Can German Shepherds Swim? (Plus 3 Steps to Train Them To Become a Natural Swimmer)

Categorized as Sport & Exercise
Can German shepherds swimming?

Yes, most German shepherds can swim. Some German shepherds learn how to swim naturally, but most need to be trained to master this skill. Through training and practice, they can become an excellent swimmer over time.

In the following post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about German shepherds and swimming, including do German shepherds like to swim? Is swimming good for German shepherds? And how to train your dog to swim?

Can German Shepherds Swim Naturally?

Some dogs are known to be good swimmers, while others do not swim well. For example, Labradors are natural swimmers. They were bred to retrieve birds or other prey from the water and return them to their owners. Physically, you’ll notice these natural-born swimmers tend to have webbed feet that act as paddles when they swim.

Other top swimming dog breeds include dogs with “water” in their names (such as Portuguese water dog, Spanish water dog, Irish water spaniel), golden retriever, English, and Irish setters, the standard poodle, and the schipperke.

On the contrary, some dogs, because of their anatomy and facial structure, are not made for swimming. Some dog breeds that can’t swim, such as greyhounds, will even sink faster than a rock! Dogs that should never be allowed near deep water include greyhounds, pugs, dachshunds, bulldogs, basset hounds, and Boston terriers.

German shepherds fall somewhere in between these two categories. They were not explicitly bred for swimming, but their strong work ethic, intelligence, and natural athletic ability make them capable of becoming good swimmers if appropriately trained.

Do German Shepherds like to Swim?

In general, every German shepherd has the potential to learn to swim and stay afloat, but whether or not they like to swim is another issue. Some GSDs like to swim, and some don’t. And this applies not only to German shepherds but to all dogs.

Some German shepherds are afraid of water, which is the reason why some GSDs don’t like to swim.

Do German Shepherds like Water?

Most German shepherds enjoy the water, but some GSDs don’t like it. Because German shepherds weren’t explicitly bred for water-based activities, how much they like water will depend on their previous experiences, especially when growing up as a puppy.

If they had bad experiences with water when they were puppies, they more than likely would grow up being fearful and refusing to swim.

Even if your dog likes to play in the water, please limit your dog’s exposure to saltwater. Drinking too much salt water can lead to saltwater poisoning with symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. The most common signs of saltwater poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

Is Swimming Good for German Shepherds?

Your dog can get many benefits from swimming, here are some of them in brief.

A Full-Body Workout

Swimming is one of the best exercises for German Shepherds as it uses all the muscles in their body. By swimming regularly, your dog will be able to tone their whole body, as well as improve the movement of their larger joints, more than other exercises.

Aside from improving overall tone and fitness, it also provides a lot of other health benefits like keeping your dog’s heart and lungs healthy, increasing stamina, improving circulation, and a lot more.

And because exercising in water makes your dog’s body work harder, they don’t need to spend a lot of time in the water to get the benefits of swimming. Just one minute of swimming equates to four minutes of running.

It is Low Impact

Swimming is a low impact exercise making it an ideal choice for big dogs who are prone to developing hip dysplasia like German shepherds.

Great for The Mind

Not only is swimming great for strengthening your dog’s muscles, but it is also great for their mental health and wellbeing. It stimulates the brain to release neurochemicals that make the body feel good, reducing stress and boredom.

Swimming is Cooling

Swimming is a perfect activity for hot or summer days. It allows him to cool off your dog on hot days while still keeping his body in shape.

For Therapeutic Purpose

If you have post-surgery or arthritic GSD, you may want to consider taking him swimming at an aquatic therapy facility. The majority of these facilities feature hydrotherapy pools that will help dogs recover after surgery or help arthritic dogs relieve their pain and move more comfortably.

How to Teach German Shepherds to Swim?

Teaching your German shepherd to swim is a lot like teaching a child to swim; it requires care and patience.

Prepare the Necessary Equipment 

Firstly, you’ll want to get a dog swimming leash and a doggy life jacket for your dog swimming lesson. The swimming leash will help you supervise your puppy and doesn’t swim too far out while the life jacket is useful to help your dog avoid drowning while learning to swim.

Start Slow

Don’t rush anything, or you could make your dog afraid of water. Take your dog into the shallow area of the lake and practice walking into and out of it to build his confidence.

Observe your dog’s reaction. If your German shepherd seems reluctant, use a positive tone of voice and praise him a lot when they gradually move into the water.

It would be best if you also get into the water with your dog so you can see their movements. Make sure you see they use all four limbs to swim. If they only use their front legs, you can support your dog’s belly with your arm to encourage them to use their rear legs.

If, at any point, your German shepherd appears to be panicking, grab the top handle of their life jacket and lift them out of the water. Let them calm down before starting the lesson again.

After The Lesson

When the lesson is over, give your dog lots of praise (both verbal and physical) and treats to help them associate swimming with fun and positive times.

Once your dog manages to keep themselves afloat, you could try moving to deeper water or taking off the life jacket if you feel the water is safe.

German Shepherds Swimming Safety Tips

Remember, safety should always be your number one priority. Here’re some safety swimming tips to keep in mind while teaching your dog to swim:

  • Always be your dog’s lifeguard. Never leave them unattended while in the water, especially during their first few swimming lessons.
  • You should always make your dog wear a dog life jacket when swimming. It will give you extra confidence knowing that they are safe even if they swim a bit far from you.
  • Keep the first few swimming lessons short so that your German shepherd doesn’t get overtired.

1. Can German Shepherds Swim in Pool?

Yes, German shepherds can swim in a pool, but you shouldn’t let them swim for too long, especially if the water is highly chlorinated, as in the case of a recreational swimming pool. The chlorine will dry out your GSD’s coat and possibly causing skin or eye irritation.

2. Can German Shepherds Swim in Cold Water?

Dogs, like humans, can suffer from hypothermia if they swim too long in cold water. Because your dog won’t understand the water is what is making them cold, it’s your job to decide whether the water is too cold for your dog or not. In general, if the water feels too cold for you to stand to wade in, then it might be too cold for your German shepherd as well.

3. German shepherds Swimming Ability

Because German shepherds are a natural-born swimmer, your German shepherd swimming ability depends on how rigorous their training is. Given proper training and practice, your GSD can be a good swimmer.

4. How long Can a German shepherd Swim? 

This is dependent on the dog, but in general, properly trained German shepherds can swim for about 30 to 45 minutes.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.