Can all dogs swim?
Why is there the misconception that all dogs swim? The simple fact is that many dogs are certainly not natural swimmers, and probably never will be. Is it because we assume from the primitive ‘dog paddle’ that our young children tend to learn first in their swimming lessons, that this was adopted from our canine friends? The only reason that dogs stay afloat using ‘dog paddle’ is because they cannot rotate their legs to do breaststroke or freestyle like humans can – their joints simply don’t work that way.
Some breeds of dog absolutely love the water, but others have a morbid fear, even though they may have been bred to take water as their second home – they still prefer to be ‘landlubbers’ and will shake and shiver even if their front paws touch the liquid stuff. Owners beware – never throw your dog into water assuming your pooch can swim. Let it come naturally by gradually introducing them to water or letting them follow their canine pals into the water. Often, this encourages them to adopt their own swimming mode, copy the others, and feel safe in this new environment.
Be Aware of What’s in the Water with Your Dog
Be aware of what lies beneath the surface of the stretch of water you choose, as your furry friends can get entangled in vegetation. Also, ensure that you know that the water is safe in terms of pollution – many lakes and rivers are highly toxic to animals if the source of the water is not clean.
Take heed of the sea. Obviously currents can have a frightening effect on dogs if they find it too strong. Best to beware on hot days too, as salt will collect on the skin and hot sunshine will ‘bake’ it on to your dog, and cause discomfort. A beach shower is recommended after sea bathing to remove most of the salt. Swimming for your dog should be a great deal of fun, not a potential life-threatening disaster, which undoubtedly they will remember.
Which dogs can swim and which ones can’t?
Dogs generally fall into three categories in terms of their ability to take to the water.
Many breeds of dog, particularly the medium to large size canines have a more natural ability to swim, and some of course have web-feet such as the Portuguese Water Dog, or ‘Portie’ as they are affectionately known. They were bred to aid sailors and fishermen by fetching and carrying both product and messages many years ago.
The other category at the bottom of water adaptability are smaller breeds that simply won’t be encouraged and have no water tolerance at all. These are safer left in the comfort of the shore and playing ball. There is the question of strength or power, the complexities of their physical structure and even the quality of their coats. This group of ‘water-haters’ will probably never be encouraged to swim and certainly not enjoy it.
Stuck in the middle of these groups is the ‘can swim, won’t swim’ – this group are those that have the ability to float and paddle quite successfully but need a slow encouragement process. Once they get their confidence, there is no stopping them! Once you have paddled in with them a few times and they see that there is no danger to their trusted owner, they will be off like a bullet from a gun!
Whatever you try, some dogs will just never be comfortable in water, nor will they even try to swim. Generally speaking, it is all about their build, as well as the in-built nervous disposition of their characters. These breeds tend to be short-legged and muscular, have large chests tapering down to smaller hindquarters. Lack of desire or fear of swimming is also manifested in ‘brachy breeds’ (brachycephalic), due to the respiratory problems associated with dogs of a certain skull structure and short muzzles. Their respiratory organs tend to be abnormal in comparison to other breeds, making breathing difficult, which we all know after swimming or trying to stay afloat is a big problem.
As an indication, the following breeds will, by rule, be difficult to train to enjoy water or simply won’t even consider it. In some cases, encouragement can be given by using ‘doggie floatation vests’ until they gain confidence with water. No different to children really who have the use of inflated armbands or rubber rings! Don’t be disheartened though, if they prefer to watch your exertion from the safety of their dog blanket and chow down on a bone or treat – leave them to it in their comfort zone to avoid problems and just accept it.
‘Brachy Dogs’ That Should Not Swim
This list is by no means comprehensive, but you can tell mainly from the skeletal structure of any particular breed, whether they fall into this category.
Other Non-Swimming Dog Breeds
This list is by no means comprehensive – it’s a big world out there and there can be exceptions to the rule, this is merely a guideline.
If you want to be confident that the dog you purchase is going to be the next Olympic Doggie Gold Medallist or winner of the Triple Jump off the longest pontoon, stick to labradors, retrievers, water dogs, Newfoundlands and poodles for guaranteed synchronized swimming with your pooch!
My dogs have given me an entirely new spiritual perspective on life. I now have a genuine understanding of unconditional love and provision.