Can Maltese Swim?

By John Martin - May 12, 2021

Maltese at the beach swimming

Most people think dogs instinctively know how to swim. So the old theory of throwing them into the pool and letting their survival instincts get them out comes into play.

However, this could be very dangerous.

Can Maltese dogs swim? It’s not fair to give a straightforward answer to this question but if you want one, technically they can.

They are capable swimmers but there are a few ifs and buts you should know about. Maltese dogs have quite a few health issues and swimming could make it worse.

So while the Maltese can be taught to swim, the activity should be done with a lot of care and attention and must be kept to a minimum.

Do Maltese Dogs like Water?

Maltese don’t instinctively know what to do when they come in contact with water. One of the reasons for you to wonder if they like water is probably because you have a pool or a similar water body at home.

Well, it’s a good thing you are here. Having a water body in the vicinity of Maltese dogs is an excellent reason to teach them how to swim.

Now, as mentioned before, they can be trained to swim but it should be kept to a minimum. Like, swimming that can save their life if they accidentally fall into a water body.

But make sure that initially, they are only exposed to small bodies of water like kiddie pools. It is not a pleasurable activity for them and leads to health issues if you make them swim regularly.

Maltese and Swimming: For and Against

Maltese can swim but they need to be taught as puppies.

The argument against swimming is that these are dogs with long fur that were historically bred in Malta for royalty. So they were naturally never near water bodies and if you’ve noticed, dog breeds that have long fur don’t like water. That makes sense because their fur soaks up a lot of water and makes them heavy.

You wouldn’t want to go swimming either if you were made to wear jeans and a jacket, right?

About the health angle. Maltese can easily develop arthritis, rheumatism and get chills. So if they spend a lot of time in the water, their health gets affected.

The argument for swimming is that they need to learn if you have a pool in the house. It’s just good parenting.

You would teach your kids how to swim to avoid accidents, wouldn’t you? Too many pet owners have lost dogs to drowning in the backyard.

But make sure you limit their exposure to water and take precautions while teaching them how to swim and each time you put them in water. That starts with swimming lessons in a small water body.

But before that, trim their fur to manageable levels so that they don’t absolutely loathe it.

Related: Do Maltese Shed?

Is There a Way around This?

Yes. Yes, indeed. You will need a few supplies and a guide to Maltese swimming. And we have all of that and more here.


You will need a vest for your dog no matter where you are going swimming. In fact, many vests come with a handle making it easy for you to hold them.

A vest also comes in handy when the dog gets tired. But even so, make sure you don’t leave them in water for too long.

Fresh Water

Even after trimming, their fur will be thick. This means it accumulates many chemicals and germs. So try to keep them in freshwater whether it is a pool or a lake.

If you are out somewhere and not sure, carry a few water bottles with you and give them a bath right after they get out of the water which will be a temporary fix. And give them a proper hot shower once you get home.


This one is not surprising but here’s why we mention it. You cannot leave a Maltese dog to dry on its own.

As mentioned earlier, they are susceptible to chills and need to be dried out as soon as possible. Ideally, you must have at least two dry towels: one to dry the dog and the other dry one to cover it up afterward.

This way, they won’t catch a cold, no matter the weather. If you are out swimming in the winter (for some reason), your dog will need extra care.

Warm Dog Carrier and/or Heated Blanket

Keep an eye on the dog after the swim too. If you find them shivering, you will be glad that you invested in a warm dog carrier, especially if you are outdoors.

These are small dogs with health issues. Please make sure you do everything to keep them warm.

It is not too much to invest in a heated blanket either. In fact, these are very helpful when you are teaching your dog to swim.

That is a new and not-so-pleasant activity for them and your extra effort will be appreciated.

Check the Weather

Apart from supplies, you must also keep an eye out for cold weather. Don’t take them into the water when it is nippy outside because the water is likely to be colder.

The Maltese enjoy outdoors but not cold weather and certainly not cold water. Interestingly, the same goes for warm weather.

While the Maltese like warm weather, they cannot tolerate extreme heat. That has something to do with having long fur coats.

Look for Whining

After a swim, you need to stay close to your dog. Apart from checking to see if they are chilly, you must also see if they are whining.

This is actually a good reason to rush to the vet because sometimes, dogs with arthritis can have inflamed joints after a swim. This leads to a lot of pain, discomfort and needs immediate medical attention.

In fact, if your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis or rheumatism, keep them away from water entirely.

How to Teach Them to Swim

Now for the hard part. As mentioned before, your dog needs to learn how to swim if you have a water body on the premises of your house so that there are no untoward events.

The best time to do this is when they are still puppies because grown dogs that have never been in water (even as puppies) absolutely don’t like water. So you must teach them to swim and you must start small.

And remember to never leave the puppy unsupervised.

Related: Can Maltese Be Left Alone?

Invest in a Kids Pool

The small pool for kids is the best entry point. Fill up the pool with a few inches and let the dog get used to its surroundings and perhaps play with the water a bit.

Just let them get used to the water before you teach them how to paddle. Don’t dive right into it.

Increase the level of water gradually while being mindful of their response. If it looks good, you can start teaching them how to paddle at this point.

Patience and Trust is Key

This is an activity that will take time and perseverance on your part.

Since they don’t like water, it will take time for them to adjust to the water and learn what you are trying to teach. They may even be scared of water, initially.

Look for signs of distress and throughout the process, you must remain calm and patient. Wait for them to get comfortable.

Maintaining their trust is at the heart of this sensitive exercise. Forcing them into water will scare them more and might even do permanent damage.

You must also stay in the pool with them while they are learning. Support their body weight until they learn how to paddle.

The contact with you will make them feel safe and encourage them to try to learn. It is likely that they will start kicking their feet and try to paddle on their own after getting used to the pool.

If that does not happen, gradually decrease the amount of support you provide without scaring them.

Related: 26 of the Most Popular Maltese Mixes

Mind Your Surroundings

Public pools and other places can be extremely intimidating for the Maltese. This absolutely must be done at a pool in a house.

They are already stressed because they are in contact with water. Adding noise, strangers and activities like loud splashing can be confusing, frightening and cause anxiety.

Also, loud noises and activity can be very distracting to a puppy that is already likely to be in fight or flight mode.

However, once they are comfortable (or as comfortable as can be) in a kiddie pool, you must slowly take it to the next level. They will find it hard to stay afloat and paddle no matter how well you have taught them and how much practice they have had in the kiddie pool.

Stay in the pool with them and give them support. Be sure to put the doggie vest on them and assure them that you are right there.

You can gradually remove the vest when in the pool with you so that it does not create a sense of false security. But if you take them to a new pool or a bigger water body, do not let them in the water without a vest.

Use Treats, Toys and Watch Them Carefully

Your Maltese will need a lot of encouragement at each stage of the process. Don’t hesitate to use treats and toys to get in there.

When you encourage them, the Maltese will associate swimming as a positive activity and register it as a happy memory.

Once you get them in the water, watch their first reactions very closely. Like we do with water bodies we are unsure of, you can help them by starting with dipping just one paw in the water.

They are probably not going to like it but lead them into the pool by going in slowly yourself. Demonstrate to them that you are going to be there and going to be careful.

At no point should you try to convince them if they appear scared. This breaks trust and does a lot of damage outside the pool too.

You should give them a treat just for effort. This encourages them to put in more work over time.

Never, absolutely never throw them in the pool. This will cause alarm, distress and fright.

They may also swallow water which is a lot more dangerous than just swimming in the water.

Leaving the Pool

This is a separate section because it is a crucial swimming lesson. Many dogs drown because they get tired and cannot get out of the pool.

To avoid such tragedies, you must show them the steps of the pool and how to use their paws to get out. You must direct them towards the exit and provide moral support but should let them figure it out on their own.

You must always keep an eye on them. Don’t let them stay in the water for so long that they get tired.

Always remember that this little doggie is susceptible to health issues. Pull them out of the water if you even feel like they are getting tired.

And Finally…

Maltese are not made to swim. In fact, they are far from it. You can definitely teach them how to swim but really, make sure you have a good enough reason.

Having a pool in the house or visiting places with pools is a pretty good reason. But you must remember that they are sensitive to water and not only do they dislike being in there but also should not be left in water for too long.

They must never be left without supervision and even then should not be there for too long. If they seem scared or tired, you must pull them out of water immediately.

Once they are out of the water body, make sure you wash them well. Dry them with a towel and then place another dry towel on them so that they don’t feel cold.

You could also consider getting a heated blanket. And when you get home, give your dog a nice, warm bath.

Don’t let them in the water if the weather is cold or they have rheumatism or arthritis.

Your dog is not a toy. Be attentive to its needs and love it as deeply as you can.