Can my dog swim?

Dog looking at the water               white dog by pond

Can’t all dogs swim, like a natural instinct of some sort?? Yes and no; dogs will naturally start a “dog paddle” of some sort around water, but it is not ideal to assume yours can or wants to.

According to an article written by Dr. Marty Becker, DVM on, dogs that cannot swim well are typically those with large, heavy chests in relation to their hindquarters. This also includes ones with short muzzles such as the bulldog. These breeds can splash around some under supervision and would greatly benefit from a properly fitted life vest. Be sure to have precautions in place if you own a pool that your dog may come in contact with (backyard, gates, etc.). 

As defined below, if you are going to a local park where swimming is allowed; it would be a good practice to know what the state of the water is like during this time of the year (temperature, depth, vegetation, cleanliness, wildlife, etc.). 

Unsure if your pup likes swimming? This plays into knowing his/her personality/background history/breed genetics. In a safe, calm environment, perhaps even a certified animal swim center, there are plenty of resources that can help you and your pup tackle swimming lessons together. It can be a great joy for them or possibly just not their forte. 


Tips for teaching your dog how to swim


dog laying in kiddie pool

Rules and Precautions

Northern Virginia is gifted with many beautiful parks and waterways open to the public. But before the fun begins, we need to know how some parks operate and potential dog policies. Every place is different and unique in its own way, just like the beautiful pups who visit them! 





#1: Bring plenty of supplies!


Dog looking at waterWASTE BAGS: Virginia law states that all visitors must pick up their dog’s waste, so it’s best to have plenty of bags and know where you can properly dispose of them. 

WATER/FOOD/TREATS & BOWL: With the warm weather here now, it is of vital importance to have plenty of water to keep your pup(s) hydrated and to prevent any medical emergencies. Food and treats will be dependent on where and how long you will be out of the house to keep up their energy; plus who doesn’t love a sweet treat after swimming?!?

ANY MEDICAL/SAFETY ITEMS YOU MAY NEED: Does your pup have a health condition? Do you know what to expect in the area you’re headed to? Does your pup need a life vest (as defined above)? While it may be the nice, quiet park you’ve been to a hundred times, it is definitely worth the time to put together a first aid kit of sorts to be prepared for possible injuries/illnesses/wildlife encounters/etc.


HERE you can find one of many lists to help get you thinking ahead of time on what you should bring on your fun trip with Fido!


#2: Read Up!


Dog on waterWhether it’s a new park or one of great familiarity, it’s a good practice to keep in the know of any physical or policy changes within the park! One of the more common policies dog owners see is that all dogs must be on a leash the entire time. In a well-maintained park, you will see plenty of signs, pamphlets, and even staff that can help any questions you may have.

As someone who has traveled around the Northern Virginia parks for many years now, I can assure you this is important though it may not seem so. The park associations go through many changes due to more money for expansion, new management, and in some cases needing to change a rule or two due to a past incident.  

A great deal of this requires you to have a working knowledge of your dog’s personality. As defined above, some pups do not thrive in these types of environments; especially if a specific area is known to be very crowded, or too deep to swim in during certain times. BUT, with preparation and experience, others do and will greatly admire spending time with you, having fun in the water!


Dog-friendly parks

Yay! You packed up, got the excited pup secured, where to?? Firstly, your pup may enjoy your own pool or even a kiddie pool just to cool down in as seen above. Did you know they even make bone-shaped ones for dogs!?! But if the desire is for one of the many beautiful, local parks that allow swimming for dogs, let us help you out with some options below.

Pets in VA state parks




  • Great Waves Waterpark / 4001 Eisenhower Avenue/ Alexandria, VA
  • Pirate Cove’s Waterpark / 6501 Pohick Bay Drive/ Lorton, VA
  • Atlantis Waterpark / 7700 Bull Run Drive/ Centreville, VA
  • Ocean Dunes Waterpark / 6060 Wilson Boulevard/ Arlington, VA


These are just some of the many places to explore in Northern Virginia with Fido! If you are interested in actual swimming lessons for your pup; Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center is located at 35469 Millville Road in Middleburg, VA


Presidential Pet Care is a force-free dog walking and pet sitting company located in Northern Virginia that facilitates harmonious relationships between people and their pets. To learn more about our dog walking, pet sitting, field trips or overnights, check out our services page, call us at 571-730-7730 or use our form on our contact page! You can also check out our online store that has a variety of pet products that your pet will love!

Similar article: Water Safety and Dogs

Lauren Heath
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