Don’t all dogs know how to swim?
Although this seems like a basic question not all dogs are the best swimmers! Although most dogs will instinctively start the “doggy paddle” when afloat, not all dogs float the same.
Larger breeds are typically better swimmers, with larger paws and stronger legs able to push water away fast enough to successfully keep afloat and move around. A number of breeds have actually been bred to be excellent swimmers. Retrievers have been bred specially for water work, to fetch whatever is required wherever it may fall.
“Water” breeds too are usually good swimmers. Some examples are:
- Portuguese water dog
- American water spaniel
- Spanish water dog
It (the Spanish water dog) is also used sometimes as a gundog, and is skilled at retrieval from water. Wikipedia
When it comes to less adept breeds, top-heavy dogs like bulldogs and dachshunds top the list. Their (cute) short legs don’t provide enough traction to keep moving and this limits their swimming ability. Similarly, pugs may find it difficult to stay afloat since their smaller build doesn’t suit itself to a doggy paddle. Brachycephalic breeds like short muzzled dogs are included in this list of poor swimmers. Their respiratory system is not well suited to breathing with even slightly turbulent.
Small dogs can be good swimmers. Often though their nervous nature makes the water more intimidating. Their small bodies can cool down too quickly, making them prone to get the chills easily if swimming in cool water for too long.
Does my puppy/pooch/hound really need a life vest?
So, while some dogs are naturally really good swimmers, like retrievers and spaniels, others are just not.
Whatever the case with your fur-child, it’s always best to have a plan. A dog life jacket makes it easier for them to tread water, either while enjoying the swim, or waiting for retrieval themselves.
Although technically not required by dog-mariners, this piece of kit can really save lives. Whether you’re boating off Clifton beach in Cape Town or on the Harties dam, being safe in the water is important. In fact according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most boating accidents involve good swimmers. They are usually injured or suffer from hypothermia or exhaustion. The same risks apply to our furry friends.
It can be easy to imagine your excited hound springing off the edge to chase a duck or the splash of a fish’s tail. Even if you think your dog is an Olympic swimmer, any dog can be overcome with fatigue. A tired dog can only swim so far with large waves and some large bodies of water experience quite large swells. For example, the Hartbeespoort dam can have swells as large as 2M. These large swells could easily unsteady even larger dogs. With a buoyant life vest however, it can increase the swim time of the dog, reducing his fatigue.
The beach is a summertime dream. Warm sand, soft sea and a cool breeze is all we need. But for some with cool boats, Clifton beach is the place to be. Clifton beach, being on the atlantic side of the coast is rarely over 12-13 °C making the shimmering water ice cold. A dog life jacket with front flotation pads and a sturdy handle is essential to get the dog back onboard, dried off and warmed up.
But of course these swimming risks could happen in any body of water, so good judgement is needed when deciding to use a dog life jacket.
When teaching a puppy how to swim a life jacket could come in handy. Younger puppies are often so inquisitive they can fall into the pool without yet having the dexterity to coordinate all 4 paws. Doggy paddling can be taught, and with enough buoyancy a pup can learn it. While learning though, a puppy might fall into the pool, and if left unattended the results can be devastating. (Read the review below about how a life jacket saved a puppy’s life!)