Doggie Paddle 101: How to Teach Your Dog to Swim

Whether your dog is a natural swimmer (like a Labrador, water spaniel, or poodle) or one of the less-than-graceful water ballerinas (I’m looking at you, bulldogs, pugs, corgis, and dachshunds), we’ve got some great tips to help get your dog comfortable in the water. Teaching your dog to swim is possible!

First off, too, let’s just say a lifejacket is a great investment. Ensuring all your dog’s aquatic interactions are positive will help you enjoy a cool summer on the water with your dog at your side.

Follow these simple steps and teach your dog to swim

Bringing along a doggie pal who is already an expert swimmer is a great way to give your dog confidence. Dogs learn by example, too.


Ready to get wet?

  1. Find an area where your dog has plenty of shallows to walk around
  2. Stay by his side and let him get used to the water before you move on to any paddling.
  3. Practice your recalls with some treats or a favorite floating toy as your dog acclimates.

If your dog is hesitant to get in, give him the time he needs and encourage him to at least get his feet wet. You want to make sure your dog feels confident, so keep all interactions positive and upbeat. If all you do the first day is walk together in the shallows, hey, that’s progress!

This is when having some strong swimmers around can encourage your dog to give it a shot by showing how much fun they can have.

As your dog gains confidence and starts to explore a little deeper:

  • Make sure you support his midsection and hindquarters until he gets used to the mechanics of paddling effectively with all four feet, even if a lifejacket is being used.
  • Try to practice swimming in an enclosed area or with a lightweight floating leash or line. Even a strong swimmer can easily get lost or tire before he can get back to you.

Safety Tips

  • Never leave a dog unsupervised around a pool.
  • A lifejacket is a wonderful thing, but it’s not a substitute for swimming practice.
  • Watch for signs of exhaustion—swimming is hard work!
  • If you’ve been swimming in salt water or a chlorine pool, make sure you and your dog rinse off well with fresh water.
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