Built to Swim

It’s a hot summer day and your laying by the pool with your beloved family dog when you decide to take a dip in the pool. Before you scoop up your furry little friend and throw him in, can your pup handle the water? The Bregman Veterinary Group can help you figure out if your pet is ready for the waves.

What Helps with the Swim Stride 

Dog breeds that are built to swim have features that assist them when swimming. A dog’s fur is a very helpful and important feature when it comes to aquatic activities. For example, the Irish Water Spaniel is known to be a great swimmer. They are covered in a beautiful double coat of fur that has tight curls which helps against tough conditions.

One of the most unique and important features swimming breeds have are webbed paws. For example, the Otterhound has webbed paws. This feature helps spread the paw in the water for greater control. These features help the Otterhound when they are on the hunt, along with thick pads and arched toes.

Swimming Dogs 

Not all dog breeds are meant to swim. The size of the dog plays a significant factor.  However, the way the dog is built as a whole is also an important factor. Dog breeds fall into three swim categories: 

  1. Breeds that are built to swim
  2. Breeds that can be taught to swim 
  3. Breeds that are not meant to soak.  

It’s important to know what category your furry friend falls into and take the necessary steps to ensure their safety around the water.

Breeds Built to Swim 

Firstly, there are more breeds in this category that are built to conquer the waves than you might have thought. Some examples include:

1.    The Newfoundland is known to carry fisherman’s heavy loads throughout history.  Newfoundlands are known best for their swimming abilities. With their webbed paws, Newfoundlands actually swim differently than other dogs. They make a down and out motion with their legs rather than the go-to doggy paddle. Other features like their thick and oily fur leave them with the feeling of a warm raincoat in chilly waters.

2.    The Portuguese Water Dog, like the Newfoundland, also has the webbed paws and thick coat. However, carrying heavy loads is not an option for this smaller breed. Instead, the Portuguese Water Dog was used to herd fish towards fishing nets delivering messages boat to boat.

3.    The German Wire-haired Pointer is bred to assist hunters.  The German Wirehaired Pointer also has a thick coat and webbed feet. However, they also have an extremely strong sense of smell. No matter what terrain they are in, it’s no obstacle for them to retrieve the hunter’s game.

Breeds that can be Taught to Swim 

Some canine companions may not be ready for the Olympics, but can still enjoy a day by the pool. There are a number of dog breeds that can be taught to swim including:

The Cocker Spaniel is prized as a pronounced companion and family dog these days. However, the Cocker Spaniel has a history as a well respected hunting dog. As a result, this breed is decent at swimming and will enjoy any chance to jump in.

The Irish Setter is a very social, friendly dog breed. They love being around people and are the perfect dogs to bring to any family barbecue. The Irish Setter is related to the great swimming breed the English setter. Therefore, this breed isn’t afraid to get its luxurious coat wet.

The Lagotto Romagnolo was bred to venture the Italian countryside searching for truffles. However this is no hunting dog. Nonetheless, the Lagotto Romagnolo is a sporty dog and would love to swim if you give them the chance.


Moreover, there are many breeds that just weren’t made to be swimmers. This category of non-swimmers may be deathly afraid – literally. If your pup starts to panic when they hit the water, this can lead to fatigue and drowning. Further, they don’t acquire the webbed paws and thick oily coats like their counterparts. A lot of other features impact their ability to stay buoyant. For example:

The Bulldog  should never be swimming unless wearing a 4-legged friendly life vest. Bulldog’s are brachycephalic or short-skulled dogs. Meaning this breeds large head and short legs can’t generate enough paddle to keep them afloat. Not to mention their flat face and short snouts can cause shortness of breath. This can result in fatigue and drowning.

The Maltese aren’t the best swimmers, even though the breed doesn’t tend to carry a lot of weight. The Maltese has a very small, skinny stature. As a result they can experience chills, arthritis, and rheumatism after too much play in the water.

The Basset Hound’s ears are not a flotation device despite what you may think. The Basset hound is similar to the bulldog and other non-swimmer breeds. Their large head and short legs make it difficult for them to make their way across the water.

It’s important to stay informed on what your pup can do in the water. If your pooch isn’t the Michael Phelps of canines don’t fret.  Pet-friendly life vests can ensure a safe and fun day at the pool. Have questions about your breed? The Bregman Veterinary Group can help put you at ease. In other words, you’ll know whether your household friend should be out enjoying the pool or sticking to the sprinklers.

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