Golden Retriever in Pool

Considering how popular the phrase “dog paddle” is, most people assume that all dogs are natural swimmers. However, depending on their breed, the size of their legs, or how much body fat they have, dogs may have difficulty swimming. Forcing your dog into the water is never a good idea but there are ways to help your dog become a better swimmer. Keep in mind some breeds are just not suited for swimming so talk with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Start Slow

Don’t assume your dog will just happily jump in the first time they see water. When first introducing them to swimming, start slow. Take them to a beach that allows dogs and start by keeping them where the water is really shallow before moving further in.  If they appear to be apprehensive at certain depths, head back to shallower water.

Be sure to read your dog’s body language while in the water. Swimming can be both tiring and a little stressful for a dog who isn’t used to water. Always play it safe and get your dog out of the water before they become exhausted or anxious.


The actual swimming may not be what your dog will enjoy when it comes to water. They may prefer a simple game of fetch or tag in shallow water. Be sure to bring soft, floatable toys that are easy to see and a cinch for them to grab with their teeth when they are frolicking in the waves or kiddie pool.

Playing fetch in the water (or anywhere else) with nearby branches or sticks is not recommended. They could have sharp edges that could hurt the insides of your dog’s mouth. As well, they may chew through them with their teeth, causing a chocking hazard.

Life Jackets

Life jackets made specifically for dogs have increased in popularity over the years. These jackets should fit on them comfortably, leaving them with the ability to move easily, see easily both to the left and right, and go to the bathroom without issue.

The jackets will give your pup the added ability to float without needing to paddle and will increase their confidence in the water. Life jackets are highly recommended if you are taking them on a boat, even if they are good swimmers. Most life jackets for dogs are equipped with a handle for you to quickly assist your dog out of the water when they need a break.

Pool Party

If your dog is a strong swimmer, they will probably enjoy swimming in pools. As fun as this may be, never leave your dog unattended and ensure they are wearing their life jacket in the water in case they get too tired to paddle during their adventure. Try to keep their swimming activities close to an easy exit out of the pool. If they can’t see an easy way out like steps, they may stay in longer and get tired out. As well, be watchful that your dog’s toenails don’t accidentally injure one of their fellow swimmer while they are dog paddling.

After your dog has spent time in the pool, they should be rinsed off with clean water so that none of the chlorine or other chemicals stays in their fur.

Going Through the Motions

Most dogs will naturally paddle their legs when in water. However, depending on the breed, they may not necessarily be able to keep afloat. Dogs with short legs may find swimming difficult as they can’t paddle their legs enough to create the thrust needed to stay above water. Meanwhile, dogs like Dobermans or Greyhounds have very little body fat, which makes it difficult for them to stay afloat.

However, no matter what breed they are, each dog is an individual. Depending on their personality, some may simply not like being in the water. If your pup just doesn’t enjoy swimming, keeping them in very shallow water may be your only option. But don’t worry, they will probably still like being in water that is just high enough to cover their paws, which is the easiest way for them to cool off when the temperatures heat up.

Whether you are introducing your pup to a pool or a beach, just be sure to start slow and limit their water activity time. Keep these tips in mind and water sports will become a fun part of your dog’s summer.