Can born dogs swim?
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking a dog near a body of water, you’ve probably discovered that it doesn’t require any in-depth swimming tutorials before you jump in. Dogs are natural swimmers, able to stay afloat and propel themselves while paddling. It’s not going to impress Michael Phelps, but it gets the job done.
But how exactly do dogs know how to navigate the water? Were they born knowing how to swim?
It really is depends on breed, and even then it might be more accurate to say that some dogs were bred, not born, to swim. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers have been encouraged by breeding to take water to aid hunters or fishermen. Some, like the Irish Water Spaniel, have even developed a water-repellent coat to make them even more amphibious. Not only do they love water, but they are physically equipped to deal with it.
Other dogs can just rely on instinct paddling, even if it is not exactly swimming. Instead, they’re in survival mode, and you might find that they’re not able to move forward easily. Some breeds, such as bulldogs, dachshunds, boxers, and other types with short or bulky legs, may sink like a stone in water, their tiny limbs unable to generate enough force to move them. Those with brachycephalic (blunt) faces, such as pugs, may also tire more easily or wind up taken in the water around their mouth. (Dogs exposure the mammal diving response, which slows the heart rate and constricts blood vessels to store oxygen and prevents them from trying to breathe underwater, but they can still drown.)
The good news? You can teach a dog to swim. Providing a dog with a life jacket can help them stay buoyant while they get a feel for how to move through the water. This is because it may take a while for a dog to realize that he can use his hind legs to propel himself forward, not just his front legs. Playing with toys and showing them how to get out of the water will also help them acclimatize. (Don’t be fooled by the archaic practice of throwing a puppy in the water. While some dogs may be up to the challenge, others may simply develop an aversion to life.)
Make sure the water temperature is hot enough for a dog – 100 ° F is fine. You should also make sure that your dog does not swallow too much water while swimming by limiting his lengths. A private pool is probably the best training environment, but always keep an eye out for any puppies in the pool and make sure your dog can find steps out of water. Your dog should avoid salt water and lakes or ponds where blue-green algae is present.
Even if you teach a few lessons, some dogs may just be incompatible with water due to short limbs, a coat that retains water, or personal preference. For these dogs, wading in shallow water under your supervision can be the best way to have fun. They may not have been born knowing how to swim, but playing seems to come naturally.
[h/t American Kennel Club]