Water Fun with Dogs: Your Questions Answered

The excitement of splashing around with your furry friend doesn’t ever have to wear off. So long as you have the correct tools and a willing companion, you’re sure to have water fun with dogs! There are heaps of water activities you can try with a willing dog. But before you jump in the deep end, we’ve answered nine frequently asked questions dogs in the water. From finding the right breed to join you in water activities, to safely introducing an existing family member to the splashing good fun to be had.

which dog swims the best

I’m looking for a dog to join me on the water - which dog swims the best?

When you think ‘best swimmer’ and ‘dog breed’, you likely think of the friendly neighborhood Labrador. You might even think of the Portuguese Water Dog, who was so famously adopted by the Obama’s in 2009.

You wouldn’t be wrong! Since both of these dogs were bred to swim, they have definitely earned their spots as the “best” swimmers. In reality, however, these breeds are just two of the many dogs who were created to excel in the water. You can also add Newfoundlands, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and Poodles to your list – we really could go on and on.


Do small dogs like water?

But perhaps you’re looking for more of a pocket-sized companion? Although it’s the bigger breeds that first come to mind, there are plenty of smaller dog breeds who would be happy to join you on the water. While they may not be the ‘best’ swimmers (lacking the webbed feet and water-resistant coats of retrievers), they often make up for this in their enthusiasm. Breeds such as Jack Russels, Toy Poodles, and Cavapoos are all likely to hold their own in the water.

Smaller dogs with barrel chests or flat noses like Basset Hounds, Pugs, and Bulldogs, should be monitored incredibly closely around the water. Respectively, these features make it harder for them to stay afloat and filter inhaled water out of their systems. Sadly, this greatly increases their risk of drowning.

Why do some dogs hate the water?

Some dogs just don’t love to swim. In fact, some of them hate it! Dogs can dislike the water for a variety of reasons. They may have had a traumatic experience in the past, be naturally poor swimmers, or simply never have been exposed to the water before. While a dog may have been bred to swim, this is not a guarantee that they will love to do it. This is why it’s so important to research not only breeds but to ask questions about the specific dog you are adding to your family. Taking the time to learn about your new pal’s past experiences and unique personality will save you both potential heartache in the long run.

Will my dog prefer the ocean, the lake, or the pool?

This depends completely on your dog’s ability and personal preferences, as well as how comfortable you are in the water!

The controlled environment and lack of any strong current make the pool a perfect choice for puppies, smaller dogs, and less advanced swimmers. If you have a private pool, it will also be relatively distraction-free. This makes it the ideal location for teaching water commands such as recalls, as well as ensuring that you can handle your dog in the water.

This isn’t to say that the pool is boring or only for beginners. If you’re looking for something a bit more advanced, why not try Dock Diving with your pooch? The lake is the next step up from the pool. Being an often busy yet still controlled natural environment, visiting the lake is a great way for your pooch to put their swimming lessons into action.

do small dogs like water

Taking your Dog to the Beach

Ocean swimming with your dog will depend on your confidence in both yourself and your dog. While any dog will enjoy a frolic along the shoreline, do you trust your dog not to head deeper into the waves? Are they able to ignore the distractions of wildlife, children, and other dogs to follow your safety commands when needed?

If not, they may need to remain on a lead at the beach. While it’s true that everyone has to start somewhere, this can be frustrating for both you and your dog. Especially if you were hoping for them to join you while paddleboarding or surfing.

However, if your pooch is an experienced swimmer (and you are experienced at handling them in the water) the beach is far more likely to be a hit. If you’re sure to follow basic water safety guidelines, then there’s nothing stopping you from hitting those waves. Surf’s up!

What are the Health Benefits to Swimming with your Dog?

Swimming is a great form of exercise for both you and your dog! Regardless of their age or stamina, something as simple as a leisurely swim can do wonders for your dog’s cardiovascular health and muscle development.

Water-based exercise is known to relieve joint pain, and this extends to include your dogs. This makes it a wonderful activity for pooches with hip dysplasia or arthritis. If your dog was an avid runner pre-injury, then swimming is a great low-impact alternative. The weightlessness of the water will protect your dog’s sensitive joints from unnecessary pressure and remove the jolting sensation that land-based movement often involves.

These qualities also make it great exercise for dogs who fall into the overweight category and may not be able to handle excessive running or jumping.

How can I keep my dog safe in the water?

Water safety for dogs is critical. As their carer, you alone are responsible for the wellbeing of your pet in the water. Equipping your dog with a properly fitted life jacket can be the difference between a simple accident and a life-threatening emergency. While swimming is a natural skill to most dogs, being caught up in a current or large wave can be panic-inducing. A life jacket provides your pooch with an extra layer of protection.

Are there any health risks for swimming dogs?

Remember, too, that water safety extends beyond the prevention of drowning. Just like people, pets can quickly fall victim to the sun’s harsh rays. Always utilize a pet-friendly SPF and be sure to reapply as directed. If your dog has a lightly colored coat, you may even want to look into fitting them with a hat and swim shirt. Nothing can mar a day by the lake like a sunburn – and the long-term effects can be devastating. 

water fun with dogs

Can Dogs get Swimmers Ear?

Dogs and humans also both share the risk of developing swimmer’s ear. This is a surprisingly little-known fact, especially considering dogs are even more at risk than we are! To combat an infection, dry your dog thoroughly and gently each time they exit the water for a significant period of time. You won’t need to insert the towel into your pup’s ear to do this. Avoid cotton swabs, as they can increase irritation. You can also chat with your preferred veterinarian about using a prescribed drying solution after each swim.

Water Fun with Dogs: General Water Safety

Always ask yourself: if things go wrong, can I remove my dog from the situation quickly and without assistance? If the answer is no, it isn’t worth the risk. Your pet cannot help themselves in the same way that you can. They may even actively fight against you saving them should they feel threatened enough.

Take heed of your dog’s ability and confidence in the water (and your own of course!). There are so many options to enjoy the water with your dog for you to enjoy.