Can Great Danes Swim?

By John Martin - February 23, 2021

Great Dane running to the water to swim

If you’ve ever watched Scooby-Doo, you’ve probably wondered how a dog as big as Scooby could swim so easily. In fact, one of the most-searched queries when it comes to Great Danes is whether they can swim!

In this article, we hope to answer every question (or almost) that you have ever had about Great Danes and their ability to swim.

Are Great Danes Natural Swimmers?

Great Danes are not natural swimmers, but their physical build ensures that they can tread water just fine. Their strongly-built upper body supports their weight and along with their strong legs and long snouts, they can move quite well in water.

If you’ve ever been to swimming lessons, you’re already familiar with the “doggy paddle”. That’s exactly the movement that Great Danes, like most other dogs, use to navigate the water.

In a doggy paddle, the dog keeps his head out of the water in order to breathe while his limbs imitate the action of paddles used to row boats; hence, the movement is referred to as the “doggy paddle.”

Though the “doggy paddle” is done by predominantly using the front paws, it does not mean that the hind legs are not used. The hind legs are used but not in the up-and-down motion that humans use; dogs move them back and forth to add power to the strokes of their front legs.

In short, the front paws lead the way and the hind legs help them keep going.

All Dogs Swim, Right?

It is a very common misconception that all dogs are born natural swimmers. Well, incorrect! Additionally, not all dogs have the ability to swim. Just because we’ve seen one breed of dogs swim, we assume all of them swim. However, this is far from the truth.

The ability of dogs to swim and not swim is purely based on the breed and the way they are built; it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the latter is the defining factor when it comes to dogs swimming.

It is true that the majority of dog breeds love water and love to splash about in any pool or puddle they see, but there are breeds which are unable to swim, such as the following:

  • Pugs
  • Dachshunds
  • Basset hounds
  • Boxers

When it comes to Great Danes, it is only because of their body strength that they are able to swim. As we said, they are not natural swimmers, which means that if you want your Dane to enjoy swimming, you’ll need to teach or train him or her to do so to minimize the risk of any harm or drowning in those pool sessions.

It is possible to identify if your dog isn’t doing so well in the water. Any sign of gasping for breath or even slow paddling means that your dog may need your help and should be removed from the pool quickly, especially if these signs occur at a considerable distance from the shore or the ends of the pool.

In such situations, it is always a good idea to go ahead and reach a hand out to your pet.

It is important to know that like humans, dogs also need to be properly trained before they can go in the water. Otherwise, drowning is a very real possibility.

How Can I Train My Dane to Swim?

Even with a well-built body and all the additional features that allow them to swim, Great Danes are by no means good swimmers. There’s a huge difference between being able to swim and being able to do so efficiently, wouldn’t you agree?

Thus, if you want your Dane to be the Phelps of the dog world, it is important that you train and teach him how to be a good swimmer. Most importantly, ensure that this training is imparted by qualified professionals or under their supervision.

The first thing that should be understood is that sometimes, dogs may be uncomfortable and scared to enter the water, very much like certain humans. Seeing so much water in one place can sometimes be intimidating even to a Great Dane!

Therefore, you need to make sure that the dog feels safe and one of the best ways to do so is to go inside the water first and show him/her it is totally safe.

Given their loyal nature and protectiveness, your dog will enter the water either out of the need to protect you or the belief that anything you do is safe for him/her to do as well, both of which go a long way in soothing his/her fear of the water.

Once your dog sees you moving around in the water, he/she may gradually enter the water on his/her or require you to gradually bring him/her down into the pool.

If your pool has stairs, it becomes that much easier as you can literally take it one step at a time with your dog. This also reduces any hesitation that your dog may feel and is also much more comfortable and less stressful than going directly from ground to water.

Remember, don’t rush the process. Your dog will need and take his/her own time to get familiar with the new element he/she is facing and as a pet parent, you need to give the process enough time.

Things may not work out too well the very first time itself; it might take two or even three turns for a Great Dane to be familiar with being in the water. However, with consistent training and patience on your part, your Dane will reach a point where he/she will no longer be scared of being in the water and even start to enjoy it!

If this method doesn’t work with your dog, you can try using an inflatable, just as you would with a kid or a beginner! This way, your Dane will still have the feeling that he/she is on land due to the lack of wetness and the layer of separation, but close enough to the water to gradually get comfortable with it and get over any fear of the element.

Where Can I Train My Dane?

Any substantially big body of water is a perfect place to take your Great Dane for a swim. Pools, ponds and lakes are great places as they need a lot of space to swim around, which these kinds of water bodies provide.

Many people also take their dogs out to the ocean. However, don’t get carried away by surfing dogs and beach combers, amazing as they are!

Understand that the ocean isn’t a safe place for your dog, especially if he’s just started swimming. The waves could easily overpower your Great Dane despite his size, making it really easy to drown. Therefore, being in the ocean requires additional specialized training and experience for any dog.

Another thing to keep in mind while taking your dog out for a swim, especially in a swimming pool, is that you have to ensure that they do not drink from it. There’s no way of knowing whether the water is safe; they could end up getting sick and end up having infections.

In order to avoid this, make sure your Dane is hydrated enough before you take him/her out for a swim. This ensures that they don’t drink the water they’re swimming in.

In Conclusion

Long story short, yes, your Great Dane can swim. Their natural build may allow them to hold their own in water for a while, but remember that only consistent, sufficient training can make your Dane a swimmer. Even then, ensure that the swimming takes place under strictly supervised conditions, even once the training is done.

If your Dane doesn’t take to the water, don’t force things. Let him/her be. There are plenty of other activities that your dog may enjoy instead, such as long walks where they can enjoy playtime with you.

Great Danes are also extremely friendly, which makes them a hit at dog parties or socializing events. You can take them to dog parks where they also get to meet and rub noses with other dogs.

It is important that Danes are kept healthy with occasional movement that gets their heart rates up, even if they do adapt to life in apartments and small houses quite well. Games such as frisbee or tug of war are great ways not just for your Dane to exercise but for the both of you to spend some time bonding.