Are Dogs Natural Swimmers? (Best Dog Breeds and Quick Facts)

Perhaps you have watched your dog thrive in water. Your lovely dog could have pulled off some “Olympics-grade” swimming moves and an impressed you must have thought dogs are born with an innate swimming aptitude. But in reality, are dogs natural swimmers?

No, not all dogs thrive at (or enjoy) swimming. While dog breeds like Poodle and Labrador Retrievers excel at swimming, others like bulldogs and corgis dread water. Water Spaniels and Labradors have webbed feet and strong limbs, enabling them to paddle through water easily. Others like corgis and bulldogs have significantly short legs and bodies shaped like barrels. This prevents them from swimming for long.

Are Dogs Instinctive Swimmers?

Dogs that can naturally stay afloat in water tend to be instinctive swimmers. Not all dogs can physically remain afloat.

Others, given their build (especially barreled-chested breeds), are more prone to drowning when sustainably immersed in water.

That said, thanks to their survival instincts, almost all dogs can swim when there is an acute threat to their lives.

What Dogs are the Best Swimmers?

Let us talk about some of the best swimming dog breeds and some features that make them aquatically proficient.


This is one of the best swimming dog breeds. Many features contribute to Newfoundland’s capacity to thrive in water.

First are its webbed feet. When you add this to this breed’s muscular build and double coat, you get a dog that is strong enough to paddle through water for long distances and even hold its own against strong tides.

Irish Water Spaniel

You know this dog can swim like hell when you hear water in its name. Irish water spaniels are ancestrally bred to retrieve waterfowl.

They are suited with their curly coats, which prevent them from catching chills when swimming. The coat repels water.

What is more, this dog’s webbed feet ensure they are not drowning even in lengthy swimming sessions.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

This is another retriever dog that has historically thrived in water – particularly chilly water. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s coat boasts marked density and waterproof capacity, insulating it from the cold when swimming.

While the exterior layer of their coat does well in resisting winds and currents, its inner coat is rough and keeps the body generally warm in water.


Otterhound loves a good swim any time, any day. They are energetic and can propel themselves through water.

Otterhounds enjoy superior propulsion through water, thanks to their webbed feet. Otterhounds have a thick coat to keep them warm when swimming too.

Portuguese Water Dog

This is another swimming expert among the canine family. It may interest you to know that the first breeders of the Portuguese water dog fostered this dog to help them drive fish shoals into their net when fishing at sea.

Despite being adapted into a family companion, the Portuguese water dog remains a swimmer at heart. This dog has an athletic body that aids its swimming escapades.

Gordon Setters

Gordon Setters were first bred to hunt quails. They love water and will always fancy a swim when possible.

In addition to its nimble body build, this dog breed has a strong tail which enhances its capacity to steer through water.


This guy is an energy box. Originating from Northern France, Brittany is one of the best swimming dog breeds.

This dog is helped in water by its well-toned build and being leggy. Add this to the fact that it has relentless stamina, you get a Brittany that can swim for hours.

Labrador Retriever

Without question, Labrador retriever is a chieftain among the swimmer dog community. It has a prehistoric disposition towards fishing as it used to help anglers long ago to retrieve fish.

It is furnished with a double coat, making it less vulnerable to chilling when swimming in ponds and rivers. Its coat is water-resistant as well.


The truth is, you will struggle to keep this guy out of water. This is one of the strongest instinctive swimmers among the dog family.

Guess what? The name “poodle” is a derivative of the German word “pudl,” which means water splash.

Yes, from time past, the Poodle has been trained to relish plunges into water to retrieve games. Its curly coat ensures it is always warm.

Also, the Poodle has its head, knees, and prominent parts of its body dressed in puffballs. This guarantees it is well protected and insulated when swimming.

Lagotto Romagnolo

The Lagotto Romagnolo also thrives at swimming. Several facilities combine to give this dog its impressive swimming capabilities.

First, it is very agile and fast. This is a curious dog with a unique capacity to learn fast. Indeed, it is naturally smart and energetic.

All these blend to give you a dog that will feel at home in water from almost its first swimming experience.

What Dog Breeds Cannot Swim?

Remember, we said not all dogs enjoy swimming. Let us explore some dog breeds that will pay you a million dollars to keep them off water.


Yes, you guessed right. The bulldog is the last guy that wants you to take it swimming. Bulldogs – cutting across the French and English variants– have an unsuitable build for swimming.

Let us start with their short legs. This handicaps their propulsion in water. More than that, they are barrel-shaped and have flat faces.

There is no way a dog can combine these “anti-water” traits and thrive at swimming.

Bull Terriers

Could it be the bull in both their names? Well, just like bulldogs, bull terriers don’t enjoy swimming.

Their deep chest severely limits their ability to stay afloat. Bull terriers also have short legs, which will struggle to propel them in water.

Chow Chow

Traditionally, most big dogs are excellent swimmers. The Chow Chow is one curious deviation. A big guy, yes, but the Chow Chow flops in water.

This dog has a flatter muzzle. This makes it too prone to shortness of breath when submerged in water.

Also, this dog’s coat is not waterproof. It gets soaked too easily, piling substantial weight on the dog when in water. Sadly, this implies quicker drowning.

Shih Tzus

The Shih Tzu doesn’t love swimming, either. With shorter limbs and an abridged muzzle, the Shih Tzu will labor too hard to keep its nose above water.

This dog also catches a cold too easily, making swimming unsuitable for it.


Despite having loads of stamina as hunting dogs, Daschunds don’t thrive in water. A lot of their hassles with swimming can be attributed to their shorter legs and lengthened body build.

They easily tire in water and struggle to stay afloat for long, especially in relatively deeper waters.

Basset Hounds

The Basset Hound is the kind of guy that would skip school if there is a swimming class. Don’t blame it; the Basset Hound’s head is quite big for its short legs to keep suspended above water.

This dog also has larger ears, increasing its propensity for ear infections when swimming.


Corgis – both the Pembroke Welsh and Cardigan – detest water. This dog breed stands out for its barrel-funneled chest. This makes it helluva work for this dog to stay afloat.

Yes, the Corgi could enjoy splashing water around in a significantly shallow water body, but once things get deep, the Corgi is frightened.


It is quite a shame that a dog as athletic and big as the boxer doesn’t excel at swimming. This guy has a notably flat face.

This means it will struggle to breathe when in water. The boxer is very prone to drowning if sustainably submerged in water.


Pugs – just like Boxers – have flat faces that handicap their capacity to swim. Pugs don’t have an easy time in water because they will battle too hard to keep their head above. This tires them too quickly.


The Maltese can’t swim for a lot of reasons. It is almost too small to hold its weight against water current. Also, being a dog with a full muzzle and smaller chest, it will not excel in water.

Aside from swimming mechanics, the Maltese is vulnerable to illnesses like rheumatism and arthritis when exposed to water for too long.

What Age Can Dogs Swim?

A dog that is a natural swimmer can start swimming as early as eight weeks old. If your dog doesn’t show a natural enthusiasm to swim, you may wait until the fifth month to introduce it to swimming.

They would have grown the endurance and stamina needed for swimming by then.

What Temperature Can Dogs Swim in?

It is unhealthy for dogs to swim in water with temperatures lower than 21°F. This is given the enhanced risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Conversely, dogs shouldn’t swim in waters hotter than 100°F.

How Far Can Dogs Swim?

A dog with a penchant for swimming can swim up to 4 miles or more.

How Long Can a Dog Swim Before Drowning?

An average dog would swim between five to ten minutes before tiring out and beginning to drown. But a healthy dog that has been specially groomed to swim can swim up to 20 minutes before it starts to drown from fatigue.

Is It Safe to Let Dogs Swim in Ponds?

You have to select the ponds you allow your dog to swim in. Ponds with blue-green algae content are dangerous for dogs to swim in. It can poison the dog, especially when it drinks it.

Is It Bad for a Dog to Swim Every Day?

It depends on your dog’s age, health, and overall stamina. A healthy dog can swim every day in natural water bodies.

But it is not recommended that your dog swims every day in a swimming pool. The chlorine content could hurt its skin (ridding the dog’s coats of its natural oils), making it flakier and drier.

Should I Dry My Dog after Swimming?

Yes. Dry your dog ears after swimming with cotton balls or a towel. Leaving water in your dog’s ears can facilitate the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria.

It is imperative to dry your dog’s ears if it has floppy ears after a swim. Such ear shape will limit your dog’s ears from naturally drying out.

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