming. This doesn’t mean they don’t like water, they are just not designed for swimming well. Breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Dachshunds and Boxers would all fall into this category. These breeds have either short legs, a long back, or are flat-faced brachycephalic breeds (short airways result in a higher risk of inhaling water as they breathe through their mouths).
Some dogs that have a complete fear of the water and can panic in deep or shallow water – this is not a good combination. This is not breed specific as we found with our lovely chocolate Labrador. Oscar loved swimming whereas Hooch wouldn’t venture out of the shallows. This stemmed from Hooch jumping into a pond as an exuberant pup and very quickly needing to be retrieved. Caution around water followed and Hooch remained a “I need to feel the bottom” swimmer.
Teaching a dog to swim
Of course it goes without saying that taking your dog for a swim should be approached with the same care as taking a child for a swim, particularly if it’s the first time. There are lots of products that make good buoyancy aids for dogs and always be aware of yours and your dog’s limits! If you can, start your dog swimming when they are young and go slow. Use treats as rewards and give lots of praise. If you can start with a paddling pool or a shallow spot. Otherwise it’s a good idea to support your puppy’s tummy to help build confidence if they sink. If you’re out in nature, look out for algae as this can make your dog sick.
Approached gradually and with awareness, your dog should be able to develop a healthy appreciation of water. And if their physique allows, may also enjoy a few lengths of doggy paddle once in a while!
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