I grew up thinking that all dogs were able to swim. I was brainwashed into thinking this way because of all the swimming dogs on TV shows and in the movies. If it is on television, then all dogs possess the gene for the "swimming superpower," right? Wrong! There are several characteristics that a dog must have in order to be a good swimmer or else they will sink like bricks in the water.
To be a good canine swimmer, it helps to be a larger dog with longer legs and more evenly distributed weight. It is easier for a dog to keep their head above water if the snout is longer. Webbed feet helps with paddling, and longer tails aid with propulsion and changing directions in the water.
In comparison, a Frenchie does not have any of the characteristics to be a good swimmer. In fact, having a Frenchie near the water can be a swimming disaster due to their stocky body, top-heaviness, dense musculature, round head, and lack of webbed feet. Due to their physical features, a Frenchie will sink in the water and drown. To repeat, Frenchies will sink in the water and drown.
Many people have seen the videos that featured a Frenchie swimming across a pool without a life vest. While I believe it is important to teach your dog the basic skills of swimming, especially if they fall into the water accidentally, it is never safe to have a Frenchie near water without a life vest and supervision.
It takes a lot of energy for a Frenchie to doggie paddle and maintain their head above water. Eventually, they will become too fatigued to paddle, sink, and drown. If possible, make sure to place fences or gates around any pool so your dog does not wander off and fall into the water. Never leave your Frenchie unattended around the water, even when wearing a life vest.
Just like humans, most canines need to be taught how to swim. Exposing your Frenchie to swim lessons while they are still young is always a great idea. In order to reduce fatigue and frustration, keep lessons brief (around 15 minutes) and frequent (once to thrice weekly). Keep your dog hydrated, rinse their skin after water exposure to reduce potential irritation, especially if in a chlorinated pool, and reward good efforts with treats.
Also, be sensitive to your dog’s moods and emotions since lessons can be overwhelming, as well as exhaustive. Forcing a dog to swim only creates a negative situation for the dog that will likely increase fear and anxiety when around water. Swim time should be a happy, enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, so be patient. If the dog is having a bad day, cut the lesson short, and try again another day. If your dog needs a day off from lessons, let the dog wade in a shallow kids pool or play in a water sprinkler, which can be fun without the anxiety of trying to learn a new skill.
Lastly, make sure to invest in a good life vest for your dog. The vest should fit snug but not too tight. There are many good options and styles of life vests that are widely available online. Personally, I like having two handles on top of the life vest for easy grabbing and lifting of my dog out of water. I also like the vest to have an extra floating flap under the chin so that it helps to keep my dog's head upright and above water. We use the Outward Hound life vest but there are other options. Most vests are inexpensive (under $20) so it is a cheap investment that could potentially save your dogs life.
Rules to keep your Frenchie safe near the water:
- Start swimming lessons for your dog while they are still young, and even if they are older, it is never too late to teach an older dog new tricks.
- Keep swim lessons short to decrease exhaustion, and repetition is key to teaching a successful swimmer.
- Never force your dog to swim. If they are moody or exhausted, respect their wishes and let them do another activity, like wade in a shallow kids pool, which could be fun and less strenuous.
- Invest in a life vest! It could be the thing that saves your dog’s life.
- Never leave your dog unattended around water, even if wearing a life vest.
Not every dog is a natural born swimmer, especially Frenchies. Some dogs have an innate curiosity around water, while other dogs fear water due to the unknown. Remember to respect your dog’s temperament, and if they do not want to be near the water on a given day, let them participate in another activity like playing in a sprinkler with their favorite ball.
Safety should always be the first priority when having fun with your Frenchie. Invest in a life vest because even if your Frenchie can swim without a life vest, eventually, exhaustion will occur. Never leave your Frenchie unattended around water, even if wearing a life vest. Just like children, a Frenchie needs constant supervision, especially around water.
Most importantly, have fun with your dog while also enjoying the gorgeous weather. If you are not having fun, then your dog is probably miserable too. Keep tennis balls or other toys near by so that you can make swim lessons more fun and dog-oriented. After completing swim lessons, reward good efforts with treats.
Get your swimsuits, googles, and sunscreen, and leave your comments below. Let us know how your experience with canine swim lessons were, as well as list what tips were particularly helpful for you.