Can Dogs Swim in the Ocean? Things To Keep In Mind

Living close to the ocean has many benefits, including taking walks on the beach with your best friend whenever you want. Dog owners may want to bring their four-legged friends along to some of the area’s best dog beaches, but many dog owners have questions and concerns, such as if all dogs know how to swim in the ocean or whether salt water is bad for them.

Water may carry some hazards for dogs, and swimming in the sea is a different experience than swimming in lakes, rivers or ponds. But before you hit the sand and surf, there are some things you should know in order to make sure your dog swimming in the ocean is a safe activity.

 

Brown dog in the waves of the ocean under a blue sky

Can all dogs swim?

Not all dogs have the natural ability to swim, as some breeds may struggle with it. Dogs with large, barrel-like chests like pit bulls will have a difficult time swimming. Unusually long dogs with short legs like dachshunds and corgis won’t be able to propel themselves. Dogs with flat, broad noses like bulldogs will struggle to breathe. Small dogs like terriers can run out of energy quickly while paddling.

Examples of Breeds That Might Have Trouble Swimming:

  • Boxers
  • Basset Hounds
  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Bull Terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • Corgies
  • Pekingese
  • Maltese
  • Chow Chows
  • Shar Peis
  • Shih Tzu
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Toy Breeds

Of course, just because you have one of these breeds, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for your dog to swim in the ocean; it simply means that owners should be close by and the pet should absolutely wear a life jacket.

Also, when wondering “Can dogs swim?” it’s best not to make assumptions based on the breed alone and test your individual dog’s comfort level. It is best to test out your dog’s swimming comfort and capabilities in a safe, shallow area without currents where the dog can easily get in and out. You can start teaching a puppy early with a small pool in the backyard and increase the size of the body of the water from there. Get your pet accustomed to the water at an early age if hanging out at the beach is part of your routine.

Is it OK for dogs to swim in the ocean?

It can be, with the right precautions. There are some hazards associated with dogs swimming: ocean waves, salt and wildlife.

Tip #1: Avoid rough waters. Just as with humans, it’s essential to pay close attention to riptides, the undertow and what nearby lifeguards are saying about the current conditions. You can also check the current surf reports. Never bring your dog out on high surf advisories, even if your pet is used to the ocean. Generally, the tides need to be safe enough for small children in order to consider bringing your dog into the waters.

Tip #2: Don’t let your dog drink the water. Ocean water, as we know, is salty. As your dog swims and runs around the beach, it will get thirsty. But drinking ocean water is not good for your dog as the salt will lead to dehydration or diarrhea.

Tip #3: Be careful of ocean wildlife. There’s lots of fun for your dog to have on the surface of the ocean but lurking below are some dangers of which you should be aware. Don’t let your dog lick or eat jellyfish, shellfish, starfish or urchins as they have toxins that can harm your pet. Red tides, which are large growths of algae that form in the ocean, are extremely dangerous for dogs and humans alike, so if there is any indication of them, stay out of the water.

Tip #4: Observe any irregular breathing, vomiting or scratching after your dog swims in the ocean. They may mean your dog got exhausted, ingested saltwater or encountered wildlife.

Can dogs swim in the ocean for long periods of time?

While your pup may never want to leave the water, it is a good idea to give him or her some breaks. Rough tides can be quickly tiring and may make it difficult for a dog to swim back to shore. If your dog is coughing after swimming in the ocean, this may mean he or she ingested too much water. Diarrhea is another symptom of saltwater intake. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, call your local veterinary provider.

What if my dog can’t stop scratching after a swim?

In the aftermath of swimming in the ocean, you may discover that your dog is quite itchy. The culprit is usually a simple one – too much sand and salt in your dog’s fur. It’s important to make sure you give your dog a good bath, preferably with a mild, anti-itch shampoo, which will help calm irritated skin. If itching continues after a thorough bath, it may be an allergy or a reaction to wildlife; connect with us or your local veterinarian.

What else should I do to make sure my dog can swim in the ocean?

Some dogs may be skittish about being in the water, but if you want them to feel comfortable in the ocean, there are training classes available that can help your timid pooch gain more confidence. In addition, organizations like the Red Cross offer online pet CPR classes that give you the tools you need to help your dog in case of an emergency.

Hanging out with your canine best friend is even better when it’s at the beach, and if you stay aware and follow some simple steps, your dog will be swimming in the ocean in no time.