Can Shiba Inus Swim? (Explained and Helpful Guide)

Can Shiba Inus Swim

If you ask a Shiba Inu about its relationship status with water, it will dismiss the question as irrelevant and reply, “It’s complicated!” These proud dogs are just afraid to admit it but they feel a lot safer on terra ferma than in the unpredictable deluge that is the swimming pool.

The truth is, Shiba Inus don’t like to swim although they can be trained. It’s a love-hate relationship. Shiba Inus love to hate water because they’re not that kind of breed to take a leap of faith into the pool. However, you can teach your dog to love the water, take the hate out of the equation, and get them to enjoy a good swim on a hot day.

I know what you’re asking yourself right now, how can I do it? The answer, my friend, is in two words, patience and training. Patience is the operative word here. Your Shiba Inu approaches water with the same trepidation it does with a house on fire. You got your work cut out for you. So let’s see how you can train your Shiba Inu to stop worrying and love the water.

How Shiba Inus Swim?

Because of their independent personality and their pride streak, Shiba Inus are notoriously hard to train. As hunter dogs that have been around for over two millennia, Shiba Inus detest getting wet. They share this habit with foxes which incidentally they tend to have a similarity with in more ways than one.

So what happens when the Shiba Inu finds itself in a body of water? Its first instinct is to splash their webbed feet around as if it were locked in mortal combat with a devilish enemy. This is panic, pure and simple. They splash their forelegs everywhere forgetting to use their hind legs to propel them forward or wag their tail as a rudder.

Once they reach the shore miraculously they bolt into the woods vowing never to get near the water again. In short, the mighty hunters just don’t know how to swim and rather than learn that crucial survival skill, they prefer to avoid water altogether.

Difficulty Swimming May Be Why Your Shiba Inu has Fear of Water

Now let’s not be quick to judge the poor Shiba Inu. Just because it can’t swim and doesn’t like to get near the water doesn’t mean you should make fun of it. Or worse, try to shame it into getting into the water with you. Neither of those attitudes would help the dog get over its fear of water and may actually backfire.

Compared to other breeds (more on that later), Shiba Inus are too aloof and stubborn to be forced into a situation they don’t like. This might explain why you can’t simply drop the dog in the swimming pool and let it learn to swim. For one thing, don’t ever do that with your Shiba Inu.

So does that mean that your favorite dog will never join you on the beach or play with you in the water? Not at all. You can teach your Shiba Inu to love the water and enjoy a good swim just like the next dog. Here’s how.

Tips While Training Your Shiba Inu

When teaching your dog to swim, always remember that your Shiba Inu is slow to adapt to new situations. Its first impulse is to back away from unfamiliar or dangerous situations. Swimming is one of those situations. So use the following tips as a guide.

Tie Your Shiba Inu to Prevent an Accident

One of the first things to keep in mind when teaching your Shiba Inu to love water and get a taste of the joys of swimming is safety. Not only do you need to avoid a nasty accident, but you also want to make sure the experience doesn’t scar the poor dog’s psyche for life.

To ensure the dog is safe in the water, always use a life preserver. There are many brands specifically designed for dogs and will protect the puppy as it takes its first steps in the water. It might take time to get used to the contraption, but it’s for its own safety.

Another consideration has to do with the dog’s health. Make sure it has plenty of water to drink before getting into the pool or pond. If you’re taking it to a lake, then get the dog vaccinated first.

Start from the Pool Edge

Whether your Shiba Inu is a puppy or a strapping adult, it’s better to start small. A kiddie pool is a good place to start. It’s not deep enough for the dog to feel helpless or, worse, panic. From there you can guide your dog into the pool.

Stay by the pool’s edge at the beginning. This might take a few hours or even a few days, depending on the depth of the dog’s fear of water. Some Shiba Inus will lose their fear and take to the water immediately. Others would take longer, so always be patient.

Inducing Shiba Inu to Swim with a Toy

How you seduce your Shiba Inu to step into the water is up to your dog and its temperament. Some dogs will only require some coaxing, while others need some cajoling mixed with plenty of inducing.

One way to bring your dog around is to stand in the pool with its favorite toy in your hand. Now watch your dog try to reach for the toy without getting into the water. Eventually, it will make a jump for it or it might slip and fall. Go to it immediately and hold it to make it feel secure and there’s nothing to worry about.


Be generous with your praise and encouraging words. They will reassure the dog and prompt it to keep going. If it finds it difficult to stay afloat or move in the water, be there by its side and guide it until it finds its rhythm.

After each session, make sure to give the dog a few treats to reward it for trying and all the hard work it put there. The rewarding system always works to give the dog confidence in itself and make it want to go back and try again.

Enough Rest

A tired dog will not do well in the water. Especially if the dog has no prior experience with the water in the first place. So to prepare your dog to meet its mortal enemy, the water, for the first time, make sure the dog has had plenty of rest.

Swimming is an excessive physical endeavor that requires plenty of stamina and fitness. If your dog is not feeling well that day, cancel the swimming lesson and try again when it feels up to the task.

Correct posture

An inexperienced Shiba Inu will splash this way or that in the pool. It doesn’t know how to keep its body straight or use its legs to propel it and keep it afloat. The tail will thrash everywhere and pull the dog down instead of guiding its movement.

You need to be there and help the dog assume the correct posture. Keep its body straight and allay its fears. It would try to twist its body or aim for the edge of the pool. This is normal behavior. So stay there and help it gain its composure and learn how to swim.

Supplies You Will Need to Swim with Your Shiba Inu

You’ll need to pack these items every time you take your Shiba Inu out for a swim.

  • Sunscreen: sunburns are common for dogs as much as they are for humans. The results can be nasty and leave the dog in pain for days. Protect it with sunscreen.
  • Life Vest: This is a necessary safety procedure especially while the dog is learning to swim. Never let it into the water without one.
  • Bottled Water: Shiba Inus get dehydrated rather quickly. If it gets thirsty it will try to drink whatever water it’s swimming in which is a health risk. Keep a bottle of water and a bowl nearby to offer it a drink.
  • First Aid Kit: accidents do happen. And you’d want to be prepared and ready if something comes up.

Swimming for Exercise

As much as swimming is enjoyable, it also works as a good exercise for your Shiba Inu. The demanding effort they have to put to move around in the water burns a lot of calories. It also works all those core muscles which are not usually exercised with running or walking.

Swimming is also a good exercise to cool your dog and let out steam. After a few hours in the pool or the lake, your dog will come out feeling refreshed and ready for a meal and a nap. If it has a few pounds on that you can’t get rid of, swimming will do the job for you.

Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is more than a sociable activity that you’d want your Shiba Inu to enjoy with you and your family. It has many other benefits such as

  • Help the dog lose weight.
  • Cool the pup off on a hot day.
  • Allow the dog to be more sociable with humans and other pets.
  • Give the dog a good exercise.
  • Let out excess energy and burn calories.
  • Increase the dog’s stamina and fitness levels.

By teaching your Shiba Inu to swim, you’re also teaching it an important survival skill that it might need someday to save its life and swim to safety.

How the Shiba Inu Compares with Akitas and Golden Retrievers?

Unlike the Shiba Inu that shies away from any body of water it sees out of instinct, other breeds take to water like they were born to be there. One of those is Akitas. This breed simply enjoys taking a plunge every now and then especially on a hot summer day. It helps that the Akitas have webbed feet that act as paddles and steer them in every direction they like.

Another breed that is in total contrast to Shiba Inus as far as water is concerned is the Golden Retrievers. This athletic breed is a natural swimmer. You won’t need to ask a Golden Retriever twice to get into water. In fact, you might not even need to ask it at all. It will just dive into the water and come up flapping its ears with pure joy.

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