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How Long Can a Dog Swim?

If you own a puppy or an adult dog, you might be curious if they know how to swim or not. 

You might also be wondering how long a dog can swim and how long you can keep them in the water. 

Knowing your dog’s limits is important before you take them swimming because you want to make sure they have the stamina and endurance to finish the swim and stay afloat. 

How long can dogs swim?

If your dog is new to swimming, it can only swim for about 5 to 10 minutes. Once they reach the 10-minute mark, you can slowly increase their time by a few minutes each time. Make sure you watch them closely the first few times you take them swimming to make sure they don’t drown. 

You might be curious about the best time to take your dog swimming and how you can use swimming as an exercise.

We will cover some tips in this article to make sure you have all the information you need before taking your dog out into the water

Swimming also has many health benefits that your dog can benefit from. 

How Long Can I Take My Dog Swimming?

The amount of time your dog can swim depends on the breed and the dog. 

Some dogs are naturally better swimmers than others. 

If you are taking your dog swimming for the first time, don’t leave them in the water unsupervised, and make sure they are only for a brief swim.

This will allow them to build confidence as a swimmer and help them learn to swim properly. 

During a first swim, most dogs can only swim for about 5 to 10 minutes unless they are a water retriever breed or another breed that was specifically bred for swimming. 

Rest periods are essential for every dog, especially if they are small or new to swimming. 

All dogs need gentle and progressive exercise, but especially if they are recovering from an injury or are older. 

Each time you take your dog swimming, they will be able to build stamina and swim for longer and longer on subsequent visits. 

How Should I Prepare My Dog for Swimming?

Dogs usually will get into the water themselves or you might want to guide them into the water if they seem hesitant. 

Bringing water toys can help as it will encourage your dog to get into the water as they will want to get their toy and play.

If you are taking your dog to a pool or putting them in your pool, you might want to consider trimming their nails and brushing their hair as it will keep the pool cleaner. 

If you are staying on the shore or near the pool, you might want to wear nonslip shoes and an outfit that can get wet. 

This will ensure you are able to jump into the water if need be and you will also be okay getting wet if the dog splashes you.  

You will want to bring a towel. Some dogs get cold after swimming, and you want to make sure they can get wrapped in a warm and fuzzy towel. 

You might want to bring some treats and food along as well because some dogs get very tired after swimming. 

If you’re unsure of your dog’s swimming ability and are taking them to a lake or river, you might want to consider getting a lifejacket.

This will make sure they stay above the surface of the water. 

Make sure that the life jacket fits correctly and that it won’t sleep off. 

Life jackets that are too snug can be uncomfortable for your dog and might make them resistant to swimming. 

If you have used your life jacket in a river or lake and want to put the dog in the pool, make sure to clean it first as you don’t want to contaminate the pool. 

Can I Bring All My Dogs Swimming at Once?

This is a personal preference and depends on the dog.

If some of your dogs already know how to swim and you don’t need to watch them as closely, you can bring them along and concentrate more on the one dog that is still learning to swim. 

If all your dogs are new to swimming though, it might be hard for you to watch them and keep them all safe. 

Consider taking them swimming individually or bringing along a friend to help you. 

You can also sign them up for swimming lessons to see how they perform before taking them all swimming together. 

If you know your dogs can all swim well, there should be no reason to not bring them all swimming with you at one time. 

Swimming with your dog can also be a fun bonding activity. 

Many owners choose to swim with one or all of their dogs to exercise together and bond.

If you take professional swimming lessons though, they usually don’t allow you to swim with the dog for liability reasons. 

Is Swimming Healthy for Dogs?

Yes! As long as your dog doesn’t overdo it in the pool as a new swimmer, swimming has many health benefits and can make your dog healthier and decrease their chance of having some health conditions in the future. 

Swimming can also help with some behavioral issues. 

If your dog is high-energy and very active, swimming can also ensure they get enough exercise and energy out before the end of the day. 

In general, swimming can promote the following in your dog:

  • Confidence
  • Bonding 
  • Cardiovascular conditioning 
  • Increased circulation 
  • Increased strength 
  • Reduced stress/anxiety 
  • Weight loss 
  • Relaxation 
  • Quality of life 

If your dog has some health problems, you might want to ask their vet before you take them swimming. 

In general, though, swimming is safe for most dogs even with health problems.

Dogs with the following problems can swim, just make sure it’s in small increments and with the advisement of their vet:

  • C-section 
  • Orthopedic conditions 
  • Cruciate ligaments 
  • Pre/post-surgical conditioning 
  • Ligament strains/sprains 
  • Stroke or paralysis 
  • Geriatrics 
  • Muscle stiffness 
  • Obesity 
  • Arthritis 
  • Hip/elbow dysplasia 

If your dog has recently had surgery, you might need to wait sometime before taking them swimming. 

Most of the time, you don’t want to take the dog swimming if they have sutures in place. 

Your vet might say it’s okay though and even give you waterproof bandages. 

It’s also okay to take your go swimming before an operation as long as your vet doesn’t say otherwise. 

Swimming before surgery allows the dog to get in better shape and become more comfortable before the operation. 

Even dogs who have had strokes and have paralysis can benefit from swimming. 

They will need to use flotation devices though and might need assistance from you or a trainer. 

You might want to take them for professional lessons the first few times to see how they swim to ensure they don’t have too much difficulty. 

Most dogs will instinct use their limbs though to the best of their ability. 

Swimming is also a form of low-impact exercise and is better for dogs with certain health conditions as well as better for older dogs. 

Swimming can also be easier than running or jogging. It will have less impact on the joints and tendons. 

Keep in mind though that swimming is a new exercise for any dog and can cause stiffness and soreness the first few times. This is normal. 

Stiffness will usually work itself out after one or two days and is worse after laying down or a nap. 

If you see your dog is still stiff after the third or fourth day, call the vet and explain the problem. 

If your dog has health problems or is older, the vet might recommend you come in for a checkup or tell you to just wait a few days and see if it gets better. 

Why Does My Dog Refuse to Swim?

Some dogs are afraid of swimming and need some help or assistance.

Some dogs are afraid of getting wet while other dogs simply don’t have the confidence needed to swim.

In these cases, the dog might need to be introduced to swimming in a new and comfortable way. 

If your dog refuses to get into the water even with you in it and with toys, you might need to take them for swimming classes. 

Training pools for dogs are usually warm and the instructors are qualified to teach your dog to swim. 

This will make the swim more comfortable and give them some confidence while they swim in a controlled setting. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs with no previous swimming experience should not be left in the water for more than 5 to 10 minutes. 

The exact time will depend on the dog and the breed though as some are naturally better swimmers than others. 

Your dog might also need practice swimming so they can build stamina. Swimming for dogs has many health benefits that make it a great exercise.