Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Tis the summer season when we spend time in the sun and water! It’s super fun if your dog can enjoy the water, too.


Our Fine and Dandy Mini Aussiedoodles almost always enjoy the water because their parents love the water too! Poodles are known for their water-loving ways, and Australian Shepherds are extremely versatile and usually up for a good time, including water activities!

Below are steps and tips to help you teach your dogs to swim and keep them safe while doing so.

  1. Hop in the water yourself. You’ll need to be there to guide and support them. But first, lower yourself down so you’re at eye level with the edge. Look around and see what it might look like to your dog. What does the exit look like? Can you see it? Watch this short video for more about this step.

  2. Once you’ve gotten the lay of the land so-to-speak, encourage your pup to enter the pool on their own if at all possible. Consider using a toy or ball. Start in the shallow water and begin lessons in a pool rather than the open water if at all possible. You can better control the variables while in a pool and not have current or waves to worry about. Resist the urge just to throw them in. Doing so could turn this fun, potential bonding activity into a traumatic experience.

  3. Get them comfortable with being wet. Support them underneath the belly area, keeping them level, and guide them forward in the water.

  4. Gradually coax them deeper and deeper over time. Be patient and provide lots of encouragement and reward!

  5. It likely won’t take long for them to realize they can paddle with their legs. Usually, the front legs are first, and it can take a while for the pup to learn also to move its back legs. You may have noticed how dogs will slap the water with their front legs while their bottoms are pointing down. This puts them in a vertical position that will tire them out extremely quickly. That’s why it is so important to support their midline, keeping them horizontal in the water. Watch this short video and this short video for more about this step.

  6. Always make sure they know where the pool exit is. Consider marking the stairs, so they have a visual cue. Also, when guiding them, always point them back toward the stairs when it’s time to get out of the pool.

  7. Watch your pup's body language closely to make sure they aren’t beginning to panic and keep lessons short. We want this to be a positive experience!

We often automatically think all dogs can swim and like the water, but that’s not always the case. Not all dogs can swim, and not all dogs enjoy being wet or being in the water. Similarly, some dogs shouldn’t swim without a life jacket, if at all, due to their body types. For instance, like English Bulldogs, dogs with heavy bodies will usually sink without added buoyancy. Dog breeds with short legs and long bodies, like Dachshunds, also tend to struggle with swimming.


Coat types also make a difference. A breed like a Scotty dog has a thick undercoat with a top wire coat. If the undercoat gets saturated, their bodies become heavy, and it can be difficult for them to keep afloat without the assistance of a life vest.

If you have a breed that usually doesn’t produce the best swimmers or if your pup is a hesitant swimmer, consider purchasing a life jacket with a handle and properly fit it to your dog. They should fit snugly while being easy to move in while in the water or on land. The floatation device not only provides a safety measure but also bolsters confidence and can give them the courage to learn to swim.

Life vests should also be used, or at least be handy when boating, swimming, or paddling long distances, if your dog tends to jump off the boat, or if the water outing will take a few hours or more.

Following the above steps and advice can have you and your pup splashing and swimming the summer away soon! It’s important to note that dogs should never be left alone in the water, even if it’s just for a minute. Always keep a close eye on your beloved canine companions just as you would a child.


Does your dog enjoy the water? Does he or she know how to swim already? What’s his favorite water activity? Share what’s worked for you and your experiences below!


Recent Posts

See All