Swimming can be a great way to exercise your dog, but not all dog breeds are built for it. Here’s how to tell whether or not your dog will make a good swimmer.

Labrador retriever dog lying and looking at the camera
Labrador retrievers are one of the dog breeds that tend to love swimming.
Image from Pixabay.

Swimming Breeds

Some dog breeds will take to the water as ducks do. These breeds include several spaniel or retriever breeds, and especially dogs who are bred for swimming. The Irish Water Spaniel, the Labrador Retriever, the Newfoundland, and the Portuguese Water Dog, among others, are all great at swimming.

If you have one of these breeds, you should try taking them to a body of water near you and help them learn to swim this summer. For dog breeds that are suited to it, swimming is an easy way to stay cool during the summer and a great way to exercise.

Non-Swimming Dog Breeds

Brachycephalic Dog Breeds

Two pugs, one dog is in the foreground looking at the camera, and the other dog is in the background lying down.
Pugs and other brachycephalic breeds aren’t made for swimming.
Image from Pixabay.

Brachycephalic dog breeds, like bulldogs, boxers, or pugs, generally make terrible swimmers. Their face shape makes it difficult enough for them to breathe on land, which can lead to a variety of health problems for flat-faced breeds. It’s generally a good idea to keep your brachycephalic dog away from water.

In the water, these breeds may have difficulty keeping their heads above water enough to breathe. As a result, most of these breeds aren’t very good at swimming. If you have a dog from a brachycephalic breed, you might want to keep them out of the water.

Long-Haired Dog Breeds

Brown Chow Chow dog standing in front of trees, looking at the camera
The Chow Chow isn’t great at swimming because of its long hair.
Image free from Pixabay.

Some long-haired breeds that may enjoy swimming and make excellent swimmers. However, several thick-coated breeds, such as the Pomeranian, the Chow Chow, and the Alaskan Malamute, may have trouble in the water because of their fur.
If these breeds stay in the water too long, their thick coat will get soaked and weigh them down. If you have one of these breeds, you might want to keep them out of the water or make sure they don’t swim for too long.

Short-Legged Dog Breeds

Happy Corgi dog standing in sprinklers
Corgis aren’t great at swimming because of their short legs.
Image from Pixabay.

Breeds like dachshunds, basset hounds, and corgis, who have short legs in proportion to the rest of their bodies, usually aren’t suited for swimming. Because of their short legs, they’ll have difficulty propelling themselves through the water.

Their short legs are an especially big problem if combined with other factors that make swimming difficult for dogs. Bulldogs and pugs, for example, are both brachycephalic and short-legged, which makes them especially unlikely to be good at swimming.

If your dog must be in the water, there are life vests available for your dogs to keep them afloat. Another great option to allow your dog to enjoy the water is to let them stand in pools of water that don’t require them to swim. This way, every kind of pup experiences the joys of water!

Smaller Breeds

White Maltese dog sitting in grass looking at the camera
Malteses and other small breeds don’t make great swimmers.
Image from Pixabay.

Many of the smaller dog breeds, including the Maltese, the Pekingese, and the Chihuahua, are terrible at swimming. A lot of these breeds are short-legged or brachycephalic, which may be part of the problem.

However, smaller dogs also tend to lose heat faster, which means they might be vulnerable to chills if they stay in the water for too long. They might also be susceptible to getting lost or swept away in larger bodies of water.


Swimming is an excellent way for your dog to exercise and stay cool during the summer, but not all breeds are suited for swimming. Make sure you know which kind of dog you have before you take your dog to the pool.