Do All Dogs Swim?

Photo: Cheryl G.

Although water can be a great way to cool down on these hot, humid summer days, it is a common misconception that all dogs can swim. According to Dr. Lloyd Keddie, a veterinarian in Fairview, Alta., and president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, about 1 in 1000 dogs drown each year.

While it is true that some breeds were developed to work in the water, you should gauge your pal’s swimming skills by introducing him to the water and showing him some of the basics. For example, dogs with large bodies and short legs do not enjoy swimming.


It may surprise you to hear that dogs need to learn to swim just like humans do. Making your dog feel comfortable in the water is an important step that you should not skip over. Never toss your dog into the water as it can be traumatizing.  


  • Choose a quiet, shallow spot in the water.
  • Keep your dog on a leash while he learns.
  • Get into the water with him.
  • Start at the edge of the water, and stay as long as he enjoys it.
  • If he doesn’t want to go, don’t force him in — especially if it’s a deep spot.
  • When your dog begins to paddle with his front legs, lift his hind legs to show him how to float.


  • Watch out for strong currents and riptides, which can take you both out to sea. 
  • Don’t let your dog drink ocean water; it can make him sick. Bring fresh water with you to keep him hydrated.
  • Keep your pal away from fish that have washed onto the shore. They may smell great to him, but they can make him ill.
  • Avoid stepping on jellyfish or broken shells.
  • Be sure to get the sand out of his coat.


  • Put a fence around it to keep your dog out when it isn’t time to swim.
  • Keep a sturdy cover over it when you aren’t using it. It should be made of a material that lets rainwater drain through. Dogs can drown in puddles on top of pool covers.
  • Teach your dog how to get in and out. Make sure there are steps or a ramp he can use to climb out.
  • Check the water temperature before letting your dog take a dip. Only a few breeds can handle extra-cold water.
  • Invest in pool safety products. Life vests for dogs are available at Braxton’s and affordable.


  • Get your dog a life jacket, especially if you take him out on a boat or a dock.

    Photo: Vanessa L.

  • Steer clear of bodies of water with blue-green algae. It can make your buddy sick.
  • Check the current of a river or a creek. Make sure it isn’t too strong to let your dog swim.
  • Keep your pal away from fishing gear. Sharp hooks and barbs can hurt him.

Wherever you decide to take you pet this summer, be sure to prepare yourself and your pup so that you can easily include him in the swimming fun.


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