Can Dogs Swim? Dog Swimming Tips for Summer

15 Minute Read
Updated May 24, 2024

Thinking about taking your dog to the lake his summer? Lakes, pools, and other safe bodies of water are a great way to help your dog exercise, teach them new skills, and keep them cool on a hot summer day.

But before you let them cannonball into the water, it's important to teach them how to navigate the water safely. 

Fortunately, most dogs can swim, and even the ones who aren't natural-born swimmers can learn the skills to stay afloat with your assistance and under the right conditions.


Benefits of Dog Swimming

If you are looking for a new way to change up your dog's outdoor activities, increase their exercise, or just find a fun summer activity you can enjoy together, than swimming is a great option.

Whether your dog is practically amphibious or getting ready to dip their toes in water for the first time, swimming can have many benefits for your dog's physical and mental health.

    • Exercise: Swimming is an excellent way to boost activity, especially in lazy dogs. Water workouts can range from slow and low-impact dog paddling, to high-energy water fetch and dock diving.
    • Variety: Dogs are very curious and love to explore. Swimming is a great way to add some variety to their routine and their environment. Keeping their routine exciting is a great way to stave off boredom.
    • Cooling: One of the best ways to cool off on a hot summer day, is to go for a swim. For dogs, the cooling effect of swimming lasts long after they leave the water. The water that evaporates from their skin and coat helps to draw out body heat, similar to how dog cooling gear works.
    • Physical Therapy: Hydrotherapy is a type of physical therapy for pets and people that has been growing in popularity over the last decade. Swimming, and even walking in water can help to reduce stress on joints while still allowing your pet to exercise. This is ideal for hip and joint issues, recovering from injuries, and even for supporting extremely overweight pets in their weight loss journey.
    • Bonding: Swimming is yet another activity that you and your dog can do together. Whether you like to hike, kayak, paddleboard, or just take a dip in your own pool on a hot summer day, teaching your dog to be safe and confident in the water will give you one more reason to take your pooch on as your adventure companion.


Can All Dogs Swim?


You might assume that if you chuck your dog in the water, he's going to float. While this is true for many dogs, there are plenty of pups that need a quick lesson before diving into anything deeper than a puddle.

Most dogs can instinctually keep their heads above water briefly, but that doesn't mean that every dog will be able to navigate the water safely without some kind of support and practice.

It's possible for all dogs to learn to swim, but not all of them will be naturally good at it, and some will need support.

Knowing which dogs are built for swimming and which ones need some practice, will help you keep your dog safe, no matter where your summer activities take you.

5 Best Water Dogs

Some dogs were literally bred for swimming. These are the aquatic dog breeds that not only enjoy swimming, they practically demand it. Unsurprisingly, most of these breeds are high-energy and very smart, so adding swimming, water fetch, and dog water sports to their summer routine is a great way to keep them from getting bored.

Here are some of the best dog swimmers who would be more than happy to chaperone your next aquatic adventure.

Labrador Retrievers

Probably the most well-known breed on our list, and one of the most popular dog breeds in Canada, the Labrador Retriever is a natural-born swimmer. Originally bred to work alongside fishermen, this large breed is no stranger to the water.


Don't judge a dog by it's haircut. Though many poodles are known for being fancy show dogs, they are actually great water dogs. Poodles are very comfortable in the water thanks to their heritage of helping hunters retrieve waterfowl.

Irish Water Spaniels

When a dog breed has water in their name, you know they must be strong swimmers. This large breed may look like a giant teddy bear, but they are full of energy and stamina, making them great adventure companions.


You might be surprised to see this giant burly breed on the list, but Newfies are actually excellent swimmers with a lot of stamina. Despite their large size and dense coat, Newfoundlands love the water and thanks to their webbed paws, can doggy-paddle like a pro.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Duck Tolling Retrievers were hunting companions for duck and fowl hunters. They love the water and can deal with cooler temperatures. Their slick coats make them aerodynamic in the water and keep them from getting water-logged.

Just because your dog is a water dog breed doesn't mean they are automatically going to be amazing swimmers.

Even the best doggy swimmers can have trouble in the water. Safety gear like dog life vests should always be used to keep your dog safe.

Dog Breeds That Can't Swim

Not all dogs are confident or graceful in the water. This doesn't mean they can't learn to swim, but they will need plenty of practice and the right flotation tools and supervision to keep them safe.

Breeds that aren't great swimmers tend to have a few physical traits in common:

    • Brachycephalic: Dogs with short snouts, like pugs and bulldogs, are not well-designed for swimming. Their congested nasal passage makes them susceptible to shortness of breath when exercising. The short length of the snout also makes it more difficult for them to keep their airway above water.
    • Short-Legged Breeds: Dogs with comically short legs and long bodies are also not the best swimmers. Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Corgis all fall under this category. Their doggy paddle is more of a doggy wiggle, which is not an effective way to tread water. They often lack the dexterity and physical stamina to swim well.
    • Dense-Muscular Breeds: This one might be surprising, but some muscular dog breeds are too dense to be great swimmers. Staffordshire Bull Terries, for example, have the stamina and strength, and they may even have long legs to paddle, but their density and barrel chests make it difficult for these breeds to tread water for too long.


How to Teach a Dog to Swim


Before you take your dog to the lake for their first swim, you should be prepared for the fact that they might need some training or gear to keep them safe in the water. Here are some easy steps for teaching your dog the skills and confidence they need to stay safe.

1. Make sure they are comfortable getting wet

Some dogs love the water, while other more dramatic dogs will act like it burns. If your dog tucks tail and runs whenever a tap or hose turns on, then you need to spend some time getting them used to water and take away the fear that has the potential to cause panic and put your dog at greater risk of struggling in the water.

2. Coax them into the water with you

The first time you take your dog to a large body of water, whether it's a pool or a lake, it's important that you go in with them. This will show them that it's safe to get into the water and you can make the idea of swimming more exciting and fun. If they are hesitant to follow you, try to make the water part of a game. Grab a fetch toy that your dog loves and lob it into the water. Don't throw it too far though. If you can get them to dip their toes in the water to grab the toy, this is a win.

3. Start with Short Swimming Sessions

Swimming is an excellent workout, but it can be tiring for dogs that are not used to this activity. Keep sessions short and give them breaks out of the water to relax. Like any workout, short reps are recommended to improve stamina.

4. Safe Escape Route

How to safely get in the water is just as important as getting out. Beaches are pretty straightforward, but if you are boating with your dog, jumping off of raised docks, or even taking a dip in your own pool, teaching your dog the safe way to use ramps, stairs or ladders will ensure they can get our the water when they need to.

5. Practice Good Recall

Teaching your dog good recall will help prevent them from swimming out too far and putting themselves in danger. Keeping them close enough to you that you can swim out to them quickly to provide assistance is necessary is important, so make sure your dog knows to come back when he's called.

Check out Dog Recall Training for more tips to teach your dog to stay safe off-leash and in public areas.



Where Should You Take Your Dog Swimming?

There are multiple options for letting your dog go for a swim, each with their own risks and benefits. Choosing the right swimming location can ensure that your dog stays safe and their aquatic outings are fun for everyone.

Can Dogs Swim in Lakes?

If you spend your weekends hiking and camping, then lakes and beaches are probably your preference. Lake swimming is a great option for dogs that have good recall and listen well to verbal commands.

Lakes offer a much bigger space and varied terrain to exit and enter the water easily. These are great options for dogs who love to play water fetch and are confident swimmers. Water sports such as paddle boarding or canoeing can also be enjoyed by dogs.

It is important to note though, that lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water have risks. Currents, undertowes, and wildlife can all make a fun day at the beach turn into a scary situation fast. Make sure you stay close to your dog and that they are always wearing protective water gear, like a dog life jacket.

Can Dogs Swim in Chlorine Pools?

For beginners or dogs that need a more contained area, testing their swimming skills in a pool can be a good option. It is easier to keep your dog within arms reach and control how deep the water gets.

Swimming pools also allow your dog to practice swimming without the risk of water currents dragging them around. You can practice jumping in the water, fetching toys, and just building up stamina in a safer environment.

Can Dogs Swim in Salt Water?

If you live near an ocean or have a salt water pool, you might be wondering if swimming in salt water is safe for dogs. Dogs can swim in salt water, but you do need to be a little more vigilant. The main concern is is ingestion. Consuming a little water while swimming is hard for dogs to avoid, but salt water can be a big issue if your dog ingests too much.

In small doses, drinking salt water can lead to mild dehydration, but in larger doses, it can cause saltwater poisoning. You'll need to monitor your pet closely in salt water to make sure they aren't drinking salt water. You'll also want to bring plenty of fresh clean water for your dog to drink.


Dog Water Safety Tips


Of course, any of the dogs on our aquatically challenged list can learn to swim, but lots of practice, appropriate supervision, and the correct safety gear should be considered to keep your dog above water.

Before you take your dog for a dip, you should always keep their safety in mind. Here are a few things you should do to prepare for a fun and safe water excursion:

Check the Temp

Even if the weather feels warm, that doesn't mean the water is. Check the water temp before letting your dog dive in. Not all dogs are built for cold water activities. If they stay in cold water for too long, they could end up with a nasty case of hypothermia.


Whenever your dog has access to open water, it's vital that you consider currents and undertows. Even slow-moving eater can have its dangers. Keep your dog close to you, and avoid bodies of water that have unpredictable currents.


The depth of the water can be a factor too. Having a shallower section of water where your dog can touch the ground when he's feeling tired is always a safe bet. Encourage your dog to stay within a certain distance of the shallower water.


Dogs will naturally be curious about wildlife in and around the water. Fish, birds, and other aquatically inclined creatures may catch your dog's attention. Make sure your dog has good recall skills and responds well to verbal commands.

Water Quality

Lakes and ponds can harbour bacteria, fungi, and parasites. One common concern for dogs that swim in stagnant water is swimmers' itch. Swimmers itch in dogs is a rash that is caused by small parasites. 

In addition to the skin issues these worms can cause when ingested, the internal parasites can colonize the digestive tract and cause even more health issues. Stick to clean flowing bodies of water to minimize the risk of infection.

Water Toxicity

Unlike humans who avoid getting lake water in our mouths at all costs, your dog is not as picky. He will likely end up swallowing some water during his swim. In some cases, dogs consume too much water, leading to water toxicity, or hyponatremia. This is common in dogs that don't swim all that well and struggle to keep their mouth out of the water while swimming.


Lakes and ponds can have dangerous debris floating in them. This could be something as common as seaweed or logs, to trash and other waste. To your dog, this debris might look like food or a toy that could tempt your dog to chase it further out than it's safe for them to swim. Alternatively, they could ingest something that could be a choking hazard.

Sun Exposure

Most doggy swimming activities happen during the hotter summer months, which means your dog is probably spending a lot of time in the sun. Though many dogs can handle moderate summer temps, prolonged sun exposure leads to sunburns, dehydration, and overheating.

Life Jacket

All dogs can benefit from water safety gear like a dog life vest. Whether your dog is a first-time swimmer or if he practically lives in the water all summer long, a dog life vest is an extra assurance that your dog will keep his head above water if he gets tired or overwhelmed in the water.

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Best Dog Water Toys

Floating dog toys are a great way to encourage your dog to be active in the water. Make sure that you bring along a floating dog toy to make swimming a fun and rewarding game. Playing fetch in the water with your dog encourages more physical activity and can help tucker your dog out even more than a walk.

While some dogs can handle short dives for sinking toys, it's safest to encourage your dog to stay above water. Toys that don't absorb water will also reduce the amount of water your dog ingests while swimming.

There are many brands to pick from such as as ChuckIt, Ruffwear, Kong and many more. Here are some of our favourite floating dog toys. 

1. Ruffwear Lunker Floating Throw Toyruffwear-lunker-dog-toy

If your dog is a true water dog, then the Ruffwear Lunker is the toy for you. The soft throw toy relies on 100% recyclable foam panels to keep it afloat. The durable polyester fabric makes it lightweight and easy to pick up but durable enough for dogs that play hard.

2. West Paw Design Sailz Dog Toy


Frisbees make great water toys because they are easier to see and grab, but the West Paw Design Sailz Frisbee is our favourite. Made from recyclable Zogoflex material and recycled ocean-bound plastic, called Seaflex, this disc is lightweight, flexible, and durable, and it floats! The toy is good for small dogs or big dogs.

3. Chuckit! Launcher and Chuckit! Ultra Balls



For dogs with lots of energy, the Chuckit! Launcher is just what you need to bring to the beach. This classic launcher not only lets you throw the ball farther, but you never have to touch the soaked and slimy ball with your hands. Chuckit! Ultra Balls float too, so you'll never lose a ball in the water again!

4. Kurgo Skipping Stones


These floating skipping stones are an excellent toy to take to the lake. Kurgo Skipping Stones are shaped like real stones and they are fun for both you and your pooch. They come in three bright colours for better visibility.

5. RuffDawg Fish


You won't find a more fitting design for a floating dog toy than the Ruffdawg Fish. This durable rubber fish bounces and floats making it fun to fetch both in the water and out. Choose from two sizes, the minnow or the aptly named flying fish to find the perfect pool or lake toys for dogs of all sizes.

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Dog Swimming FAQs

How Long Can a Dog Swim Before Drowning?

The length of time that dogs can swim will vary depending on their breed, age, mobility, and stamina. 5-10 minute intervals are fine for most beginner swimmers, while some more advanced dogs can handle longer sessions. Allow your dog to take frequent breaks from the water.

Can Dogs Swim in Chlorine Pools?

Letting your dog swim in a controlled area, like your pool may seem like the safest option, but there are risks. Letting your dog swim in a chlorinated pool can irritate sensitive skin, so it's best to rinse your dog with fresh clean water after each session. Additionally, drinking from chemically treated water sources can be dangerous for dogs.

Where Can I Take My Dog Swimming?

Pools, especially public pools, rarely allow pets, so your best bet is to find a local lake or beach that is dog-friendly. Also, search for local dog-friendly events that may offer swimming or other water activities.

Is swimming stressful for dogs?

First-timers may have some reservations about swimming at first, but with the right encouragement, tools, and environment, most dogs enjoy swimming. If your dog is showing any signs of distress in the water, make sure to remove them immediately.

Do I Need to Rinse My Dog After Swimming?

No matter where your dog swims, it's a good idea to rinse your dog with clean water after swimming. This will help to remove any dirt, bacteria, or chemicals that they may have come in contact with. The Kurgo Mud Shower is a helpful tool when you don't have running water available.

Adventure Shop 2024

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.


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