6 Things to Know Before Taking Your Dog Swimming for the First Time

  • By: Marina Livaja
  • Date: May 31, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Isn’t it strange that your dog is quite happy to dunk its head into the muddiest puddle it can find and yet acts as if having a bath is an awful thing you could ever do to them?

While we may never solve why dogs seem to hate bath time, we can shed some light on why some dogs love to swim and how you can help bring out their inner water puppy safely.

When it comes to exercising our dogs, we immediately think of walking, running or playing with them, but swimming is a fantastic option for doggy exercise, and here’s why we think your pup should give it a go.

It’s a fantastic cardio workout. Just like adding some cardio into our exercise routines is good for us humans, it has similar benefits for your dog. It helps burn fat and strengthen their heart and lungs, all very important for keeping your pup healthy.

It’s low impact. Swimming is non-weight bearing, which means your dog can enjoy strengthening their muscles without putting stress on their joints and tendons, making it a great option for older dogs or those needing to take things a little easier. It also gets your dog moving differently than it would on solid ground, helping to improve its range of motion.

It helps relieve stress. You may not realise it, but dogs can get stressed too, and swimming is a wonderful way to help them release any pent up energy. It’s particularly good for dogs that would normally be exercised on a lead, as they have more freedom to move without feeling held back.

It’s a stimulating activity. Physical exercise is not the only thing our dogs need; they also need mental stimulation, which swimming will help to provide. By giving your dog variety when it comes to their exercise, you’re getting their minds working, and if they happen to make some friends while they’re splashing around, they’ll be getting social enrichment.

It’s great for overweight dogs. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how best to get overweight dogs moving, as the amount of exercise needed can put too much stress on their joints. Swimming, however, is joint-friendly and can get them burning calories and increase their metabolic rate without the risk of injury.

Which Dogs Can Swim?

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Some dogs are built to swim. These include Labrador Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs, amongst others. They often sport handy adaptations like oily, water-resistant coats to keep them warm and webbed feet to help them propel through the water. For these dogs, swimming is great exercise and incredibly fun! Find here the best dog bikini for your pup.

Which Dogs Can’t Swim?

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Some dog breeds aren’t cut out for anything more than a paddle in a shallow stream. This is because their bodies are not designed for swimming, whether due to having short muzzles, thick, heavy fur, or disproportionately large heads. These breeds, which include Bulldogs, Pugs, and Basset Hounds, are usually best kept away from deep bodies of water.

How To Introduce Your Dog To Swimming?

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When you first take your dog for a swim, you want to ensure it is a positive experience for them. These are our top tips for introducing them to swimming.

1. Find shallow, clean, slow-moving water. A natural stream or slow river works well, whilst a doggy pool will have everything you need. Avoid the sea for your first swim, as the tides and currents can intimidate a first-time swimmer.

2. Before letting your dog enter the water, please make sure there are obvious exit points, such as a ramp or slope, to get out as easily and when needed.

3. Be prepared to get your feet wet! Sometimes the best way to encourage your pup is to have them follow you.

4. Take a fun toy that floats so you can throw it into the water to encourage them to retrieve it.

5. Take it slowly, and don’t force your dog into the water if they aren’t keen. Start by letting them get their feet wet and get steadily deeper.

6. Consider getting a doggy life vest. It will help them stay buoyant and provide a handhold if you need to suddenly lift them out of the water.

And remember, swimming is a high-intensity activity for dogs, so they can easily become overtired, so make sure they have plenty of breaks, and there is always some food and water nearby.

Where To Take Your Dog Swimming?

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There are plenty of places where you can take your dog swimming, but there are a few things you should be aware of, especially if swimming outside.

Doggy Swimming Pools

The best place to take your dog swimming are doggy swimming pools. They are a safe environment for your pooch, with entry and exit ramps, professionals on hand to help and excellent facilities and equipment. However, they do come at a cost and are usually frequented by dogs needing hydrotherapy or who are on weight management programs. You will usually need to book a slot in advance by calling your local centre.

Inland Water Sources Like Rivers, Streams, Ponds, And Lakes

Natural water sources can be excellent places to exercise your dog. When choosing a river or stream for your dog to swim in, make sure you consider the following:

  • The water depth and speed of the current are appropriate for your dog’s experience level.
  • That you would be able to carry out a rescue yourself if needed.
  • Dogs are permitted in and around the water (look out for signage and boundary fences).
  • There aren’t any nesting birds or other wildlife on or around the water sources that your dog might disturb.
  • There is an easy entrance and exit point for your dog that won’t damage the sides of the water source.
  • The river, stream or lake is visibly clean and free from sharp objects (such as glass) and litter.
  • The water has been tested recently for types of algae, bacteria or parasites that could be dangerous for your dog (local dog-walking groups often have useful information about this).

Coastal Waters

Swimming at the seaside presents a slightly different challenge to freshwater sources. It’s only for the more confident pooches as the tides, strong currents, and deep water can present a higher risk. Before taking your dog to the beach for a swim, consider the following:

  • If dogs are allowed on the beach, whether they are allowed in the water and allowed off lead.
  • The general weather conditions (avoiding bad weather and low visibility).
  • The strength of the currents and tides, especially the presence of any riptides.
  • The presence of others enjoying the beach that your dog might disturb, such as sunbathers, surfers, and children.
  • The cleanliness of the water and the beach.

Swimming is a fantastic exercise for many dogs. You can rest assured knowing even swimming is being tracked towards your pup’s daily activity levels.

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