Can Westies Swim?

By John Martin - May 3, 2021

Westie playing in the water

Dogs need regular exercise to stay healthy. With limited space inside our homes, they do not get enough space to walk, run or jump. So you should plan some fun activities for your dog so they get enough exercise.

Swimming is a great workout for dogs. Swimming is an excellent exercise that helps dogs use their pent-up energy while having fun. If you have a Westie, getting them to swim can be a wonderful bonding activity.

Can Westies Swim?

It is well known that dogs can swim instinctively. Yet, West Highland White Terriers, or Westies, with their short legs and chubby bodies, clearly aren’t good swimmers. Their bodies were designed to dig the ground to prey on creatures like rats and rabbits, and such activities are what the Westies usually enjoy.

Yet, you can get your Westie to swim confidently by training them well and building their confidence around water. They prefer calm water, like that in pools, but should not be left unsupervised near large water bodies.

In short, Westies can swim, albeit for very short durations. Their bodies aren’t designed for swimming but you can still get them to enjoy the water for short periods of time.

How Swimming Benefits Westies

Swimming is an excellent exercise with a lot of benefits. Here are a few ways how swimming can be a beneficial exercise for your Westie:

  • Swimming helps to build muscles.
  • It also helps to strengthen the functioning of the lungs and heart.
  • It is gentle on the joints and can be a great rehabilitation after injuries.
  • Westies have a lot of energy and swimming can be an excellent way to spend that energy.
  • In the summer, swimming is also a great way to keep the body cool.

Teaching Your Westie to Swim

  • Start with shallow water initially such that your Westie’s paws can reach the bottom.
  • As Westies are not instinctive swimmers, put a lifejacket on them during training. Get a dog lifejacket with a handle so you can grab your dog out of the water easily.
  • Let them into the water gently and experience the water by floating with the help of the lifejacket. This can build their confidence in the water and make them feel more comfortable.
  • Once they are comfortable and start paddling themselves, you can gently move them around the pool. Attach a rope to the handle if necessary to control their movement.
  • Stay close to them so they feel safe. When you feel that they are confident enough, you can remove the lifejacket.
  • Once they are comfortable moving around without the lifejacket, you can graduate to a deeper pool.
  • Do not leave them in any pool without supervision.

Also Read: Are Westies Easy to Train?

First-Aid Tips

There could be several scenarios that can be harmful to your Westie in the pool. Here are some of them and some tips on how you can combat these situations:

  • Swallowing Too Much Water: While swimming, it is possible to swallow a lot of the pool water. Too much of this could lead to intoxication as the sodium levels in the body reduces. If not dealt with immediately, this could inherently cause brain damage as well.

If you suspect that your Westie has swallowed a lot of water, take them to the vet immediately to avoid intoxication.

  • Irritation from Chlorine in Swimming Pools: Public swimming pools usually have a lot of chemicals and chlorine. This can create irritation in your Westie’s skin and eyes. So it is important to bathe your dog in fresh, clean water after a swim.

Keep an eye on any itching or irritation on your dog’s skin. If you notice any irritation, keep them away from the pool for the next few days and consult a vet if the problem persists.

  • Water Logging in the Ears: Water logging in the ears can lead to ear infection, so you have to clean your Westie’s ears with a dry cloth after a swim. You can easily notice if there is water logging if your dog repeatedly tilting their head to one side or vigorously shaking the head.

If you notice any yeasty smell from your dog’s ear, it could probably be a yeast infection, so consult a vet immediately.

  • Drowning: Without proper training, the risk of drowning can be high. To prevent your Westie from drowning while training, use a lifejacket. Also, if you notice that your dog is feeling too tired, get them out of the water as they might not be alert enough.

Care before and after a Swim

  • Spray coat conditioner, preferably one with sunscreen, on your dog’s coat before going into the pool. This protects their skin from drying from the heat.
  • After the swim, rinse their body well with cool water. Also, use some coat conditioner and run it through with a comb.
  • After rinsing, wipe down their entire body with a towel. Also, dry off the insides of their ears to avoid ear infections.
  • Keep a watch out for abnormal behavior like itching or head tilting.
  • Also, notice any weird smells on your dog’s body and take them to the vet immediately.

Pool Safety for Pets

If you have a pool at home, it is important to keep your pets away from the vicinity of the pool. Accidents could happen that might lead to your Westie falling into the pool and drowning. This can be dangerous as the Westies are small dogs and hence, have small lungs. Here are some tips to keep your Westie away from the pool:

  • If you have kiddie pools, drain out the water when not in use.
  • For larger pools, put a temporary fence around the pool, that is tall enough for your dog’s size so that your pet doesn’t jump in. You can also cover it when not in use.
  • Use pool ramps so your pets can come out easily.
  • Don’t leave any food around the pool.
  • Train your dogs well so that they listen to your commands.
  • Let your friends and family know about the dangers of the pool for your dog.

Doggy CPR

It is necessary to know the basic steps of doggy CPR in case of emergencies. Here’s what you need to know:

Step 1: Open your dog’s mouth wide and pull the tongue out to check that there is nothing in the mouth. Remove any food or other blockages, if any.

Step 2: Place your dog on its right side and feel the heartbeat. Ensure that the heart is still beating.

Step 3: Cover your Westie’s mouth with your hand.

Step 4: Blow some air gently through its nose.

Step 5: When your dog’s chest rises with the air, stop blowing and let it release the air naturally through its nostrils.

Step 6: Gently press the chest to get the blood rushing through the heart. For Westies, only use your thumb or fingers to do this.

Step 7: Repeat this until your dog starts breathing on its own.

Note: CPR should never be practiced on a living dog as their lung capacity might not be sufficient for excess air and you could break their ribs.

Also Read: Westie Lifespan and Tips to Care for Your Senior Westie

In Conclusion

Like most dogs, Westies can swim too. They can swim for short durations and enjoy the activity. Don’t forget to take the right safety measures. Also, never ever leave your Westie unsupervised around the pool as that could be dangerous.

Before training your Westie to swim, learn proper doggy CPR so that you’re prepared for emergencies. Once your Westie starts enjoying the water, you can motivate them even more by getting into the pool with them!