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Can Pugs Swim? [With Photos & Video]

Can pugs swim?

Pugs can swim but with risks. They are brachycephalic, which forces them to stick their heads up and their butts down in the water to breathe which in turn makes them sink. Even if they can keep their shortened muzzles above water, their restricted breathing passages leave them quickly out of breath.

Consider this: a dog’s ability to swim is based on several factors, most of which, in a pug, work against it.

We’ll look at these disadvantages in greater detail later in the article, but weaknesses to swimming in pugs include:

  • Position in water—Being brachycephalic.
  • Difficulty breathing—their restricted breathing passages.
  • Body shape—pugs have dense bodies which require greater exertion to keep them afloat
  • Paw webbing—unlike other dog breeds bred to be in the water, pugs do not have webbing between their paws to make swimming easier
  • Leg length—a pug’s short legs are not designed to displace water and prevent sinking

Pugs may not be natural swimmers, but especially if they enjoy the water, you may be able to teach them how to do it, anyway.

Biological Reasons as to Why Pugs Can’t Swim Well

brachycephalic word meaning illustration

The biggest challenge a pug needs to overcome to swim successfully is its brachycephalic face.

Short, broad skulls define Brachycephaly.

Pugs are one of the best-known brachycephalic breeds, having been bred over hundreds of years to achieve the signature squashed appearance of their heads.

But, did you know that there is a pug with un-squashed faces?

[ Learn more about the  Retro Pug Breed Here ]

As cute as they may look, brachycephaly causes the pug several problems, including swimming.

To keep their flat mouth and noses above water, pugs must throw their heads back while swimming, which also drops their rear ends.

Not being able to balance their bodies in the water makes them sink like stones.

In addition to giving them a posture in the water that is almost impossible to keep afloat, brachycephaly, by its very nature, comes with a host of other breathing problems.

Pugs are prone to snorting and wheezing even while resting; the exertion of swimming may leave one dangerously out of breath.

Pugs may be lapdogs, but their barrel-shaped bodies are dense and far from hydrodynamic.

Pugs are also one of the breeds most prone to obesity, and the heavier they get, the more likely they are to sink like stones.

Finally, the pug’s legs and feet are not designed for swimming.

The legs are too short to move through the water effectively, and without the webbing between toes that some other Chinese dog breeds have, paddling hard enough to keep afloat takes more energy than it should.

How to Tell If Your Pug Likes the Water

Pug swimming in the beach

Any dog can be trained to behave in the water, but it’s a much easier task if your pug enjoys it.

Despite their weaknesses when it comes to swimming, some pugs do love playing in the water, so don’t give up hope!

There’s a good chance that you may be able to play on a beach with your pug, just like so many other happy dog owners.

On the other hand, your pug may prefer to sunbathe and hunt the beach for snacks and other treasures, refusing even to approach the shoreline.

If your pug is resistant to entering the water, even with you gently cajoling it to join you, it’s so naturally averse to swimming that you’ll never get it to love the act.

In these situations, the most important thing to do is to pay attention to your dog’s body language.

Pugs are an expressive breed; you’ll know pretty easily whether yours enjoys something or hates it.

If you notice extreme anxiety or panic in your pug when it approaches open water, you may want to reconsider your decision to try to teach it to swim.

Can it learn?  Sure.

But if it hates it, is it worth it?

Getting Your Pug Used to the Water

pug swimming in a river

Some pugs genuinely enjoy being in the water despite their difficulties with swimming, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that just as many would rather avoid it.

Not understanding this natural aversion, some pug owners will try to get their pugs to swim all at once, but it’s better in these cases to go slow.

You can also do much to make a pug more comfortable in the water.  One great idea is to pair your pug with another dog that is a more experienced swimmer.

Having another dog lead by example will show your pug the possibility of success.

Floating toys may also offer your dog reassurance while submerged in a pool.

Toys that are big enough can be used as islands that your pug can swim to and use to rest if it runs out of steam and is too far away from the pool edges to get to quickly enough.

Your support is the most important part of getting a pug used to the water.

Your pup looks to you for guidance and love as a doggy parent. A pug should never be near open water unattended.

The best way to adjust a pug to water is to enter yourself while holding it.  Take your time to let your pug slowly adapt to the novel sensation of being submerged.

If, at any point, it starts to panic, let it back onshore to observe you in the water from a safe distance.  Once it sees you playing, your pug will want to join in the fun!

Safety First

pug dog with goggles, snorkel and flippers in inflatable pool

Like any new swimmer, a pug going through training on how to swim should be treated with care and vigilance.

Before even considering introducing your pug to water, measures should be in place to ensure your pup doesn’t fall in accidentally.

Having a dog fence around your pool should be a no-brainer, but you also need to ensure that there aren’t holes big enough for your pug to slip through.

Small dogs can come with big problems!

Pugs are also good diggers, so if your fence is on top of soft, movable earth, regularly check to make sure your dog hasn’t dug space to crawl through underneath it.

To keep your pup safe, keep an eye on its energy levels; don’t let it get worn out.

Tired dogs in unsafe and unstable situations quickly become scared and panicky dogs.

Let your pug play around and get used to being in the water, but take it out long before exhaustion sets in.

If you’re invested in your pug being a swimmer, you’ll need to invest in a life jacket

Teaching a pug how to swim is less about keeping itself afloat and more about teaching it how to be comfortable while submerged in water.

A pug might be able to muster up a passable doggy paddle, but it will never be a strong swimmer, and the risk of letting it try to swim without a flotation device is too great.

Life jackets will keep your pug afloat and allow it to swim confidently.

How to Train Your Pugs to Swim

Teaching a pug to swim

Just because pugs are at a natural disadvantage doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to swim. (image source)

In fact, not only can pugs figure out how to navigate water—they may even come to enjoy it!

When teaching your pug to swim, it’s important to go slow and respect its limits.

Hold it above the water and slowly lower it into it, butt-first.  Even before it touches the water, your pug will begin to doggy paddle just by instinct.

Continue to raise and lower your pug in and out of the water until it gets used to using its legs to stay afloat.

Once it has the movement down, your pug may be ready to try swimming on its own—but remember its difficulties.

Even after you’ve trained your pug to be comfortable in the water, it should always wear a life jacket while swimming to ensure its safety.

Making Swimming Fun

Pug dog with children in an inflatable pool

The best way to get positive results from training your pug to swim is to make every time it’s in the water a positive experience.

This is always going to be a challenge for pugs who aren’t fans of the water, but some things under your control can make the experience better.

First, make sure the body of water is at an optimal temperature.  Whether it’s a pool, a lake, or the ocean, water should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit to be comfortable for a pug.

The water should also be clear of all obstacles and objects, except floating pool toys that may offer your pug some reprieve if it gets tired.

With a little effort and a little more time, swimming can be a fun experience for you and your pug!

dog paw prints

About the author: Chalene Johnston graduated with honors from University with a BA in psychology. She is a proud stay-at-home mom to her 2-year-old French Bulldog puppy, Stella! When she is not looking for adventure travel destinations, she loves to write! She writes for a wide variety of topics – with animals being one of her favorites.

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