Can German Shepherds Swim? The Truth About Their Relationship With Water
Most dog enthusiasts are well aware of the intelligence and trainability of a German Shepherd. But what about their skills in the water? If you are a first time GSD owner, you may be wondering how well they will swim when you take them on their first camping trip on the lake or a trip to a friend’s pool. Are they natural swimmers and exactly how much do the like the water? This guide will answer all of those questions with some fun facts along the way!
Can German Shepherds Swim?
Yes, the majority of German Shepherds can swim. For the most part, they love the water just like most dogs do. However, each dog is different and some may like it more than others. While they aren’t natural swimmers like some breeds, they can definitely hold their own in the water depending on the specific dog.
That being said, not all dogs can instinctively swim. They may be able to make the paddling motion but need to learn more advanced swimming techniques. You will need to assess your German Shepherd’s personal ability and determine where to go from there.
How Long Can A German Shepherd Swim For?
The length of time they can swim will depend on several factors including age, weight and whether they are short hair or long hair.
In general, a full grown adult German Shepherd can swim for around 15 to 30 minutes without getting overly tired. Swimming is a great way to supplement your dog’s exercise especially if you have a pool or live close to a lake.
In total, a GSD needs about 2 hours of exercise daily. They are extremely active and love to stay busy. Swimming can alleviate some of their anxiousness or energy reducing their boredom and eliminating possible destructive behaviors.
Can German Shepherds Swim Every Day?
Technically German Shepherds can swim everyday if the water is fresh and clean. However, you will need to be aware of the different skin issues that can arise from being in the water so much.
Although a GSDs coat is waterproof, too much chlorine or salt water can lead to dry, flaky skin and even strip some of the oils from their coat. This can affect the look and sheen of their coat, making it appear duller.
A study of 412 dogs published back in September of 2012 found that chlorine had some substantially negative side effects. The data reflected five separate swimming times.
|Side Effects From Chlorine||Percentage|
|Abrasion Wounds In Armpits||15.78%|
|Otitis (Middle Ear Infection)||6.31%|
If you do plan on taking your dog swimming on a regular basis, make sure you plan ahead to avoid any possible skin problems.
Daily swimming tips for your German Shepherd:
- Apply a light coat of pet conditioner to protect the fur.
- Swim in fresh water avoiding too much chlorine or salt water.
- Use a moisturizing sunscreen to protect against sun burn.
- Wash thoroughly with fresh water following a trip to the beach, pool or lake.
- Dry off with a clean towel and apply small amount of conditioner.
- Never let them swim if they have any cuts or open wounds.
If your dog has never been swimming before, make sure you are there to supervise the first time they go into the deeper water. There is always a slim chance that a dog doesn’t know how to swim and may sink.
Do German Shepherds Like Water?
Yes, most German Shepherds like and even love the water. Obviously, some like it more than others. It depends on the dog and their personality.
They can also love it to varying degrees. Some GSDs may prefer to swim in the deep water while others may want to stay closer to shore and wade around in the shallow water.
Some GSDs may not like swimming pools but love jumping in rivers and lakes. There are also several fun activities your dog can enjoy in the water.
How Do You Teach A German Shepherd To Swim?
While German Shepherds weren’t born to swim like certain breeds such as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel or Portuguese Water Dog, they can hold their own in the water.
Since they aren’t natural swimmers, it may take a little training to get their feet wet. That being said, it shouldn’t be hard. GSDs are extremely agile and athletic. They are super smart and should pick up on it quickly.
1. Use A Life Jacket For Protection:
Before you take your dog to the pool or a public body of water, make sure you have the right equipment. If your dog has never been in deep water, make sure he or she wears a life jacket just in case.
You should look for an adjustable life jacket that fits properly, has reflective trim and a handle in case of an emergency. You can use it to pull your dog out of the water. Also make sure it has a D-ring for attaching a leash.
2. Start Small And Work Your Way Up:
If your German Shepherd hasn’t been swimming yet, make sure to start small and work your way up to bigger bodies of water.
Obviously, it is better to introduce them to water as much as you can when they are young. That way when they grow up, they are very comfortable around water.
To start off, you can have them stand in shallow water either in the bath tub or a kiddie pool in the backyard. Next you can take them to the beach or a lake and let them wade in the shallow water.
Slowly let them work their way into the deeper water. Once they build their confidence, you can start letting them swim around until they are used to keeping their head above the water.
3. Teach Them To Swim With Praise And Positive Reinforcement:
While it may take a little coercing to teach them to swim, German Shepherds should pick it up pretty easily. Once they work their way into deeper water, make sure that they are paddling with all four of their legs. If they are only paddling with their front legs, you can hold them until they use all four.
Make sure they are using their life jacket and don’t let them sink. Once they are able to paddle successfully with all four legs, reward them with some praise and a dog treat.
Fun Fact: Researchers found that doggy paddling is essentially doggy jogging. A dog’s gait underwater is almost identical to their trot on land.
Benefits Of Teaching Your German Shepherd To Swim
There are several benefits of teaching your German Shepherd to swim. In facts some studies show that swimming every day is better for your dog than walking every day. Let’s take a look at some of the top benefits from the doggy paddle.
Obviously, there are several health benefits to swimming. Adult German Shepherds require at least 2 hours of exercise daily. Swimming is a great way to supplement their daily requirement. Not to mention they will have a lot more fun.
Mobility is extremely important especially for large dog breeds. German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are particularly prone to joint conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia.
A study performed back in 2016 found that the doggy paddle improves mobility in dogs that suffer from elbow dysplasia. It can be used as a therapeutic tool to improve range of motion.
“Dogs with elbow dysplasia displayed an increased range of motion, stride frequency and stride length — measures of mobility in our study — after the hydrotherapy.”Dr. Wills – Doggy paddles help dogs to stay on the move
3. Stress Relieving:
Similar to humans, dogs need activities to stimulate the brain which in turn reduces anxiety and stress. Swimming is a great way to keep their mind sharp, reduce boredom and help them sleep better at night.
Fun Swim Games To Play With Your German Shepherd
There are several creative and fun swim games that you can play with your GSD to keep them happy and thriving. If your dog is like most dogs, you won’t be able to keep him or her out of the water.
- Dock Diving – Use a toy and get him or her to run and jump off the dock into the water.
- Wave Diving – Let him or her dive or jump into the oncoming waves in the ocean.
- Lake Frisbee – Throw a flat Frisbee into the lake for your dog to fetch in the water.
- Play in the Sprinklers – Set up a sprinkler in your backyard for your dog to run through.
- Pool Fetch – Throw your dog’s favorite toy into the pool and let him or her retrieve it.
- Kiddie Splash – Fill up a kiddie pool in the backyard and let him or her splash away.
- Water Tag – Use a hose or a squirt gun to run around spraying your dog with water.
- Bath Time Fun – Occupy your dog with his or her favorite toys during bath time.
Be creative and come up with your own fun swim games. Your dog will love you for it. It will keep him or her busy and in shape.
German Shepherds are powerful dogs whose agility and athleticism will carry over into the pool. Even though they aren’t born natural swimmers, they should have no issues keeping up with the best of them. Just be sure to play it safe and always make them wear a life jacket when swimming in deeper water like a lake or a river.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Can your German Shepherd swim? How often do you take your GSD swimming? Let us know! We would love to hear about your personal experience!