Fiction: All dogs can swim. Fact: With the right approach and gear, most all dogs can be “taught” to swim. Some dogs are natural swimmers. A dog’s breed, ancestry, and body structure help determine whether they have a natural inclination towards the water. But some dogs’ build and personality make swimming a challenge.
How do you know if your dog’s a natural? Most water breeds, like Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands, swim horizontally in the water, using both their front and back legs to keep them afloat. Dogs that are less agile in the water tend to use only their front legs to swim, causing their hind end to sink. This can cause the dog to panic and start “high padding” with their front legs, trying to “climb” out of the water.
Regardless if your dog is a “natural” swimmer or not, almost all dogs can learn to swim. Much to your dog’s benefit or misfortune, he/she may be genetically predisposed for the dog paddle. Understanding why your dog may or may not be as agile in the water can help you determine if a little extra help from a canine lifejacket is necessary. After all, why should petite paws, a large chest, or short legs stop your dog from a river bath?
Muscular Body Mass. Some dogs have bodies designed for swimming, while other body types make swimming more of a challenge. Muscular, and dense-bodied dogs such as Bulldogs and Boxers are significantly less buoyant in the water than other breeds. These dogs benefit hugely from extra flotation offered by a canine lifejacket.
Webbed Feet. Some breeds have excellent aquatic tendencies, thanks in part to their large, webbed feet. Among those breeds with webbed feet: Akita, Brussels Griffon, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chinook, Field Spaniel, German Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Leonberger, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Otterhound, Plott Hound, Portuguese Water Dog, Redbone Coonhound, Spanish Water Dog, Weimaraner, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
Paw Size. Toy breeds (e.g. Chihuahuas), and breeds with relatively petite paws (e.g. Greyhounds) have very small paws that make it difficult to tread water. A little extra assistance with the use of a lifejacket can help these breeds stay afloat while they work out the mechanics of swimming.
Legs. Short-legged dogs such as Pugs, and Bulldogs may have trouble staying afloat because a smaller portion of their body weight is under the water. These dogs often can swim, but it takes a lot more energy to do it. A lifejacket can help prolong their stamina.
Genetics. Some breeds are capable of swimming but due to a medical concern may not be able to. Breeds prone to rheumatism and arthritis may have difficulty swimming especially in cold water. Insulating these dogs from the cold and providing them with assistance by using a canine lifejacket can help eliminate these barriers.
Jowls. Some breeds (e.g. Newfoundlands) have jowls that help them breathe when swimming, keeping out water.
Coat. Some dogs, especially those commonly used for hunting waterfowl, have thick double coats that are semi-water-repellant.
Click here to see ten breeds that love the water.