If you're on the hunt for dog who can help you train for a triathlon, there's definitely some breeds you might want to count out — there are a number of dogs that just aren't built to swim.
It has a lot to do with body structure. You'll notice pretty much all of the pups on our list have short, stubby legs. And this isn't all about athleticism either — some dogs will sink faster than a rock, which is no laughing matter. Knowing if your pet can — or can not — swim can help keep them safe and alive.
These breeds all make for excellent companion pets, just make sure you keep them far, far away from deep water!
This adorable breed is best known for quirky snorts and a smooshed-in face. What makes pugs the comical canines we know and love also makes them a water-safety hazard. The short snouts can cause shortness of breath, which hinders this breed's ability to swim laps around the pool. However, they usually love a good game of fetch, so try throwing a few tennis balls for them instead of letting them try their paws at paddling.
Dachshunds can be taught to swim, but they'll never be strong swimmers. With wee legs barely long enough to paddle, these playful pups prefer a variety of dry-land activities, including hunting, burrowing and anything that keeps them on the go. If your dog is hot and enjoys a summer cooldown, then water-filled toys and even a quick (supervised) dip in a doggy pool no higher than his neck should do the trick.
Sturdy, dense and low to the ground, bulldogs definitely do better out of the water. They have turned-out, short legs, which makes paddling fast enough to support their weight a challenge. A poolside doggy bed with lots of summertime toys can provide a safer alternative for spending water time with your pooch. If your bulldog must get into the water, then make sure a helping hand and a doggy life preserver are around at all times.
Holding the record for the world's longest ears, the basset hound was bred for land activities like hunting and tracking. With short legs and a dense bone structure, bassets will gladly sniff out a trail so long as water is not an obstacle. For cool summer bonding time without the water hazard, try freezing healthy snacks for your basset to sniff out. This will allow your dog's natural hunting abilities to shine through while getting rewarded with a cool treat.
Cute and cuddly, the Maltese feels better sitting on your lap than treading water. While this breed is fully capable of paddling, other health issues may arise from water play. Because they are prone to chills, arthritis and rheumatism, taking your Maltese on a swimming adventure could worsen these common breed concerns. But that's OK, because they're much bigger fans of warm cuddling than cold swimming.
Here's a fun Labor Day weekend story... We just decided to add two new members to our Johnson family. Baby French Bulldogs. In my right hand is BRUTUS and in my left hand is HOBBS. Bring them home and immediately take them outside so they can start learning how to "handle their business and potty like big boys". I set them both down and they both take off in a full sprint and fall right into the deep end of our pool. HOBBS immediately starts doggy paddling while BRUTUS (like a brick) sink heads first to the bottom of the pool. I take off into a full sprint, fully clothed, dive in the pool, swim to the bottom, rescue my brick, I mean BRUTUS and bring him back to the edge of the pool. He was a little delirious.. took a moment, threw up all the water he swallowed and looked up at me as if to say, "Thank God you didn't have to give me mouth to mouth!" and then ran off to play with his brother. A few lessons I've learned today.. A) Not all puppies have the instinct to doggie paddle. B) Some puppies (like BRUTUS) will be so in shock by experiencing water they will sink extremely fast so react quick. C) While spiriting to save your puppies life, before you dive in, try and throw your cel phone to safety. Don't keep it in your pocket... like I did. #BRUTUSLives #HOBBSCanSwim #MyCelPhonesDead #AndNoMouthToMouthNeeded #HappyLaborDay
Unfortunately, the French bulldog is more prone to sinking than swimming. While they are smaller, they have similar body characteristics to the full-size bulldog, which means dense, barrel bodies and turned-out, short legs, all of which don't make for good swimmers. You also need to keep a sharp eye on them if they're around water, because their boisterous nature could send them running for the pool, only to find they sink like stones. Don't learn the hard way like The Rock — keep your Frenchie on a leash around deep water. If they want to cool off, chest-high puppy pools are a great alternative.
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Originally published September 2012. Updated January 2017.
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