If you live at the pool in the summer or love to hit the beach year-round, you probably want your doggie BFF to be able to accompany you to your favorite haunts. We’re not saying that means you shouldn’t adopt one of these breeds — but just know that there are certain dog breeds that aren’t going to be very helpful when it comes to, say, training for an Olympic 50-meter freestyle swimming event.
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. Some dogs will sink faster than a rock, which is no laughing matter. Knowing if your pet can — or cannot — 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 — which technically makes them a brachycephalic dog. According to Pets4Homes, brachycephalic dogs have a hard time staying afloat because in order to be able to keep their nose and mouth above the waterline, they must tilt their head upwards — which leads to their back end pointing downwards and them taking on an almost vertical position in the water, causesing them to sink.
So, in essence, what makes pugs the comical canines we know and love also makes them a water-safety hazard. The short snouts can also 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.
Bulldogs also fall into the brachycephalic category.
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.
4. Basset hounds
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. They technically can swim, according to Just Basset Hounds, but they aren’t very good at it. Because of the short leg factor and the fact that they carry two-thirds of their weight in the front of their bodies, they’re kind of a recipe for water disaster.
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.
6. French bulldogs
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.
Originally published September 2012. Updated May 2017.