One of the most popular questions asked among Bulldog owners is “can Bulldogs swim?”
As an owner of a French Bulldog, this is a question that I wish I would have asked myself before putting her into water.
I’ve never before owned a dog that couldn’t swim, so it wasn’t even a question that crossed my mind.
But the first time I took my little Frenchie swimming, I learned a quick lesson. I took her in the water with me, placed her in, and let her go.
Well, thank goodness I was there because she immediately started to sink to the bottom.
I quickly scooped her up, brought her back to shore, and started to research how I could teach her to swim. But are all Bulldogs like mine?
Can Bulldogs swim?
Or do they all sink to the bottom like my Frenchie?
The answer to this question is that every dog is built differently.
Some Bulldogs can swim, and others have a very difficult time. With that being said, most bulldogs, despite the breed (English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, American Bulldogs, Boxers, and other “bulldog” breeds), can’t swim well.
The main reason for this is because Bulldogs are considered to be Brachycephalic breeds.
But what does this mean, and is there any way to teach your Bulldog to swim?
Today we will cover topics like these as well as:
- Anatomical Reasons why Your Bulldog Can’t Swim like other dogs
- How to keep your Bulldog safe around water
- How to adapt your dog to being around water
- How to train your Bulldog to swim
- How to make swimming fun for your Bulldog
So let’s get started!
Anatomical Reasons Why Bulldogs Can’t Swim Well
Again, the main reason that Bulldogs of all breeds have such a difficult time swimming is because they are considered to be Brachycephalic.
This means that they have a wide, short skull.
And while most Bulldog owners find the smooshed in the face of the Bulldog adorable and irresistible, it can actually create many health problems for your dog.
Brachycephalic dogs typically have short nasal passages, which is the main reason why they snort and snore so much.
Unfortunately, this means that their airways may be obstructed. Over time, this can lead to serious respiratory issues, and may even require surgery.
In terms of swimming, Brachycephalic breeds tend to have short snouts. This means that they have to work harder to keep their nose out of water. 👇
Rather than swimming normally like most dogs, Bulldogs have to tilt their faces up higher to prevent water from entering their nostrils. This makes it more difficult for them to stay afloat.
In addition to their Brachycephalic condition, Bulldogs of all breeds tend to have shorter legs and heavier torsos.
As you can imagine, this “top-heavy” body shape also makes it difficult to stay above water. Combine this with the fact that humidity makes breathing difficult, and the Bulldog stands little chance at staying afloat.
Again, this isn’t to say that there aren’t Bulldogs out there that can swim – every dog is different, and there are some Bulldogs that have no problem in the water.
With that being said, even if your Bulldog can swim, they are still subject to quick exhaustion, especially when it’s humid outside.
Always take precautions when your Bulldog is near water, even if they have exhibited that they can swim in the past.
Bulldog Swimming Video
How To Keep A Non-Swimming Bulldog Safe Around Water
Whether your Bulldog can swim or not, it’s always important to take precautions when your dog is around water.
Here are some tips for keeping your non-swimming Bulldog safe around water:
- Keep Your Dog on a Leash
- As a rule of thumb, if your dog can’t swim, you should never let them out of your sight around water. If you fear that your dog might run off, keep them on a leash so that they can be near you at all times. That way, you can be there at any time to help should they start to sink.
- Invest in a good Life Jacket
- Just like humans should wear life jackets around water, so should dogs. A well-fitted life jacket could help to keep your dog safe should they ever find themselves in trouble. Having said that, even with a lifejacket, Bulldogs can still have a hard time keeping their heads above water. For maximum safety, combine a lifejacket with a leash.
- Put a Fence Around your Pool
- If you have a pool and a Bulldog, it’s not a bad idea to put a fence around your pool. Even if your Bulldog typically avoids water, accidents can happen. The best safety measure is prevention.
- Teach your Dog to Swim
- In the case of an absolute emergency, it’s never a bad idea to get your Bulldog use to water and teach them how to swim. Even with lessons, your Bulldog may not be able to swim great distances, but being comfortable in the water and preventing panic could be what saves their life if they ever find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
Getting Your Bulldog Used To Water:
As I just mentioned, it’s never a bad idea to get your Bulldog used to the water, even if they can’t swim.
Here are some tips to take along with you when adapting your Bulldog to water:
- When first teaching your Bulldog to swim, always keep them on a leash. Not only will this allow you to rescue them if they need help, but it will also give them the comfort of your support.
- Keep lessons positive. Each time your dog enters the water or takes the next step, offer them plenty of treats and praise. Don’t punish your dog if they are not ready to enter the water – positive reinforcement is key.
- Always bring along fresh, clean water. Teaching your dog to swim will take a great deal of energy, and you must keep them hydrated. Dogs should never drink pond, lake, or saltwater, so always be sure to bring along a portable water dispenser to keep them hydrated.
- Take things slowly. Never force your Bulldog into the water if they don’t want to go. Instead, use positive reinforcement and praise to encourage them to get their feet wet.
Training A Bulldog To Swim:
Here are the effective steps to follow when training your bulldog swimming:
- While first introducing your dog to the water, you want to make sure that they are in a quiet place where there will be no distractions – you want all focus on you and the task at hand.
- You must start in shallow water so that you don’t overwhelm your dog.
- Stand in the water and use treats and encouragement to entice them in.
- Be patient and let them enter the water at their own pace. Never force your dog into the water. Forcing your dog into the water could create panic and lead your dog to develop a phobia.
- Once your dog seems comfortable at the edge of the water, then you can gradually start to go in deeper.
- As they become more and more comfortable in the water, you can start with the “swimming” lessons.
- Enter into the water with your dog, and hold them under their belly. In most cases, your dog will respond with the evolutionary response of dog paddling.
- If they seem comfortable, face them towards the shore, and let them go (but stay close to their side in case they need your help).
- Repeat this process a few times, and gradually move further and further from shore.
- If they seem to be doing well, you can move progressively into throwing a stick or ball into the water for them to retrieve.
But again, don’t force your dog to do anything they are uncomfortable with – you will only create fear and panic, which won’t be beneficial to them in case of emergency.
Make Swimming A Fun Activity For Your Bulldog
Most dogs love water, but for some, water can create stress.
Luckily, there are plenty of things that you can do to encourage your dog to look at swimming as a fun activity rather than a fearful one:
- Get in the water with your dog
- There’s no one in this world that your dog loves more than you, and there’s no one in the world that they would rather spend time with. If you are in the water, your dog will want to be in the water with you. Make swimming a regular activity that you and your dog can participate in together. Not only will they appreciate your comfort, but it will also help to deepen your bond.
- Bring along friends
- One of the best ways to encourage your dog to enjoy swimming is by bringing along other dog friends. Seeing other dogs jumping in and playing in the water will help your dog to learn that the water is fun, not frightening.
- Provide lots of treats and encouragement
- Dogs love treats, and they crave your praise. By providing your dog plenty of each while swimming, you can eventually teach them to associate swimming with praise and treats. Doing so will make the activity one that they look forward to.
- Establish a post-swimming ritual
- Once your dog has finished their swimming lesson, develop a routine that they love. Take them for a walk, take them to the dog park, or throw the ball for a few minutes. This is another form of positive reinforcement that can teach your dog to associate swimming with the things that they love.
If you own a Bulldog, you must be cautious with them around water.
Even if they can swim, Bulldogs can have a difficult time in the heat and humidity.
If you live near water or have a pool, you must encourage your dog to learn to swim and feel comfortable in the water.
You should never leave your Bulldog unaccompanied near open water, even if they can swim.
Rather, use swimming lessons as a means of keeping your dog safe in case of an emergency, and as a way of bonding with your best friend.
1. [^] Packer, Rowena M A, et al. “Great Expectations, Inconvenient Truths, and the Paradoxes of the Dog-Owner Relationship for Owners of Brachycephalic Dogs.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 19 July 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31323057.