Can Dogs Swim Underwater?

Have you ever observed your canine companion paddling in shallow water and wondered, “Could my dog actually swim underwater?” While many dogs are naturally adept swimmers on the surface, the question of underwater swimming presents a unique blend of challenges and considerations.

In this article, we will explore the physiological and behavioral aspects that determine whether dogs can truly go from being surface paddlers to underwater adventurers.

Join us as we delve into this intriguing aspect of canine aquatics.

Can dogs swim underwater?
Can dogs swim underwater?

Basic Understanding of Dogs and Swimming

Dogs have a natural affinity for water, and most breeds possess an instinctual ability to swim. They typically enjoy playing in water and are capable of swimming to some extent, whether it’s splashing in shallow water or fully submerging themselves in deeper water. However, it’s important to remember that not all dogs are equally proficient swimmers, and some breeds may struggle or require additional support while swimming.

In general, dogs can swim underwater. They have an instinctual response to hold their breath when submerged, which is a capability shared by all mammals. Nevertheless, the duration for which a dog can hold its breath underwater varies and isn’t widely studied or documented. It’s crucial to monitor your dog when in the water and ensure they don’t overexert themselves or struggle to breathe.

Some dog breeds are naturally better at swimming than others due to their physical characteristics. For example, breeds with webbed feet, such as Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands, have an advantage in swimming because their feet act as paddles to propel them through the water. Other breeds, such as Bulldogs, may have difficulty swimming due to their short limbs and heavy bodies.

When introducing your dog to water, it’s essential to take a slow and gradual approach. Provide positive reinforcement and make sure your pet feels safe and supported while in the water. Keep in mind that some dogs may become more comfortable and proficient in swimming over time as they gain experience and confidence in the water.

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While swimming can be a fun and healthy activity for dogs, safety should always be a priority. Always supervise your dog while they swim and use a lifejacket if necessary, especially in deeper or unfamiliar water. Regularly check for signs of fatigue, stress, or difficulty breathing to ensure your dog remains safe while enjoying their time in the water.

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Can Dogs Swim Underwater

Dogs, known for being great swimmers, possess the ability to swim underwater. However, their underwater swimming capacity varies depending on the breed and individual dog. It is essential to note that while some dogs may exhibit natural affinity towards swimming underwater, others may struggle and require guidance or training.

Most dogs can hold their breath underwater due to their innate mammalian diving reflex. The average duration a dog can hold its breath ranges between 5-8 seconds. This enables them to dive and swim underwater for brief moments. It is crucial to ensure that your dog is comfortable and well-trained before allowing them to venture into deeper waters, as not all dogs are natural swimmers.

Introducing your dog to water and getting them accustomed to swimming is the first step. You can then slowly guide your dog’s paws underwater, gently pushing them down to help them get acquainted with diving. During this process, it is essential to maintain a firm yet gentle hold on your dog’s paws, gradually releasing them, and letting them resurface.

Although dogs can swim underwater, it is vital to take necessary precautions and remember that certain breeds may not be natural swimmers. Some breeds have a higher predisposition to being comfortable in water and swimming underwater, while others may struggle due to their body structure and temperament. Regardless, always prioritize your dog’s safety and comfort during any underwater swimming activities.

Dog Breeds That Can Swim Underwater

Swimming underwater is a special skill that not all dogs possess. Although most dogs can swim at the surface, only a select few breeds have the natural ability to dive and swim underwater. In this section, we will discuss three dog breeds that are known for their underwater swimming capabilities: Labrador Retriever, Portuguese Water Dog, and Newfoundland.

black labrador retriever puppy happy
The happy face of a striking black Labrador Retriever puppy. You can see where Labradoodles can get that shiny coat from!

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is a versatile breed with a strong history of being excellent swimmers. They have a dense, waterproof coat and webbed feet, which makes them well-suited for swimming. This breed is highly adaptable and can easily swim under the surface of the water due to their love for water activities and powerful limbs.

  • Strengths: Waterproof coat, webbed feet, strong limbs
  • Swimming ability: Excellent

Portuguese Water Dog

The Portuguese Water Dog is a breed specifically developed for water-related tasks. These dogs were bred to assist fishermen in various tasks, such as retrieving fish, equipment, and even diving underwater. Their curly, waterproof coat and webbed feet make them strong swimmers and enable them to dive and swim underwater efficiently.

  • Strengths: Waterproof coat, webbed feet, exceptional history in water work
  • Swimming ability: Excellent


Newfoundlands are large, powerful dogs with a history of water rescue in freezing waters. They possess a strong, sturdy build as well as a thick, waterproof coat that helps keep them warm in cold water. This gentle giant has webbed feet, enabling them to swim and dive underwater with ease. Known for their strong swimming and lifesaving abilities, these dogs are often used in water rescue missions.

  • Strengths: Waterproof coat, webbed feet, strong swimming, and lifesaving abilities
  • Swimming ability: Excellent
goldendoodle puppy on the beach
A Goldendoodle puppy enjoying a swim at the beach.

Dog Breeds That Struggle with Swimming


Bulldogs are known for their stocky bodies, short legs, and wide chests, but these physical attributes don’t help them in the water. Their body shape makes it difficult to maintain buoyancy, and they often struggle to keep their heads above water. Bulldogs’ breathing difficulties due to their flattened faces also make swimming a challenge. Although some bulldogs might enjoy wading in shallow water, it is essential to supervise them and ensure they don’t venture into deeper water where they could quickly become exhausted and potentially drown.


Pugs, like bulldogs, have a distinctive flat face and short legs. These traits hinder their ability to swim effectively. Pugs are not natural swimmers, and their compact bodies make it challenging to maintain buoyancy. Additionally, pugs are prone to breathing difficulties due to their short snouts, which can be exacerbated while swimming. If a pug were to try swimming, it is vital to watch them closely and prevent them from getting into deeper water where they could struggle to stay afloat.


two dachdhund one long hair one short
Tow Dachshund dogs (one long hair one short) investigating a yard together

Dachshunds are small dogs with short legs, elongated bodies, and a unique body shape, which makes swimming difficult for them. Their long backs can cause them to struggle with balance and buoyancy when in the water, as they may have difficulty keeping their head above water.

Furthermore, their short legs don’t provide the power necessary for strong swimming strokes, leaving them more likely to tire out rapidly.

Although some dachshunds may enjoy playing in shallow water, deep water can pose a danger to them due to their physical constraints. Always ensure they are closely monitored while around water to keep them safe.

Safety Measures for Dogs Swimming Underwater

Dogs are not naturally designed to swim underwater for extended periods, but they can briefly swim and retrieve objects submerged in the water. To ensure their safety while swimming, it’s essential to take proper precautions. This section will discuss three key safety measures: life jackets for dogs, supervised swimming, and swimming training.

Life Jackets for Dogs

When allowing your dog to swim underwater, it is crucial to equip them with a well-fitted life jacket. This helps to ensure buoyancy and makes it easier for your dog to stay afloat. Life jackets for dogs are designed to provide support and safety, with features like quick-release buckles, additional flotation padding, and handles to help you lift or guide your dog through the water.

Supervised Swimming

Never leave your dog unsupervised while swimming. Keep a close eye on your dog while they are in the water and be prepared to jump in if necessary. Be aware of your dog’s body language and look for any signs of distress or fatigue. If you notice your dog struggling, remove them from the water immediately.

Swimming Training

Before allowing your dog to swim underwater, ensure they are comfortable and confident in the water. Introduce your dog to water gradually and use positive reinforcement, such as treats or praise, to encourage them to enjoy swimming. You can start with shallow water and gradually progress to deeper areas, always keeping the training sessions short and fun. If your dog becomes fearful or anxious, step back and try again later, always respecting their comfort levels.

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