Can Labradors Swim: How To Teach Your Lab To Swim

The hot summer days require some refreshing swimming in the home pool or close lake. If you want to take your Labrador with you, you might wonder “can Labradors swim?”.

Labradors can swim. In fact, Labradors were bred as waterfowl retrievers, making them a specialist in swimming. With their webbed toes and water-resistant coats, they can make a perfect swimming buddy. But there are some precautions you still need to take before you go swimming with your Lab.

Why Labradors Make Good Swimmers

Labradors originate from the St John’s Water Dog. They were bred in Newfoundland, Canada to help fishermen. Because of this Labrador Retrievers like water and swim in it proficiently.

Firstly, they have thick waterproof double-coated fur that keeps them warm in the cold temperatures of rivers and lakes. The negative of this is that they do tend to shed a lot.

Another this they have is a thick otter-like tail. This tail lets them steer themselves while moving through water. This tail makes them a much better swimmer than other dogs.

Their body is shaped so they can move through the water better. They have long legs and thick chests for stronger movement. They also have large heads that allow them to keep their eyes and noses above the water.

They also have webbed feet which make swimming easier by allowing them to push more water with their paws.

When Should Lab Puppies Start Swimming?

So if you have a new pup you might be wondering at what age can Lab puppies swim. The usual answer to this is at around 2-3 months of age.

Whenever you introduce your Lab puppy to the water, be sure to start slowly. Dropping the puppy directly in the water may lead to fear and avoiding it in the future.

Start slowly with a few inches of water and make it fun. When your pup starts enjoying itself increase the amount of water. You can do this in your bathtub or the doggy pool you have at home. You can even play a game like Fetch. Get some toys or tennis balls and throw them in the water and make your pup fetch them to make it more fun.

If your Lab puppy is not very enthusiastic about swimming, don’t get upset. Every dog is an individual and will take different amounts of time to get used to the water. Keep the whole experience positive and try a few more times before your Lab starts loving the water.

What Precautions Should You Take?

Before you take your Labs swimming, there are a few things you need to make sure of.

Beware Of Your Lab’s Age And Health

If you have an older Labrador, you need to know if it has some health issues that might affect its swimming. Conditions like dementia, seizures, blindness, or arthritis can be dangerous and lead to drowning.

If you have a young Labrador you need to make sure it has the strength to keep itself afloat in the water. Also, you should vaccinate it for any dangerous microorganisms that dwell in some bodies of water.

Make Sure The Water Is Safe

Besides having your Labs swimming in your pool, you might want to take them to the beach. But be careful of strong currents which can make swimming harder. Labradors can also drink a bit of the water while swimming. Because ocean and seawater are salty, they might get dehydrated easily.

Another thing to watch out for is the cleanliness of the water. Make sure whatever water you get your dog in is clean from any pollution.

Don’t Let It Stay For Too Long

Your Labrador will likely love the water and it would be hard for you to get it out. But resting is very important. Overexerting your dog can lead to the danger of drowning.

Besides this, you may face a condition known as limber tail”, or “swimmer’s tail”. The Lab’s tail will be hanging straight down with no ability to move. If you try to move it, it will wine and cry because of the pain. Labs can also get aggressive because of this pain so be gentle.

Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone In The Water

How long can a Lab swim? Around 30 minutes and then it needs a break. So even if you think your Lab is the best swimmer ever, you should still not leave it alone.

Make sure to keep an eye on it in case anything goes wrong. Also, make sure it has a way to get out of the water easily if it feels it doesn’t want to swim anymore.

labrador chilling on the beach

Why Your Lab Might Not Like The Water

Labradors love the water. They were bred with swimming in mind. But some Labradors may avoid entering the water. It is your job to find out what the problem is and to fix it if you can.

Different Types Of Labrador Retrievers

Different types of Labradors pursue swimming in different ways. There are two types of Labradors: English Labradors and American Labradors.

American Labradors are known as working dogs. They are more athletic, muscular, intelligent, and high-energy. This gives them an advantage when it comes to swimming.

English Labradors are known as show dogs. They are more laid-back and relaxed compared to the American Labs. These Labs can hang out with your cats at home and relax. 

Even though both of these dogs love the water, English Labs may be prone to swimming less due to their bodies being bred for shows rather than exercise.

Bad Past Experiences

Sometimes your dog can be scared of the water because of something bad that has happened before in its life. If you have adopted it as an older dog, you might never find out why it is that way.

Maybe its past owner got that Lab puppy swimming from an age that was not yet appropriate and it got scared. Maybe it got close to drowning or something else happened to deter it from swimming.

Whatever it is, you need to be supportive of your Lab. Try slowly reintroducing it into the water. If it simply does not want to go in, accept that and move on. 

Fear Of The Unknown

Young puppies that see the big water for the first time can react with a bit of fear and anxiety. That’s why you should approach swimming slowly and introduce them to a bit of water first.

The same can be said for older Labs that haven’t been around water for some reason. Don’t immediately take your Labrador to the ocean if this is its first time seeing any water. Oceans also have loads of animals swimming in them that might frighten your pup.

This is why you should start slowly. Get your Labrador to swim in the bathtub, then the doggy pool, and then the beach or lake. You can try calming it down with valerian root before entering for the first time. 

Benefits Of Swimming

Swimming can bring a lot of benefits to your Labrador. Especially during the hot summer days.

A Great Exercise

Labradors are high-energy dogs and require a lot of exercise throughout the day. Swimming is a perfect way to spend that energy and have fun while at it. The act of swimming takes a lot of strength as well and can help your Lab get some good muscles.

Swimming is also perfect to strengthen your dog’s legs without damaging its joints. Water aerobics doesn’t put any strain on the joints so they are perfect for preventing arthritis in older dogs.

Cooling Down

Do Labradors like water? Yes. Especially in the summer. There is nothing more enjoyable than cooling down in a pool during the hot summer days. 

Labradors will love to swim during the summer because of their double-coated fur. It keeps them warm during the winter, but they can easily get overheated during the summer days. The water will get its fur wet and slowly evaporate from your Lab, cooling it slowly. Definitely consider buying a dog pool for your Lab. It will love you for it.

happy chocolate labrador playing in the water

Where Can You Take Your Lab To Swim

There are a lot of places to take your dog for a nice swim. From the comforts of your own house to the beach. Here are three spots we think are great for a relaxing swim for your Labrador.

Waterside Dog Parks

Every dog likes dog parks. But these ones are special. These dog parks are placed near lakes or ponds where you can take your Labs swimming and socializing at the same time.

There are usually some wash-off areas if your Lab gets too dirty. There are also community-shared dog toys for the dogs to play with. Sometimes, even people are allowed to enter so you can swim along with your pup.

Dog-Friendly Beaches

For those people living near the coast, dog-friendly beaches are a perfect spot for a full day of swimming and having fun. Some countries that don’t go out on the ocean may have artificial beaches so there are always options.

Before you decide on going to the beach, make sure you’re up to date on the weather report and the water status. If the weather is too harsh, or if the ocean has an overgrowth of algae, it’s better to reschedule for another day.

Your Backyard

If you live in a house with a backyard, the best way to know do Labs like water is to set up a backyard dog pool. You can use a cheap above-ground pool or use your normal pool. The deeper and wider it is the more room it leaves for the dog to swim and exercise its joints.

If you don’t own a dog pool a sprinkler or a hose connected to water will do the job. Dogs love jumping around in the sprinkler and drinking the cold water from the hose.

Conclusion – Can Labradors Swim?

Yes, Labradors love water and swimming. This is because they originate from the St John’s Water Dog, which was a popular dog breed with fishermen in Newfoundland. Their origin let them have water-resistant double-coated furs, otter-like tails, and webbed feet which help them swim.

Swimming offers many benefits for all dogs. It’s a perfect way to exercise without damaging the joints. And it is also a great way to cool off during the hot summer days.

Even though they are made for swimming, Labs should be introduced into the water slowly, like any other dog. If you take all the precautions and introduce it step-by-step, your Lab will end up loving the water.


Can Labs swim in cold water?

Even if Labradors have thick coats that keep them warm, very cold water can still affect them. Swim in it too long, and it might develop hypothermia. If you think the water is too cold for your Lab, don’t let it swim. 

Will Chlorine From A Swimming Pool Harm My Lab?

Chlorine is toxic in high amounts. However, the amount of it in your pool is likely not very high. If your pool contains too much chlorine, your Lab will be able to sniff it out and avoid swimming.

Can Labradors Swim And Drown?

Yes. No matter how good of a swimmer someone is, drowning is something we should all watch out for. To know how to handle a situation like drowning, check out a guide on how to save a drowning dog.

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