Do Border Collies Like to Swim?

By John Martin - August 11, 2022

Border Collie swimming in pool with toy

Border Collies like to swim and can swim well, but this depends on a range of factors. You might also need to encourage them to swim using a few measures.

Generally, Border Collies are athletic and can learn to swim well in water, although they do not prefer deeper water levels. Let’s look into this in further detail below.

Factors Affecting Swimming Affinity

There are several factors that affect whether or not Border Collies like to swim. You can read about these below to figure out if your Border Collie will enjoy the activity.

Body Structure

Border Collies are medium in size and tend to have an athletic build, even though they have double coats. This body structure allows them to perform well in sports and games, including swimming.

Further, their legs are lean and built well for swimming. They also have a natural instinct that allows them to paddle in the water, just like all other dogs.

This kind of body structure can work well, but it is not enough to determine whether your Border Collie will actually enjoy swimming or not.

Energy Levels

Border Collies are highly energetic and active dogs. Historically, they have been bred for herding as well as for sporting activities and competitions. Since they have such high levels of energy, they require plenty of exercise on a daily basis to maintain their health and behavior.

Swimming can be a great way for them to achieve this. It can also cool them down, ensure good circulation, keep their joints healthy and release some pent-up energy.

Their high-spirited nature can attract them to swimming once they become used to the water.


It is important for Border Collies to have an overall positive experience with water. If they come across something negative, such as an accident involving water, they might develop a fear of water.

This can then prevent them from getting close to water, making it difficult to teach them how to swim. It is possible for you to train the fear out of them, even though it might be a long process.

Additionally, if your Border Collie has experienced swimming before in whatever context, then they will be more confident the next time they try it out.

Also Read: Are Border Collies Good With Cats?

Individual Preferences

More often than not, a swimming affinity tends to depend on the individual preferences of Border Collies. For instance, while some of them might enjoy swimming, some of them might not.

This does not merely stem from a past negative or positive experience with water, but can also be a result of fearful behavior around people, lack of stimulation, destructive behavior and more.

Many of them might also not enjoy getting completely wet and might only be okay with limited exposure to water.

It is, therefore, important to take these individual preferences into account instead of forcing your dog to swim at once. Patient training and positive reinforcement can help with this as Border Collies are highly intelligent dogs.

Depth of Water

The depth of water can also be an important factor here. Border Collies tend to be more comfortable in shallow levels of water as compared to deeper ones, which is why they might not immediately want to enter pools, lakes or the beach.

This is because Border Collies are more comfortable on stable ground while they might perceive water to be dangerous. You should, therefore, allow them to become comfortable first before they can start swimming in deeper waters.

Can Border Collies Swim Well?

Border Collies can swim well in water provided that they have received the proper training to do so. Despite having an instinct to paddle in the water, they are not born as swimmers and need to gradually improve.

Further, Border Collies can make good use of their speed and athleticism to power their swimming, making them good swimmers overall. This can also allow them to use their energy levels, making it better to regulate their daily behavior.

Of course, if some Border Collies have underlying health issues, then swimming might prove to be a bit more difficult for them and might even be harmful.

Also Read: When Do Border Collies Stop Growing?

How to Encourage Swimming

It is possible to encourage your Border Collie to swim by making it an overall positive experience for them. It is better to start while they are still puppies so that they can learn better.

Make Them Comfortable

It is essential for your Border Collie to be as comfortable as possible when you first introduce them to swimming. Allow them to sniff around and try stepping into a small amount of water so that they can gradually get used to it.

You can also place some of their favorite toys or treats around them to encourage them to get into the water. Movement can be a good way to attract Border Collies, which is why throwing a toy in shallow water can encourage them to go towards it.

It is also important to assure them of your presence and build trust throughout the process. Reward them every time they complete an activity related to the swimming process.

Start Off Small

You can start off small so that you do now overwhelm your Border Collie with too much water. You should first try to determine how secure your dog feels, after which you can introduce them to a bit of water in an inflatable pool or your bathtub.

You can then gradually increase the water levels until your dog feels safe and happy in all the levels. You can then take them to a small lake or larger pool and allow them to explore the area on their own before you throw in a toy.

Make sure you provide a life jacket in case they are just starting out. You should also train them well to respond to your commands so that they can return before it gets too dangerous.

Take Breaks

Taking enough breaks while teaching your dog how to swim is extremely important so that you do not overwhelm them. While Border Collies have high levels of energy, they might still get a bit breathless and tired in the water, especially if they are still puppies.

Do not allow them to stay in the water for more than two to five minutes at a time in the beginning, after which you can go up to 10-15 minutes. Provide a signal for them to come out of the water and give them a reward for their efforts.

Provide an Exit

Having the knowledge that there is an easy exit from the water can make your Border Collie feel safer instead of feeling trapped in. Whenever you introduce them to a new water body, whether that is a tub, pool, lake or sea, you should show them the exit and how they can make their way out using it.

You can either demonstrate it on your own or you can stand at the exit and encourage them to use it. Make sure you give them rewards and praises each time they manage to do it.

Safety Measures

You should take some of the following safety measures so that your Border Collie is completely safe in the water.

  • Make sure your Border Collie has a lifejacket on while learning how to swim to prevent major accidents.
  • Do not leave your dogs inside the water for longer than their capacity.
  • Avoid unclean or unknown lakes as well as strong oceans as they can contain harmful bacteria, creatures and currents.
  • Try avoiding swimming pools that contain chlorine.
  • Use only positive reinforcement throughout the process.

Also Read: Can a Border Collie Live in an Apartment?

Parting Thoughts

It is now clear that whether or not Border Collies like to swim depends on factors like their individual preferences and experiences, although their body structure and energy levels can definitely make them good swimmers once they learn.

Make sure that you start off small, remain patient and follow all safety measures while encouraging your dog to swim.