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Do dogs really "know" how to swim?

June 28th, 2006, 04:27 PM
For those of you that know me, you know about my little dog... for those of you that don't or as a reminder, I have a one-eyed, previously abused, Maltese x Japanese Chin. He turned 2 in January.
Last summer we went rafting on the Elbow River in Calgary. We went with a girlfriend of mine and her kids, so life jackets were mandatory for the kids (neither has had swimming lessons and just in case something happened). Before we went, I was trying to decide about Cube... when it's rained and we're walking, he walks around the puddles. If he can't walk around them, he tries to jump them. If he is sure he can't jump them and can't go around them, he goes slowly and gingerly (on "tiptoes") through them. However, he *loves* snow. He bounces like a bunny/kangaroo in the snow, bouncing and jumping all over and grabbing mouthfuls of snow to throw around--except when the snow is sticky and makes snowballs of his fur. He doesn't mind a bath, and doesn't seem afraid of water. Regardless... I got him a doggy life jacket before we went rafting, as I'd never had him near a body of water before and didn't want anything bad to happen to him. I have pictures which I will post soon, they're hilarious!

So the story goes... we get to the river, inflate the rafts and get going. Doggy had to get his feet wet to get to the raft (life jacket on before he got near the water), so he was already wet from the start. About 2 minutes out from our launch point, he sees a bigger dog swimming in the river (I think) and decides he wants to go play--or go dominate it, I'm not sure. So he climbs up on the edge of the inflatable raft and--wet feet--slips and splashes into the water. Life jacket was also leashed to the raft, so no worries. Anyhow... he disappeared totally under the water, and it seemed like an eternity, but it certainly was at least 1 second and then he kinda went *pop* like a fishing bobber and came straight up out from under. Honestly one of the funniest things I've ever seen! He didn't agree as he struggled to get himself turned around and swim back towards me to get pulled into the raft. In the few seconds he was in the water, the impression I got was that a) he wouldn't have stayed afloat without the life jacket and b) he didn't know how to swim. He was doing the doggy paddle, but he's got such tiny legs he might as well have been doing nothing for all the good it did.

So that brings me to present; we're going camping on Gull Lake this weekend (happy :ca: day!!) and I'm taking his life jacket. But I'm curious if all dogs know (and can) swim, or if he really will *need* the life jacket. I'm not going to force him to go in the water if he doesn't want to, but if I'm floating in the raft and he's there with me and falls out without his life jacket, will he drown?? Is there a way to teach a dog to swim?? Or do I just have to teach him not to be afraid of the water?

Suggestions from people with long-haired breeds about whether the length of the fur makes a difference to your dogs tolerance of water would be appreciated, too. He's a Maltese, so has ever-growing hair. Hasn't had a hair cut in's not too long, but it could go shorter for the weekend if anyone thinks it'll help.

Thanks!! Sorry it's so long!

June 28th, 2006, 04:32 PM
I think if they have the right equipment to swim, they can... (equipment being instinct, webbed feet, comfort in water)

But like people, some probably don't get it.:D

June 28th, 2006, 04:39 PM
last year when my boy was 3 months old, he cried when I went in the pool and then finally took a leap and came in to join me all on his own. A year later, on Saturday, he refused to come in. He cried and whined and cried some more with his four feet on the pool steps but did NOT jump in. I thought it was cute.. I tried coaxing him in. Didn't work though.

June 28th, 2006, 05:32 PM
Body type has a ton to do with it.

Labs are fattier all over and are more bouyant. A boxer is all muscle in the front end of his body and muscle doesn't float it sinks. Hair also makes a difference. Long hair holds heavy water like clothes. Oily hair repels the water.

Experience, braveness, good teaching, faith in the leader all help alot too.
But not all dogs are meant to be great swimmers. Remember these are not wolves - we created these creatures and when we messed with nature we messed with the things you would think they could do naturally.

June 28th, 2006, 05:54 PM
But not all dogs are meant to be great swimmers. Remember these are not wolves - we created these creatures and when we messed with nature we messed with the things you would think they could do naturally.

In other words, put the life jacket on him and don't expect he'll be out paddling around?

Can do! Just was hoping I could teach him that water is fun.

June 28th, 2006, 06:35 PM
even within a same breed, individual body type plays a big role. Akitas are strong and agile swimmers, as they normally have thick, water-repellent coats and buoyant body fat. my girl floats like styrofoam on water, she hardly needs to paddle with her back legs at all :rolleyes: but my boy, who has a thinner coat and is all muscle (no body fat :( ) keeps sinking like a brick, yet he still plods along with only his nose and one ear peeping out of the water. it's so sad! so I ordered him a life-jacket and he'll be able to swim with the best of them after that. :highfive:

June 28th, 2006, 06:43 PM
Before you try taking him out on the raft without a lifejacket, try and see if he can swim from shore. If he fetches, throw a stick a short distance (just far enough so that he can no longer walk) and see if he can swim. If he can't, he's only a few feet away, so be ready to grab him. If he can, he can practice from there by throwing the stick farther.

June 29th, 2006, 12:33 PM
Alas, Cube doesn't fetch. He does, however, like to chase this one little ball he has, and though it has a hole in it, I'm sure it'll float unless it gets full of water. I'm not going to just throw him off the side of the raft and hope he can swim, that's for sure. I did buy the life jacket for a reason! I will see if I can find a nice calm spot to introduce him to swimming gently. Not sure if he'll willingly go in the water, even for his ball, though. When we walk near the river, even if it's hot and he's thirsty, he won't get his feet in the river trying to drink if there's a ripple! Such a fuss bucket!

I'll post pictures after the weekend if I can get him swimming--either with or without the life jacket.


jesse's mommy
June 29th, 2006, 03:42 PM
What we did with Jesse was to walk her into the water. My honey got his swim trunks and duck shoes on and we walked Jesse down to the water. We kept her leash on her and the two of the just walked into the water. Eventually the bank went away and Jesse just started swimming, but Jim was next to her the entire time in case there were problems. Fortunately she just went with it and swam. We didn't let her go out too far, but she definitely had fun doing it and as we walked back to the house she held her head high like she was a queen! :queen:

June 29th, 2006, 04:02 PM
My family dog Bo (RIP) had his first experience off a cottage dock. My brother to this day blames me for pushing him but I did not at all. I remeber them coaxing him off the dock (bad idea) and boom he jumps in. What seemed like an enternity he went down and didn't come back up. I swear it was a good 3 seconds but I was quite young and worried and then pop he pops up to the surface and my brother pulled him out.

So no I dont think all dogs can swim. Capone is 3 and has not swam yet. We are renting a cottage this year partially to allow him to get his swim on. Being a pit he should be a natural and he likes his baths but doesn't like the rain so its a toss up. We live and walk by lake ontario but we are far from a proper swimming place and the water doesn't look too pleasant on some days depending on the weather, the tide ect...

June 29th, 2006, 04:11 PM
I had Bailey(Cocker,my walking-companoin)in the pool last week,I held on to her for a while,but then let go and she quickly swam to the stairs,did not like the pool:D
But she is a dog who refuses to go out in the rain,or even if the ground is wet,aren't Cockers supposed to be water-dogs??

June 29th, 2006, 04:28 PM
My little dog probably has a similar coat to yours... He can swim, but not very well. He has mild SA and will jump in a pool to stay by my side, but he fully expects to be picked up once he gets to me. He also has short legs and muscle mass working against him. He can do it, but not for long and not very well. He's not afraid of the water though, he'll play in a kiddie pool, or along shore, so long as he can touch bottom.

You might want to re-think leashing him to the boat... I took Charley white water rafting. We got caught up in the current and ended up tiping the boat. The assumption I had made that he would jump ship in such a situation was wrong, he got stuck under the canoe instead. I'm fairly certain I would not have been able to rescue him had he been tied to the canoe.

June 29th, 2006, 05:36 PM
You might want to re-think leashing him to the boat... I took Charley white water rafting. We got caught up in the current and ended up tiping the boat. The assumption I had made that he would jump ship in such a situation was wrong, he got stuck under the canoe instead. I'm fairly certain I would not have been able to rescue him had he been tied to the canoe.

I'm fairly certain that *I* wouldn't be going WWR, and if I did, I certainly wouldn't be taking Cube with me. No way!
What I'm talking about is a very tame section of the Elbow river... it's deepest point we were floating at was less than 3m, and most of it my bf's bum (he was sitting in a kid's inner tube) was dragging on the bottom. The current isn't very strong, and the flow isn't very fast, but I didn't want to go jumping in after Cube if he did manage to jump out and float away (there are a few faster places), or if he managed to get to shore. And this weekend we're going to be out on a lake, so if I leash him to the raft, it'll only be cause I don't want him to swim too far away (if he decides he likes swimming!).

But thanks for the word of warning. Sounds scary.


June 30th, 2006, 07:38 AM
Here's the thing though, we actually made it through all the white water just fine... We tipped in flat water trying to get to shore. There were only a few very slight mistakes made, but it was enough to get us all wet.

Now that Cube knows what happens when he jumps out, he won't likely do it again... I dunk Charley over the side every once and a while to remind him what water is like, and to cool him off. He doens't go far, paddles out a few strokes then boots it back to the canoe.

You just never know, that's all.

June 30th, 2006, 11:54 AM
Ok, that's kinda funny that you made it all the way and then tipped when you were done. Pretty typical of life, isn't it?

And no, Cube probably won't be jumping out any time soon. But if I throw him out and he doesn't like it, that'll just make his fear worse, so I don't want to do that.
I'll see if I can ease him into the water, either coax him in or hold him so he's not so scared. When it's raining or we're walking and there's puddles he usually doesn't mind going through the puddles once he's wet, so maybe swimming will be the same thing. To be fair, the water in the river was pretty cold, so it was probably a shock to him. He might actually not mind the lake water; it's had some crazy hot weather to warm it up this past week (and yes, I know it takes longer than that, but we've had a very warm spring).

I'll post again after we get back regardless of what his reaction is.


June 30th, 2006, 02:48 PM
Body type has a ton to do with it.

Labs are fattier all over and are more bouyant. A boxer is all muscle in the front end of his body and muscle doesn't float it sinks.

All I know is Buster decided to follow his ball into a pool once...he sank...his little feet were paddling madly, but he couldn't get to the surface of the water (we had to scoop him out)! Now he's afraid of water puddles.
Some dogs don't swim, and no amount of coaxing or training will ever make them swimmers :cool:

June 30th, 2006, 03:25 PM
yep... in the photo find the small, light german shepherd, the small buoyant akita just floating along... and the heavy, dense, short-coated akita boy who sinks like a stone... hint... it's those two little ears sticking out of the water on the left, LOL! :cool:

June 30th, 2006, 08:24 PM
So funny how her tail stays out of the water...:)

meb, I can't picture a boxer swimming. They just seem so dense (not mentally, physically ;))

July 3rd, 2006, 02:46 AM
I have seen greyhounds swim, some racing trainigs do hydrotherapy with the dogs to help them recovery from strains or injuries,
I had a cocker spaniel that could not swim he would sink right under the surface and not come up, though he sure like going in the water, I had to go into a lake or river a few times fully dressed to rescue him a couple time of that and the only way he was alllowed near water was with a life jacket on.

Melissa, most of my dogs i introduced to water by carrying them out to where their feet won't touch, then I set them down gently hold their sides to support them as they get their feet moving I release them keeping my hands on either side incase they start panicking if so I hold them to steady then so they feel secure and let them paddle in to shore, a few time of that and they start to feel comfortable, later I wade into the water and try to coax them to swim to me.

July 4th, 2006, 09:58 AM
Without really intending it to happen, Sam (our coonhound/boxer cross) learned how to swim at Sylan Lake... Something you need to know about Sam is that he is afraid of everything for a while... you cannot rush him and even after he has gotten brave and done something he normally was afraid to do... he will still be cautious...

Well, this weekend we went to the lake and I took him down to a secluded area so I could keep an eye on my kids and let Sam cool off a bit as it was really nice weather... I started throwing sticks in for sam to fetch (which of course he runs after them and then thinks he should return them to the beach but at least 20 feet down the shore???) and each time I threw the stick just a little further as it seemed to me Sam was having a more outgoing spirit... sure ennough the last throw which took the stick just beyond him being up to his chest he turned and looked at me and I told him to "Go Ahead... get the stick" he turned back and lunged forward almost as if he was pushing himself off and all of a sudden he was swimming... he got so excited when he got back that he actually brought the stick back to me!!! :eek:

Anyway, after that he just loved it... but yet later that day was hesitant the first time and after once was fine again and so on...

The best part was when the kids came down and were with him in the water... he was so happy... he wouldn't come into shore... he just kept swimming around in circles trying to play... I had to finally make him come to me as he was overdoing it and getting very tired. He was so tired at the campsite that he even slid off his bed and just kept sleeping:rolleyes:

I was so happy he learned as the excercise he got was excellent and as well, it was so hot this weekend and even though Sam is a sun worshipper it was nice to cool him off a bit.

I wish I had taken pictures... it was just the best.

July 4th, 2006, 02:55 PM
Sam sounds a lot like Cube... scared to try new things.

So we were at Gull Lake, and as I haven't been there since I was a kid, I didn't remember what the water was like (shallow for about forever!), but that's ok. I knew that dogs weren't allowed to swim in the swim area with the kids, nor are they allowed on the beach, so we went to the boat launch and then walked down the beach until we were next to the swimming area. Since I didn't think Cube would swim, and even if he did, he wouldn't want to as long as we wanted to be out in the water, so we brought our inflatable raft for him and for putting our sandles in and such. We tried this on Saturday, and again on Sunday but unfortunately the batteries in the camera died on Sunday so we have no pictures or videos of Cube.

Here's the story... I wanted to know if he *could* swim without a life jacket. So we had him leashed and just started walking out in the water. For a very long time, the water wasn't deep, and his belly was barely getting wet. When it started getting deeper, his steps started getting higher, like he was trying to jump out of the water with every step. Really cute. Leash or not, he is so attached to me that he was gonna keep plodding along trying to keep up to me, even though I could tell from the look on his face he was pretty sure this was a stupid idea. I took the leash off so I could have both my hands free in case he needed to be rescued. By this point the water was up to his tail. A few more steps and he had to swim, and man was is funny! I think for the first few seconds he wasn't actually swimming, but sinking and then pushing off the bottom because he sure was splashing and sputtering. He didn't seem able to keep himself up, so I picked him up and we put his life jacket on him. Put him back in the water and watched the funniest thing ever--a bob-dog! He was bobbing from side to side, still paddling, and looking for all he world like he was trying to climb out of the water. He does have a lot of propulsion for a little dog, and managed to get himself to the raft. Then he'd try to climb out of the water, and tip over backward. Poor little guy. We tried to keep him swimming, but he was getting pretty upset, snorting (obviously got some water up his nose when he went over) and his heart was pounding. So I put him in the raft, and he stayed there the rest of the time we were out.

On Sunday we took him out again, and started him out with the lifejacket. Tightened a little around the belly, and it seemed better. He didn't bob as much. Didn't seem to hate it as much, either. While we were swimming, he was in the raft but kept jumping up on the edge and walking around... then a wave would hit the raft and he'd fall off. Or Adam pushed it (not meaning to knock him off) and he fell in. He fell in 3 times, and only once did he have the life jacket on. Then I had to go and rescue him. Felt bad, but he didn't seem too scared.

Yesterday (monday) we took him out really quick so we could cool off before we drove home. He was much happier, swimming around us, back and forth, and not sputtering as much. When we were about to leave a lady called over and asked where we got the life jacket as she said she had a small white dog, too. People thought it was pretty funny, but I bet that there was at least a few who hadn't ever thought of it but would love to get their dog in the water, too!
I was really impressed with Cube. He's been through so many bad things, and he's normally very scared of things. But he's adapted so well to things that I think should be so tough for him. He accepts the life jacket without complaint (walks a little funny), and he follows me into the water totally sure that I won't let anything happen to him. Sure, he chases my cats and barks at every person who walks in front of my house, or at every noise he hears in the yard, but I really couldn't ask for a dog who's more willing to *try*. I really doubt there's anything I could ask of this little guy that he wouldn't at least try to do. It's so awesome.

Now I have to find a place to take him swimming in town... or near town. Then I can take the videos and pictures I want to show you!!

Just wanted to share Cube's weekend.

doggy lover
July 4th, 2006, 03:30 PM
Tucker loves to swim, he was in the pond at the cottage all weekend. Now my last dog GSD X BMD would go as far as his chest and that was it, he did fall in a couple of times and could swim he just prefered not too. Tucker has been in the pond since he was 3 months old.