Can German Shepherds Swim?

By John Martin - May 7, 2021

German Shepherd swimming in a lake

German Shepherds are wonderful pets for several reasons. They are adventurous, athletic, energetic and loving companions. However, you may have wondered if your German Shepherd can swim and if he likes water at all. The answer to this is, “maybe”.

German Shepherds can swim; however, unlike several other dog breeds, German Shepherds are not natural swimmers. Nevertheless, with proper training, your pet can learn to swim and become adept at it too.

Do German Shepherds Like Water?

Some German Shepherds may love water, while others don’t. Some may be scared of water because of some past event; however, in many cases, German Shepherds may be scared of water without any definite reason. Generally, German Shepherds like water; however, if your pet doesn’t, there is no cause to worry. This is perfectly natural.

Why Are German Shepherds Not Natural Swimmers?

German Shepherds are highly active dogs and are generally good at anything that needs high energy; however, they may not be natural swimmers.

The reason for this is pretty simple. German Shepherds were not bred to swim. German Shepherds have plenty of qualities and they were originally bred to be herding dogs or guard dogs.

And, since they did not have to swim for the work they did, German Shepherds never really became good swimmers like other breeds. Nevertheless, these dogs are excellent in terms of their strength, speed and endurance. So, while swimming may not come naturally to them, it’s not very difficult for them to learn to swim.

What Makes German Shepherds Good Swimmers?

As discussed earlier, this breed was not bred to swim; however, when trained, they can become adept swimmers because German Shepherds have:

Webbed Feet

This breed has webbed feet which make German Shepherds excellent swimmers. The webbed feet act as paddles and offer a greater surface area that enables them to swim more easily.

Long Legs

German Shepherds have long, muscular legs, which help them to swim more easily compared to breeds with shorter legs. The muscles in their legs provide more power that enables them to move around easily in water and also stay afloat.

Long Snouts

The long snout of the German Shepherds allows them to breathe better and hence makes them good swimmers. We often see dogs like French Bulldogs, Pugs, etc. that have short snouts have small nasal passages that do not allow sufficient air in and so they struggle to breathe, especially in water. Whereas, German Shepherds have long snouts that let in enough air.

A Naturally Lean Physique

German Shepherds are strong dogs with a lean physique, which makes them efficient swimmers.

A Double Coat

The double coat of the German Shepherd comprises an outer coat, which repels water and allows the dog to move through in the water without getting weighed down by the fur getting wet and heavy. The German Shepherd’s inner coat acts as a good insulator, keeping its body warm so that he will not get very cold while swimming.

Related: When Do German Shepherds Stop Growing?

How You Can Help Your German Shepherd to Become a Good Swimmer

While there are no real reasons why your German Shepherd must swim, it’s still a good idea to teach him how to. We have discussed a few tips of how you can help your pet become a good swimmer.

Get the Necessary Equipment

Before you begin swimming classes for your German Shepherd, make sure to get a doggy life jacket and a swimming leash. The swimming leash will help in supervising your puppy and preventing him from swimming too far. And, the life jacket will help to prevent your pet from drowning when he’s learning how to swim.

Begin Slow

If your dog is afraid of swimming, it’s a good idea to start slow. Take him to a paddling pool. Get your pet to enter the pool before you fill it with water and keep him there with toys and treats. When the pool is full, sit with your pooch till he is comfortable. This is the first step to introduce your German Shepherd to water to get him to swim.

Instead of trying to get your dog into deep water or the sea right at the beginning, start in a slow-moving creek, lake or stream where your pet can stand up comfortably. The best thing would be to get into the water along with your dog and watch his movements. Make sure that your pooch uses all four of his limbs to swim and if he’s using only his front legs, then support your pet’s belly and encourage him to use his rear legs.

If your German Shepherd panics at any point, lift him out of the water using the handle of his doggie life jacket. Allow him to calm down before you begin his swimming lessons again. If you force him into deep water, there are chances that your German Shepherd will be traumatized, which will make him resist the water further.

Get Your German Shepherd to Swim with Treats

You can use treats and toys to get your German Shepherd into the water and start swimming. If your pet enjoys playing fetch, then he may start swimming to retrieve the toys that you have thrown in the water. Every time your German Shepherd gets into the water, reward him with treats and praise him. Your pet will start associating water with positive experiences and will want to swim.

Related: Are German Shepherds Prone to Bloat?

Why Is Swimming Good for Your German Shepherd?

Swimming is very good for dogs and can offer several benefits to your German Shepherd.

Provides Good Exercise

Swimming is among the best exercises for your dog as it encourages him to use all the muscles in his body. Swimming regularly can help to tone your pet’s entire body and also improve his large joints’ movement. Apart from improving your pet’s overall fitness and muscle tone, swimming offers other benefits like improving stamina, boosting circulation and keeping your pet’s lungs and heart healthy.

And, since swimming in the water makes your pet’s body work harder, he also does not need to spend a lot of time in the water to gain benefits. Just a minute of swimming equals around four minutes of running.

Low Impact Exercise

Swimming is the best choice of exercise for large dogs like German Shepherds that are prone to problems like hip dysplasia because it is a low-impact exercise.

Cooling Activity

Swimming is the perfect activity for your German Shepherd on a hot and sunny day. Swimming not only will help to keep your pet fit and his body in shape but will also help him to cool off on hot days.

Good for the Mind

Swimming not only helps to strengthen your German Shepherd’s muscles, but it is also excellent for his mental health and overall well-being. Swimming stimulates the brain and releases neurochemicals that help to reduce stress, boredom and make your pet feel good.

What Type of Water Is Best for Your German Shepherd?

When you’re allowing your German Shepherd to swim, you must consider the kind of water he swims in. When your pet is learning how to swim, then it’s a good idea to start him off in freshwater as your German Shepherd may swallow a lot of water.

Swallowing fresh water may not be harmful to your pet; however, if he ends up swallowing too much chlorinated water from the swimming pool or saltwater from the sea, then he could become sick.

Saltwater is the worst option for your dog because not only is it difficult for your pet to swim in the ocean, the salt can cause poisoning, resulting in dehydration, swelling in the brain and seizures.

Things to Take Care of When Allowing Your German Shepherd to Swim

When your dog is swimming, you must take care to supervise him at all times and ensure that he is fine. Here are a few things to consider when your pet is swimming:

Ensure That the Water Is Clean

Make sure that your German Shepherd always swims in clean water. If the water is polluted or there is rubbish in the water, then don’t let your pooch swim in the water. It is best to allow your pet to swim in clean and flowing water because this is not likely to be dirty or polluted.

Do Not Allow Your German Shepherd to Drink the Water He Swims In

Even if your German Shepherd is swimming in freshwater, don’t let him drink the water as it can contain pathogens and bacteria that can make your dog sick.

Do Not Let Your Dog Swim for Long in Chlorinated Pools

Don’t allow your German Shepherd to swim for a long time in a recreational swimming pool, especially if the water is highly chlorinated. The chlorine can irritate your pet’s eyes or skin and may even dry out your German Shepherd’s coat.

Don’t Allow Your Dog to Swim Too Long in Cold Water

If dogs swim for too long in cold water, they can also suffer from hypothermia just like humans. It is your responsibility to determine if the water is too cold for your pet or not. And, if the water feels very cold for you to wade into or stand, then it may be too cold for your German Shepherd too.

Check If the Water Is Safe

You must ensure that the area where your German Shepherd is swimming is safe for him. If you’re taking him to swim in the sea, which is too rough, then it may be a good idea to avoid it. Similarly, even if the freshwater has strong currents, then it is better not to let him swim. When your pet is jumping or swimming in the water, make sure that there are no objects that can injure your dog.


Swimming can be a great fun activity for your German Shepherd and a great way for you and your pet to bond. And, even if your German Shepherd does not take to swimming and like it at first, it is a good idea to be patient with your pooch and take it slow. In time, you’ll have a furry companion that loves swimming as much as you do or more.