Water safety and dogs: Not all dogs can (or should) swim

With the weather turning spring-like and summer on the way, it’s natural to look for ways to keep man’s best friend cool. At Presidential Pet Care®, we want to make that easier. And this week, we’re talking about the dogs that are good swimmers, those that are so-so, and those that absolutely should not be put into the water. It’s hard to believe that there are dogs that can’t swim, right?

   Dog swimming with a ball in their mouth     Another dog swimming

There are so many images and videos of dogs frolicking in the water, splashing, and having a good time that it might be easy to think that all dogs can swim. But, that’s not exactly true, for a variety of reasons.

There are many breeds that are great swimmers. There are several though that, because of genetic predispositions, or body characteristics, really shouldn’t be made to swim, because it could be dangerous.


Five breeds that should not be introduced to the pool for swimming lessons


small MalteseMaltese: These pups prefer cuddling on the couch to swimming laps in the pool – and this is partly because their time in the water might lead to other issues, like chills, and arthritis flare-ups. They can paddle, but that doesn’t mean that a dog owner should make them. The cold water or air afterward could lead to the chills, which could worsen other concerns.



Boxer dogBoxers: These dogs make great family pets and can be taught to enjoy the pool, but they aren’t naturally inclined to swim, according to the American boxer Club. This is because they have more of a barrel chest, and are mostly lacking a tail. Swimming just doesn’t come naturally to them.



little pugBulldogs and Pugs: These compact pups have short legs that probably don’t have the power to propel them in the water. They also have rather short snouts, which is why they snort and snuffle when they breathe. They tend to tilt their heads up as they swim, and they usually sink at that point. The shortness of their skulls also contributes to their breathing issues during especially taxing exercise, and that includes swimming.



Basset hound lying downBasset hounds: These dogs were bred for hunting and other activities on land. Their short legs though, and the disproportionate distribution of their weight – they carry most of it in the front – can make swimming a complicated thing. They’ll swim, but they don’t generally enjoy it.



Four breeds that are fabulous swimmers

Labrador retrievers: Like others on this list, a Labrador retriever was bred to retrieve game, including ducks and others from cold water. Labradors can paddle and stay afloat for long periods of time, and also have a high tolerance for cold.

two dogs swimming     Dog leaps into pool

Chesapeake Bay Retriever: Originally bred as a water dog trained to hunt and retrieve ducks, these dogs have dense coats and a strong build. They have stamina and strength that makes swimming and retrieving ducks easier, especially if they’re taught to play in the water and swim at an early age.

Newfoundland: These giant dogs have a heavy coat to protect them from the cold water, and their webbed paws help them to swim more easily. Their size and muscular stature give them strength, and that helps them swim too, without getting tired quickly.

PoodleStandard poodles: These gorgeous dogs were originally bred to retrieve things from the water, despite the fact that people see them as sophisticated. Like the Newfoundland, standard poodles have webbed feet and a water-resistant coat, which makes swimming more fun and easier for them.



Ways to keep your dog safe near the water

There are a few steps you can take to keep Fido safe when you’re near the water, whether they’re in the water or not.

two dogs in the pool

Whether you’re teaching your pup to swim, hanging out at the beach, or in the pool, you’ll want to make sure that they don’t get too warm. It’s always a good idea to have a spot out of the sun where you and your dog can relax this spring and summer.

Dog jumping to catch toy.    She caught the toy and jumped into the water     Dog with pool toy

Always stay near your dog when they’re in or near the water. Then, once you’ve gotten your pup out of the water, make sure you rinse them off and dry their ears completely to keep them from developing an ear infection.


IF you’re just introducing your pup to swimming and water, find a quiet, calm spot and get into the water with them. If your pup begins to paddle with its front legs, show him how to float for a few moments, and then take a break before trying again.

No matter how your dog interacts with the water, at Presidential Pet Care®, you can be sure that our dog walkers and pet sitters will ensure that your dogs are safe near the water. In addition to careful care around the water, our team members will spend up to 60 minutes per visit with your pup, and provide e-journal updates with GPS and time stamps. Learn about our dog walking services, or fill out our new client registration form to get started with us

Lauren Heath
Latest posts by Lauren Heath (see all)