Can all dogs swim?

From Sarah’s Dogs:

All dogs bark… all dogs have the penchant to chew and dig… all dogs beg for food… all dogs can swim. These are only some of the facts and fallacies associated with dog ownership. Which one is true, which one is not? Not all dogs bark. A Basenji for instance makes unique growling and whining sounds but this breed does not bark. Some breeds are voracious eaters, some would be snooty and turn up their noses on food offered by the master. Dogs are supposed to be good swimmers–after all, the doggie paddle swimming stroke was coined from the way a dog swims. Dogs not only make wonderful playmates in the pool or in the lake, but these animals have saved countless lives from drowning. Unfortunately, not all dogs can swim. Retrievers are supposed to take to water like a duck but believe it or not a Golden Retriever, in spite of the family name, may be terrorized by the idea of paddling. Dogs, even of the same breed, differ not only in appearance and in temperament but in capabilities as well.

Some breeds have excellent aquatic tendencies. Retriever breeds, Spanish Water Dogs, Irish Water Spaniel and Irish Setter, the Newfoundland, the Portuguese Water Dog are some of the breeds noted for their outstanding swimming abilities. Swimming lessons will not be necessary; some of these breeds are even web-footed.

Some breed’s effort to swim will be hampered by the conformation. A short-legged toy breed would find it difficult to tread water. Heavy bodied dogs would sink like a sack of rocks even in not so deep water. Bulldogs, dachshunds, basset hounds, pugs, corgis, greyhounds, Scottish and Boston terriers would find swimming difficult. A dog may be capable of swimming but due to a medical concern may not be able to. A Maltese for instance may have the ability to swim but because rheumatism and arthritis is a common concern of the breed, even a heated pool may not be a good idea.

How would you know if the dog is a non-swimmer? Not all dogs love the water but like humans, dogs in deep water would instinctively paddle. A telltale sign though is when the dog frantically slaps the water and uses its front legs to get out. This action is a sign that you have to provide the dog with a PFD (personal flotation device) whenever the dog is in the proximity of a body of water. The life vest would certainly save the life of the pet. A non-swimming dog that fell in the pool cannot doggie paddle indefinitely. Exhaustion, hypothermia or a bump on the noggin will make the dog head to dog heaven.

Dogs though are intelligent creatures. If it is possible to teach them tricks it would also be possible to make the dog love the water. The trick is to build the confidence of the dog. This can be done by introducing the pet to water gradually. It would never be a good idea to throw the dog in the water or to force the pet. It would also be a good idea to teach the dog how to swim while still a puppy when it is still manageable.

And from our good friend and vet Dr. Jon at PetPlace:

Mr. Barnes was in panic mode when he brought Skipster to the clinic. His Brittany spaniel fell into the neighbor’s pool – and he could not get out. There was no ladder, leaving no way for the dog to escape. He kept trying to get out until he became exhausted, and that’s when his owner heard his cries.  He jumped in and got the dog out of the pool.  At the time, he did not think Skipster was breathing.  He turned the dog upside down – with his back legs up in the air and his nose to the ground – and shook him. Then he jumped into the car with him. During the drive he kept pumping and tapping the dog’s chest.

Mr. Barnes saved Skipster’s life.

We treated Skipster and he did great. It took about 4 days in the hospital (two days in ICU) – but he made it.

If something like this happens to your dog, knowing what to do could save his life.  This article has some great tips that every dog owner should know.  Go to:  Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in Dogs Today, Saturday the 15th, Dr. Jon’s PetPlace had some internal website problems, so if the site above doesn’t work, try this one: it’s a video on CPR for dogs:

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A hearty thanks to Dr. Jon and Sarah’s Dogs for this helpful information on keeping our dogs safe.

Can Dogs Swim?

4 thoughts on “Can Dogs Swim?

  • October 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Very interesting, Charlie Bear. Honestly, I assumed all dogs could swim. And how unfair of me! Just because we’ve always had Labs.

    So grateful Mr. Barnes saved Skipster.

    • October 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      I thought all dogs could swim too!
      Thanks for commenting. I’ll tell Charlie Bear that you and Clyde said hi.
      Hugs & Wiggles,
      B.J. & Charlie Bear

  • October 16, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Thank you Charlie Bear for this article. This is Oreo and Rowdy again and we HATE the water and we would probably drown if we fell in a pool or lake, so our Peep Mom needed to know about doggie CPR. She loves us so much and it would break her heart if something happened to us like that and she would not have known what to do. So she liked your article and links to doing doggie CPR, too.

    Keep up the good work and keep teaching things to all the Peep Moms and Dads cuz they need us as much as we need them!

    Woofs and Wiggles,
    Oreo and Rowdy

    • October 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      Oreo and Rowdy,
      So happy your Mom Peep learned about CPR for doggies like us. My Mom did too. They took me to work today — an outing from the house — and I ran all around the warehouse for a couple of hours. It was so much fun to sniff and burrow..
      I hope you have a great rest of the day today.
      Woofs and many wiggles to you both,
      Charlie Bear


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