My Labrador Won’t Swim

Swimming is one of those activities which give you pleasure and a toned body at the same time. While you don’t have to a good swimmer like Michael Phelps to go overboard, basic swimming techniques are very important life-saving skills as well as an ideal fitness activity.

Jump shot and you are in the middle of summer days. You might feel some desire for cold drinks and a pool. Your body starts to radiate immense heat and you finally decide to visit your nearest pool, but what about your dog. A fun fact- The sweat glands of dogs are located on their tongue! That’s why you might see your dog sticking out his tongue after some heavy exercise or during summer days. Now coming back to the scenario, you can’t handle the agony and decide to take him to the pool. Surprisingly you will see the reluctance of your dog to step into the pool! But why is it so?

Generally, swimming techniques are taught at an early age because humans are not born swimmers, absolutely not!  We send our kids for swimming lessons but leave one of our family members i.e. our Labrador. But Labradors are natural swimmers, isn’t it? No. You probably have seen many wallpapers and movie scenes of hunters and forest-dwellers with fierce Labrador canines and we stereotype them as natural swimmers but no, Labradors are not natural swimmers although they are said to be evolved from wolves.

But why don’t labs swim?

To bring this matter in the perspective, there are numerous apprehensive questions on lab forums and online question forums like Quora and Reddit. So, we have brought a complete blog to solve all your queries and worries.

The main reason why labs don’t swim is that they are not exposed to it. Labs, like humans, instinctively avoid those things which pose danger to them. Your kid won’t simply jump into a pool of water if you want him or her to, you would have to train them, make worthy of swimming, and most importantly remove the fear from their mind of water. The same scenario is with dogs, you have to expose them to water.  Initial reluctance will be there but for the sake of them, don’t leave them in between.

This blog will guide you through each and every subtle step so keep reach and get most of out it.

But when can lab start swimming

There is no hard and fast rule to decide if your dog needs a swimming lesson but you can consult a vet regarding the same. He or She will decide by looking into its age, built, strength and other features. Generally it is not advisable to teach them swimming in their puppy days. The chances of drowning are significantly higher due to the tender age.  Due to their inheritance, they have a hidden tendency to swim but one should not rush to teach them how to swim and it is advisable to gain confidence before showtime.

But my lab doesn’t like water, how will I live!

Well, you should not die out of anxiety from this incidence because Labradors have the tendency of swimming so definitely it will like water after a few sessions. But don’t lose hope after the first encounter because some dogs might get scared after their primitive incident. Just take a chill pill and leave everything on the frequency of practice. Once they feel comfortable, they will start swimming and will exceptionally admire the water.

What is the best time to teach swimming?

Before asking this question you should contemplate and ask yourself the same question. Which season would you prefer to dive into freezing water! Of course Summer. Post springs are generally the best time to dive into the water because the relentless heat of the sun which encapsulates humans get vanished after diving into the pool or any other freshwater source.

 Choosing seasons are one the crucial part of swimming as dogs are susceptible to temperature-related diseases like hypothermia. Furs play an important role in dodging excessive temperature change but dog furs are too small to avoid prolonged exposure to cold water.

But can you please tell How to teach lab?

So you have seen all the steps which are helpful to ignite you and now coming to the main point- teaching. First of all, make sure that you choose a shallower place to teach them, deeper lakes and pools can pose danger. Don’t forget to keep treats handy. For the first few sessions let your tyke play with shallow water. This practice is extremely important as your dog will get to know about stagnant and running water. If you do not have a stream nearby then you should use the kid’s playing pool. Remember those inflatable pools which you used to enjoy in your childhood? Those pools can make your work easy.

After this initial step, you should take them to deeper water. A pool or a pond is ideal for practice. You can keep your hands under their belly for support until they start paddling on their own. Teach them to use alternative use both rear feet. Fatigue levels significantly increase after continuous paddling with only one leg. Follow these procedures and your dog will learn the essential technique. Encourage them to use tails as rudders. It can help them to minimize fatigue.

Some tips to keep in mind while teaching

  1. Do not directly splash your lab into the water unexpectedly as it can cause panic. You should allow them to feel comfortable.
  2. If your dog appears uneasy or alarmed then you should calm them with treats or cuddling and guide them out of water.
  3. It is important to teach them, the art of climbing onto a higher platform or boat as it can be life-saving.
  4. If your lab is uncomfortable during initial sessions then you should go for life jackets.
  5. Avoid distraction and visit serene places. Distraction can divert your dog’s focus.
  6. Check the water temperature and the condition of the tyke. If they are shivering or chattering their teeth then immediately bring them out of the water. Prolonged exposure can cause frostbite in the paws and nose.

Additional ways to encourage the urge of swimming

  • Play Retrieve!

Believe it not but fishermen in ancient times used Labradors for net and fish retrieval but you don’t have to do that. For the beginning, don’t just throw toys or any dummy in the deep water, rather throw them on the drier part of the shore. You can also make a tiny ditch or puddle to give the first-hand experience of going into a pool. Make sure to make it an obstacle so that the fear of going in can be waived off.

Don’t throw dummy or toy directly into the water as the fear of water can easily dominate their interest, so take small steps to achieve desired goal.

  • Bring another swimmer.

Here, another swimmer means another dog. Dogs are very competitive and vigorous. Like humans, the close proximity of a significant competitor can make them alert and active.  The younger Labrador will significantly follow other Labrador if they find it amusing. Try to bring any familiar dog for swimming, as your dog will definitely follow him/her.

  • Dive into water!

Another step that you can inculcate into practice is self-diving. Labrador tends to follow to someone whom they trust the most and In that case, owners are the one. While in water, you have to make sure about the safety of you two. Swimming with your tyke can be a hell of fun but keep in mind that sometimes your tyke will dive not for the sake of diving but for the sake of only you. Most labs are afraid to leave their owners so they follow them everywhere.


Labradors not responding to water in the first experience is not a new phenomenon, it is a very common scenario especially in recent times where shrinking water bodies and ever-expanding population has left small apartments and houses for both dogs and owners. As a result, dogs are not exposed to the water in their younger days. Proper exposure and training can make this possible.

Swimming is also one of the best exercises for impaired dogs because of the tendency of water to keep the less dense body afloat. Despite the initial risk of drowning, proper training can guarantee a fun-packed session inside the water with your take. All you need to do is to follow all the necessary guidelines and tips that have been given in this blog and you are good to go.