Does Your Dog Like to Swim?

Note: Julia Thomson is a regular contributor on That Mutt.

During one of our classes with our trainer, she had us bring all of our dogs to the edge of a shallow pool. She wanted to see if any of the dogs were afraid of water. None of the ones in the class were, so I don’t recall much of a conversation of how to help your dog if he’s afraid of water.



There are dogs that love water, and dogs that hate it. Baxter’s somewhere in between.

With the incredible heat we’ve been having this summer in Ontario, I’m selecting our hiking trails based on how much water is available. One of our favourite routes has two large ponds. As soon as we get near the water, Baxter wades right in and starts slurping. He goes deep enough to soak his chest, but no farther. If he starts to float, he heads for shallower ground.

Often, there are other dogs at the ponds, swimming with their owners or fetching sticks. Baxter shows no interest in joining them.

At home on the farm, we’ve confirmed that he can actually swim. He’s fallen in our main pond a few times, and once he ended up over his head in another pond when he chased a duck. She paddled away as Baxter paddled back to the shore.

Does your dog like to swim
Dogs wading

Even a duck is not incentive enough to swim.

I’m curious whether my husband or I would be incentive. We’ve not had an opportunity to go swimming as a family. The heat continues, though, so there may be a chance yet this summer.

Does your dog like to swim? Do you swim with your dog?

Any tips for helping a dog that’s afraid of water?

17 thoughts on “Does Your Dog Like to Swim?”

  1. Mine is like Baxter: Loves being in the water to a point. She won’t actually swim. I thought maybe a squeaky tennis ball or floating Kong toy would be an incentive, but she will only chase them as far as chest-deep. My husband and I both got into the lake with her, but her limit stayed the same. Because she was having fun and I wanted the water to stay positive for her, we didn’t push her much. I tried throwing the ball just a little out of her comfort zone, but if she stopped, I turned it into “chase me through shallower water.”

  2. My dog love to swim! She really enjoys fetching from the water, but she jumps in even before I throw anything into the water.

  3. My lab loves retrieving from water – but does not swim for swimming sake – my Great Collie will swim across the lake for a iguana chase – but in general likes to wade and slurp.

  4. Lindsay Stordahl

    Ace enjoys the water. I didn’t have to do anything to encourage him. He just naturally loves it – lakes, ponds, kiddie pools, mud puddles, melting snow, the dog beach, doesn’t matter.

    Remy has been introduced to the ocean and he’s not afraid of it but doesn’t seem to have an interest in going in. He followed me in wading once with coaxing and then wanted out. Like you, I’ve thought about swimming myself to see if he’ll follow but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m not much of a beach person even though we’re so close to the beach! I also would like to see if Remy would want to follow Ace into the water. Oh, and next weekend we’re likely going hiking around a lake so Remy will have a chance to see some water other than the ocean.

    1. I found Bax was a little uncomfortable the first time he saw waves. He’s used to pretty still water, so water that chased him up the beach was surprising. I never considered the saltiness of the ocean and how that might change a dog’s reaction.

  5. I had a dog named Smokey some years back. He did the same with water… only went up to his chest and stopped. So I tied a string to a tennis ball and threw it in at ever increasing distances. Since Smokey really loved his ball, he went after it each time. Eventually, he came to love swimming.

    My Labrador Maya absolutely loves to swim. The first time she saw water, she ran in so fast that she went right under. I thought I was going to have to rescue her, but she popped back up, then went right on swimming. The public pools in this area open up to the dogs at the end of the season. Maya had a great day at such a recent opening. It only happens once a year, though, and once in each city, so the only way she can go again this year is if I want to travel 30 minutes to the next town.

  6. Our previous dog, a lab/husky cross, absolutely loved water. I have a hilarious memory of him curling his 70lb self into a kid’s tiny red wagon after a storm.. just ridiculous.

    Our current dog, a border collie, just likes it. He’ll take a quick dip, then he’s out. Just as well, though.. he’s a TERRIBLE swimmer and always looks like he’s two inches away from his head going under! He even avoids puddles… weirdo 😉

  7. Sandy Weinstein

    my girls cant even stand baths. they hate the water, even rain. they bark at the water hose when i have it on and run.

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