With the warm summer months upon us, we may be taking to lakes, streams, and ocean-side beaches to rest, relax, and cool off with friends and family. Many of us have dogs who like to get in on the fun, but does that mean that all dogs swim? Like anything, a dog's preference for swimming will depend on the dog, although some breeds are naturally more suited to hold their own in the water than others.
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Do all dogs like swimming?
Do all dogs like to swim? Of course not! Like people, some dogs will prefer a nice soak or splash in the water, while others might be more comfortable lounging poolside or doing some other (dry) activity entirely. Dog breeds that are known to generally enjoy water-based activities include Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs, retrievers and many types of spaniels, which were bred to be naturally good swimmers over time. For these dogs and others like them, swimming can not only offer a cooling relief from the summer heat, it also serves as an effective and engaging form of exercise that stimulates both their bodies and minds. Swimming with a dog can also provide a good bonding experience between a canine and its guardian, assuming both the person and their dog enjoy it.
Breeds that won’t swim
Some people may believe that all dogs know how to swim, but unfortunately, that just isn't the case. Dogs with unevenly distributed weight, like Bulldogs, who are very front heavy, can struggle greatly in the water, and should absolutely never be left to swim without a floatation device as they can easily sink. Short-legged dogs, like Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Pugs, can have trouble staying afloat for very long as well, simply thanks to the nature of their design.
That's not to say that these types of dogs don't enjoy getting wet, however, especially on very hot days, or even for some fun playtime. Brachycephalic breeds could even use a little extra help keeping cool on especially warm afternoons and might benefit from a cool splash or a wet towel around the neck. If you do have a dog who falls under the "non-traditional swimmer" category who happens to love being in the water, you can help them enjoy being off the land by using life jackets, keeping an eye on them at all times and making sure they're within immediate reach and keeping them confined to shallow water, like streams or shorelines, for safety's sake.
Keeping your canine safe around water
Regardless of the type of dog you have, if you know they enjoy swimming and you plan to take them out, there are certain things to keep in mind which can help prevent possible injuries or accidents. First, always make sure your dog is supervised when he's anywhere near water. A dog life jacket is recommended for all dogs regardless of how well they do in water, especially if your dog will be in a deep body of water, like a lake or ocean. Many dogs may not recognize their limits in the water and might want to swim for longer than they should, so use your judgment as a guardian to call it quits when it's time to do so, especially if you're playing fetch games that send your dog out into the distance to retrieve an object.
If you have an in-ground pool at your home, be sure to keep it covered when you're not around, and keep your dogs locked up securely to limit the possibility of someone slipping in and becoming stuck with no one around to help. Chlorine can be harmful to some dogs and may cause irritation to the skin, eyes, or nose. While most dogs can tolerate a dip in a chlorinated pool, take note if your dog seems itchy after a dip, and absolutely keep him away from chlorine tablets used to treat water, which can be toxic when ingested. Bromine is a commonly used pet-safe alternative to chlorine if your dog seems to have a reaction to it.
Some dogs may be born to swim, but not all dogs enjoy it, and some are even poorly designed to do so safely. Always be sure to supervise your dog if you decide to take her out on open water, no matter how practiced she may be at doing laps. Life jackets are a good idea for all dogs, especially ones with short legs who may not be able to tread for very long. Finally, do not push your dog to swim if she doesn't want to — forcing a dog to swim is potentially dangerous, and can create negative associations with water throughout her lifetime.