can German Shepherds swim

Can German Shepherds Swim? Do They Like To?

As a German Shepherd owner, I’ve always wondered if German Shepherds like to go swimming. Especially now since I recently got an above ground pool. I for one, really want to let my GSDs go for a dip, but I thought it best to check if they can swim or if they would even enjoy swimming before I do.

So here’s what I found out.

Can German Shepherds Swim?

Yes, they can. But the ability to swim varies with each German Shepherd. Like humans, some German Shepherds will exhibit a knack for swimming, while some will have difficulties just staying afloat. This discrepancy can be partly attributed to the fact that German Shepherds aren’t natural swimmers. That said, swimming is learnable, and the intelligent German Shepherd can most definitely learn how to swim.

Do German Shepherds Like To Swim?

Some German Shepherds love swimming while some are terrified of doing so. If the dog has had a traumatic experience with water in the past, then you can expect it to be scared of swimming. Other than that, they’ll generally be open to exploring and going for a dip. Some German Shepherds may even find swimming to be one of their favorite activities.

Why Aren’t German Shepherds Natural Swimmers?

Simply put, German Shepherds weren’t bred to be swimmers.

They were developed for herding sheep and thus have traits ideal for the role of a herding dog. And herding just did not involve any swimming. 

Physical Traits That Can Make German Shepherds Good Swimmers

Now, while they’re not natural at it, German Shepherds do have some physical qualities that can allow them to be excellent swimmers. These qualities are as follows:

Long Legs. German Shepherds have long and strong legs similar to natural swimmers like the Labrador Retriever and the German Shorthaired Pointer. These long and powerful legs help propel them in water.

Long Snouts. Short snouted dogs like bulldogs aren’t suitable for swimming due to the shortness of their snouts that make it difficult for them to keep their muzzles above the waterline. Such is why natural swimmers tend to have long snouts, another physical quality which German Shepherds possess.

Double Coat. German Shepherds are double coated, meaning they have undercoats that essentially make their coats waterproof. These waterproof double coats help regulate temperature when swimming as it acts as an insulator. They also act as a water repellent, which prevents the German Shepherd’s fur from being weighed down by the water, thus allowing them to swim freely.

Webbed Feet. While not as pronounced compared to the natural swimmers, German Shepherds have webbed feet. These allow them to push more water with each paddle, propel themselves better, and swim more efficiently.

Training A German Shepherd To Swim

german shepherds jumping in the water

If you’re intent on having a German Shepherd as a swimming companion, then you can train it to swim. That said, there are things you have to consider, and you’d have to understand that training is a process that requires patience.

Consider Your Dog’s Fears

As a dog owner, you must be responsible enough to consider your dog’s fears. Some dogs are scared of water, and should your German Shepherd be one of those dogs, do be patient. Again, training your German Shepherd to swim is a long process that will require you to keep your cool, especially when it comes to fearful dogs.

Take It Slow

Regardless of whether your German Shepherd is scared of water or not, it’s always best to take things slow. Don’t force your German Shepherd into the water as doing so may traumatize it Instead, let it explore at it’s own pace. Let your GSD touch the water with its toes, and just facilitate as it slowly gets more comfortable. When it’s ready, slowly start to submerge your German Shepherd in the water.

Entice Your German Shepherd In

If you’re having difficulty getting your German Shepherd in the water, you might want to try to entice it in with treats or toys. The key here is to associate getting into the water with a positive experience using rewards.

Consider A Life Vest

If you’re not sure your German Shepherd can stay afloat, you could always consider a life vest. Life vests not only offer safety, but they’re also great for getting your dog comfortable with swimming in general.

Here are some great options on Amazon that you can consider:

Join In

Consider getting in the water to monitor your German Shepherd’s movements. This way, you could check if they’re kicking with their legs to stay afloat, and quickly get them to safety when things go wrong.


The key to every training is positive reinforcement. So, make swimming a positive experience for your German Shepherd by being generous with your praises.

Other Considerations When Taking Your GSD For A Swim

do German Shepherds like to swim

Prepare Access To Shade And Fresh Drinking Water

Before everything else, always be sure to prepare shade and fresh drinking water for your German Shepherd. Do this especially on hot days to prevent the risk of your dog getting heat stroke. Providing access to drinking water will also prevent your dog from having to drink the water from the pool, ocean, or lake, which isn’t at all healthy and sometimes even dangerous.

Make Sure The Water Is Clean

Before swimming, make sure the water your German Shepherd will be swimming in is clean. If there’s any trash whatsoever, don’t let your dog in there.

Make Sure The Water Is Safe

Make sure that the water doesn’t present any potential hazards like broken glass, or any object that may harm your dog when they swim or jump in.

Also, be sure to consider the conditions before allowing your German Shepherd to swim. These conditions would include the temperature of the water, and even the current when swimming in flowing water. If the current is too strong, or if the water is too hot or too cold, it’s best to stay safe, and not allow your dog to get in.

Start With Freshwater

When just starting, it’s best to teach your dog swimming in freshwater. When your German Shepherd is still learning how to swim, it may be prone to taking in and swallowing water, which is dangerous when done with chlorinated or saltwater. Thus, only let your dog swim in freshwater until it learns not to intake unnecessarily high amounts of water.

Dangers Of Chlorinated Water

To further highlight the importance of starting in freshwater, here are some dangers brought about by chlorinated water:

  • Excessive chlorine intake may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, thus leading to nausea and vomiting.
  • Chlorine may also irritate your German Shepherd’s eyes, skin, and coat. This can be caused by prolonged exposure, so be sure to set a limit to your dog’s swimming time.

Dangers Of Salt Water

While more gentle on their skin as compared to chlorine, excessive saltwater intake will cause the same issues as that of chlorinated water. Furthermore, too much salt consumption may lead to diarrhea and even life-threatening conditions.

Avoid Causing Water Intake

Given the dangers of unnecessary water intake, you should always try to minimize consumption by not initiating activities, such as fetch, that would cause your dog to take in water.

Should you believe, your German Shepherd has ingested an excessive amount of salt or chlorine water, be sure to consult with your vet. At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Always Rinse Afterwards

No matter which type of water you let your German Shepherd swim in, always rinse with freshwater after swimming to help prevent any infections.

After rinsing, be sure to dry your German Shepherd, especially its ears, to avoid ear infections.

About Ear Infections

It’s possible that water can get into your German Shepherd’s ears, and this may cause infections. Now, usually, your dog can remove the water inside their ears by shaking or tilting their heads, but if they don’t, they might exhibit the following:

  • Constantly scratching and rubbing their ears.
  • Discomfort and pain around the ear area.

If such symptoms manifest, do consult with your vet.

Time Each Swimming Session

Make sure to consider your German Shepherd’s energy. While fun, swimming is a tiring activity, and it can lead to exhaustion. So, limit each swimming session to a maximum of 10 minutes.

Always Supervise

Never leave your German Shepherd unsupervised when it’s swimming. Again, German Shepherds aren’t natural swimmers, so you can never be too careful.

The Bottom Line

Let’s go back to the main question, can German Shepherds swim?

Yes they can! They’re smart enough to learn and they have the necessary physical features that allow them to be effective swimmers. That said they’re not natural swimmers and so skill may vary from dog to dog.

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