Do dogs like water? It’s a standard joke that the average pooch doesn’t like the tub but what about swimming? You often see photographs of dogs fetching their sticks from the pond or having a mooch about in the river. Does this apply to all dogs or are some breeds more likely to be fans over others?
Being bred from the water loving Poodle doesn’t guarantee a Doodle who can swim. Breeds such as Goldendoodles and Labradoodles are likely to swim as efficiently as their parent breed but other Doodles like the Maltipoo or Doxiepoo may not have the same affinity with the water.
Join us in our aquatic investigation to discover whether your Doodle will be a water baby or not. Let’s start by looking at the essential breed to create any Doodle cross. The ever intelligent and elegant Poodle.
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Is a Poodle a Good Swimmer?
Not only is the Poodle ranked the second most intelligent breed of dog but they are an excellent water dog. There is some dispute as to whether they originate from France or Germany. However, all will agree that they were bred as hard-working water retrievers. Specifically for retrieving ducks.
The word Poodle has been traced back to the German word pudel whose origins mean ‘to splash in water’. Much like the English word puddle. Even the name Poodle relates to their association with water.
Poodle are in fact very good swimmers; they were bred to be this way. One good reason why they are so good is that they have webbed feet. To some extent all dogs have this characteristic but the Poodle in particular has more than average. This allows them to use their paws to pull through the water as if they were paddles.
The Poodle’s affinity with the water has a fair chance of being inherited by your Doodle. However, as with everything with a cross breed it isn’t guaranteed. Let’s investigate which dogs commonly associated with Doodles are also good swimmers.
Which Dogs are Good Swimmers?
The Poodle isn’t the only dog with a natural swimming ability and love for water. The American Kennel Club has published a list of a massive 16 breeds that are born to swim whilst petmd also have a list of the top 10 swimming dog breeds.
There are some breeds that are much less popular like the Barbet. Some have a clue in their name like the Irish Water Spaniel. However, the ones that interest us are the ones commonly used to breed with the Poodle:
- Labrador Retriever – Super popular throughout the world, this gundog originated in Newfoundland and spent their working day with the fishermen retrieving nets and fish that had got away. In the early 19th century, a British nobleman imported the breed to use as a gundog. Their water abilities were soon realized, and another member of the British landed gentry began to breed them specifically for their skill in waterfowling. Another breed with webbed feet, they excel in the water to this day. Where does this leave the Labradoodle? Crossing these two water enthusiasts will almost guarantee you a Doodle who loves the water and loves to swim.
- Newfoundland – The gentle giant of the canine world the Newfoundland has everything a dog would need to make them a good swimmer. Webbed feet, huge muscles, an increased lung capacity and a thick double coat with oily properties to keep them warm in colder waters. They are also capable of holding their breath for a long time. Used as working dogs by fishermen, they also have an instinctive lifesaving skill and have been known to rescue drowning victims. Due to their lineage the Newfypoo is another natural swimmer who adores the water.
- Irish Setter – References to Setters date back as far as the 16th century although it is unlikely that they looked anything like the Setter as we know them now. The Irish Setter has a history of several breeds bringing the best qualities of each to develop them into what they are today. These breeds include the Irish Water Spaniel which brings their great swimming abilities to the mix. The Irish Setter was bred for hunting. Both for upland gamebirds and waterfowl. They have webbed feet, a long sleek body and long legs. An elegant and beneficial combination in making a good swimmer. Swimming is most certainly a method of exercise, or even a just for fun activity that will be loved by your Irish Doodle.
- Golden Retriever – A hunting companion, the Golden Retriever was also bred to retrieve waterfowl. This breeding leaves them with an inherent love of water whether they are a family pet or a working dog. They share the webbed paws of other water dogs we have discussed which hugely enables their ability to swim. They also have a water repellent coat which again aids this skill. Your Goldendoodle, in theory should also possesses these traits and the likelihood is that they will also have a natural propensity to water. However, it’s always safe to remember that with any cross breed there is the risk of a surprise and this is not guaranteed.
Can All Dogs Instinctively Swim?
We have looked at the Michael Phelps’ of the dog world but not all dogs are born with the ability to swim. Most may inherently practice some form of doggy paddle should they find themselves in the water, but this does not equate to swimming. It doesn’t even guarantee that they will even keep above the water.
The primary reason that some dogs cannot swim is down to the shape of their faces. This is medically known as brachycephaly. Simply put this means that they have a short, wide skull and a shorter snout. In terms of swimming, this results in them needing to tilt their faces at a greater angle in order to keep them out of the water. This makes it harder to keep afloat.
Another reason that some dogs are unable to naturally swim is again attributed to their skeletal make up. Dogs with shorter legs don’t have a body that is compatible with the movements necessary to keep them skillfully and effortlessly above the water. A huge risk in them attempting to keep afloat can lead to over exertion which in turn can have dire and unfortunate consequences.
Temperature is another factor. The Maltese in particular isn’t good with the cold and can be more susceptible to arthritis and rheumatism. Swimming in low temperatures can aggravate all these issues which heightens the risk of an unhealthy and unhappy dog.
Muscular breeds are also not the best of swimmers. Muscle, as we all know, weighs more than fat. Keeping afloat is going to take more hard work than a slighter pooch. Dogs who have a large head and thick trunk are going to be ‘top heavy’. This can sometimes result in them finding it more challenging to keep their heads out of water making swimming a chore and not a fun way to exercise.
Much of the above applies to various breeds that are commonly crossed with the Poodle. For example, the Maltese which gives us the Maltipoo we have already discovered doesn’t do well with cold temperatures.
The Bulldog (Boodle), Dachshund (Doxiepoo), Pekingese (Peekapoo) and Boxer (Boxerdoodle) are all examples of brachycephalic breeds. Boxers also fall into the muscular category.
Basset Hounds (Bassetoodle) and Corgis (Corgipoo) both have short legs which are not really designed for swimming. There is no guarantee that should your Doodle be one who’s parent breed is not intended for swimming or doesn’t inherently have a love for the water they will follow suit. We have already learned that the Poodle is a fabulous swimmer, so those genes are just as likely to be dominant.
The most important thing to remember is to not assume that your Doodle is going to be a natural and instinctive swimmer. You cannot go too far wrong if you take a safe approach to your pooch and swimming. Let’s see what the safest and best ways are to introduce your Doodle to the water.
How to to Teach your Doodle to Swim
No matter how much of a love for water your Doodle may have and no matter how much of a natural ability they may have to swim, water can be dangerous. Dogs, like humans can be strong swimmers yet still drown if they are unfortunate enough to get into trouble whilst in the water. You can’t just throw your dog into the lake because they are known for their inherent love or water and expect them to swim.
Swimming needs to be introduced safely and slowly, even if they have spent hours in the back yard playing with the kids in their paddling pool (although this is a perfect way to prepare for a love of water). Deeper and natural flowing water comes with greater risks and ensuring that your Doodle is trained to navigate these as safely as possible is of the utmost importance.
Swimming lessons shouldn’t be introduced until you and your Doodle have already formed a strong, trusting bond and they are adhering to basic obedience commands, especially the recall command. A dog may not necessarily see certain dangers that a human will, and you need to be confident that they will come to you once called should you encounter one.
It’s also important to remember that it should be a positive and fun experience. Continue to use the positive reinforcement steps you use with obedience training. Praise, fuss and even treats. If your pup doesn’t take to the water immediately don’t force them. Retreat and try again later.
Introduce them to water as soon as you can. As mentioned above, splashing with the kids in a very shallow paddling pool. A sprinkler system in the back yard is a fun game that will encourage positive feelings towards the water. Many dogs that are fearful of water are so because of a negative experience or little to no exposure.
Start them in warm, shallow water ensuring that they can stand safely alone. Play games with them. Get in the water with them and be encouraging of the new skills they are beginning to master.
There are a number of canine flotation devices that are available should you feel that this is necessary in the early stages. It may be that you have a natural swimmer who is confident and learns quickly, and you may not need this device for long. Or it may be that your pooch needs to gain a little more conviction before you move onto the next step and this could be the perfect solution to encourage them further.
Start by carrying your Doodle once you are both ready to move into deeper waters. Allow them to splash and paddle as they get used to their paws not being on terra firma. Holding them under the torso so that all their legs are free to paddle is the most effective way of doing this. If they are nervous, reassure them that you are there to keep them safe and use a floatation device.
Only go a short distance from the shoreline and allow your Doodle to swim back to shore unaided. It may be beneficial to have a secondary human helper to call them back whilst you can safely supervise their solo return. As their confidence grows you can allow them so swim further distances and in deeper bodies of water in order to build up their stamina and skills.
Do not over work them, especially in the early stages of swim training. Swimming can be exhausting and its dangerous for them to be in the water if they are too tired. Constant supervision is important as they can very easily get into trouble. Especially in the early stages of learning when they are still building the new muscles they need to swim. Regular training sessions will not only build on their ability but on their resilience.
Swimming sessions should never be too long. As your Doodle’s training develops, you will learn how long they can swim for before its time to exit the water and rest. This will be different for each dog and something to be mindful and aware of. Winter swimming, dependent on where you live and how low the temperatures drop, may be a no go. Dogs should never go swimming in frigid waters.
All dogs should be introduced to water. Even if the likelihood is that they are not going to be a good swimmer or even have a love for it. It is important for a dog, just like a child, that they can master the ability to stay afloat should they ever encounter any aquatic difficulty.
How do I look After my Doodle’s Coat During and After Swimming?
Good old H20 in moderation is good for your Doodle’s coat and skin. However, other than a run through the sprinkler or a paddle in a shallow pool filled from the faucet good old H20 is rarely in its natural form.
Chlorine and other chemicals used in pools can affect your Doodles coat and skin. Their skin may become dry and itchy. Constant scratching to relieve the itch can further result in hair loss and skin infections.
Their coat may become dull and brittle having been stripped of its natural oils. Their coats can even become discolored with lighter coats developing a green colored tinge and darker coats turning lighter. This all doesn’t mean that your dog shouldn’t swim in a chlorinated pool. However, being mindful of the risks of prolonged exposure is important.
Negative effects do not stop and start at the pool. The ocean is full of salt. Saltwater can dry out their skin causing similar issues to chemical exposure. Lakes and rivers contain all manner of debris and detritus that can find its way into your Doodle’s coat.
Doodles who have a longer coat risk becoming tangled and matted after being in the water. Then there’s the smell! Wet dog and fishy dog are not pleasant on the nasal senses. Your Doodle probably won’t mind so much but we’ll guarantee than you will.
We’ve not really painted an agreeable picture with regards to swimming with the above description of the downsides of water activities. However, there are preventative steps you can take to protect your Doodle’s coat and plenty of after care that you can practice, ensuring that it keeps at its shiniest and healthiest.
Rinsing your Doodle after a swim will help to protect their coat and skin. It will remove any chemicals, sand or salt that has accumulated depending on where they took their swim. Fresh, clean water is perfect to rinse away all the sins swimming can bring. Brushing will not only help to reduce tangles, knots and matting but will also help with those offensive odors as dead hair is brushed away.
Give them a good dry with a towel, they will enjoy this as a post swim massage, and it will be beneficial to your bonding time. Do pay particular attention to their ears as swimming can increase the risk of ear infections. Especially as many Doodle breeds can be prone to ear problems without the added introduction of the water. Do not poke the towel or anything else for that matter into the ear canal as this can cause damage. Check regularly for signs of infection seek treatment should you discover anything untoward.
Bathing more regularly if they are swimming often will also help to reduce any smell that has tainted them from fishy rivers or muddy lakes. Aim for a weekly bath and use a good, canine specific, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.
Check regularly for cuts or abrasions on your dog’s skin or paws. Should you find any, stay away from the swimming until these are healed to prevent the risk of infections from bacteria that may be picked up from the water.
Preventative measures for a regular swimmer includes using a thin layer of pet conditioner to their coat before they swim – this will help to protect them from all the nasties that we have discussed.
Protection from the sun is also important, it’s not just people who can get sunburnt. Your Doodle is especially at risk if they have a thin coat. Applying sunscreen will help to prevent this. If you are going to the beach on a hot day, it is not just their skin that will need protecting. Sand gets hot and this can harm their paw pads. Special waxes are available to use on your dog’s feet to prevent them burning.
Is Swimming Good Exercise for Dogs?
Swimming is an excellent way for dogs to exercise. If you have a high energy Doodle who loves the water, then swimming is the perfect way for them to burn any excess energy. Not only is swimming a great muscle strengthening workout but it’s also a marvelous cardiovascular one.
Throwing toys or sticks into the water for your Doodle to retrieve is a fun extension of a good old game of fetch on land. However, keep objects flat and light so that they are easy for them to carry whilst swimming. Steer clear of throwing objects that will sink. Your Doodle having to dive down into the water to retrieve their catch carries the risk of them aspirating water into their lungs.
Dangers to be Aware of
Stagnant water poses a risk of your Doodle ingesting a parasite so try to avoid still, murky looking water. Water that is too cold can cause hypothermia, don’t let them swim if the temperature is too cold. Dry drowning can occur when your dog gets water in their lungs. Supervise their water activities and ensure that they take breaks and know how to exit the body of water they are swimming in. Be mindful of currents and tides, these can be stronger than they look and extremely dangerous.
So, where does this leave us? Do Doodles like to swim? Some do, some don’t. Those most likely to are the Goldendoodle, the Newfypoo, the Labradoodle and the Irish Doodle. As we always like to impress though there are no guarantees with a cross breed, only likelihoods. Introduce your Doodle slowly and early to the water.
Introduce them safely to swimming. If you discover your Doodle has a love for the water then enjoy your journey, it will be so much fun for you both. If your Doodle isn’t going to be water baby, then there will be an alternative to fill its place and your bond will be equally as wonderful.