Can Labradors Swim? A Guide on Training Your Labrador

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Key Takeaways

  • Labradors love the water. They are natural swimmers.
  • Introduce your Labrador puppy to warm, shallow water at 8 weeks of age.
  • Gradually work your Lab up to deeper waters.
  • Always have your Labrador swim with a life vest and practice safety measures.
  • Never leave your furry friend unattended in the water.

During the dog days of summer, it is fun to cool off in the water. Before you take your Labrador to the pool or lake, let’s see if Labradors can swim.

Labrador Retrievers were bred to assist fishermen in their daily work. They are designed to be excellent swimmers, and they love water. While it is rare, some Labs are born not knowing how to swim. Start getting them used to water at an early age.

I have owned dogs all my life, and when I was younger, my family had almost all hunting dogs. We even had a retriever breed. Along with my personal experience and some advice from my dog’s veterinarian, I have put together a guide to answer your important questions.

In this article

Do Labrador Retrievers Like Water

The journey of the Labrador retriever breed started about 500 years ago. They are descendants of the St John’s Water Dog and originated in Newfoundland.

They were created to help fishermen with their daily tasks of hauling nets and retrieving things that fell in the water. They could even dive for fish that had slipped the hook or nets.

Today, they often assist hunters by retrieving birds from swamps and marshes after they are shot. Labs have an excellent sense of smell and can easily track and locate their prey.

The breed’s history on the water means that they are especially suited for water activities. Most Labradors easily take to water with no training necessary. As long as your dog doesn’t have any negative experiences with water, they will love being in the water.

In fact, a common problem that Lab owners have is keeping their furry friends out of the water. These pooches gravitate toward every mudhole, pond, and waterway around.

Is It Easy to Teach a Labrador to Swim

Labs are one of the most intelligent dog breeds out there. They can easily be trained in verbal commands as well as hand signals.

Being friendly and social means they want to please their owner. Labradors are happiest when they are part of the family and obedient to their humans.

One thing about Labs is that they are energetic and curious. They love learning new things and using their brain. They aren’t truly happy unless they are kept busy.

Combine their intelligence, personality, and their natural swimming abilities, and you have a dog that should take to the water like a fish. If you take it slow and follow some safety guidelines, your furry companion will love swimming with you.

Great Exercise for a Labrador Retriever

Swimming burns about 150 calories in your Labrador every 15 minutes. It is a perfect way to help your dog stay trim and in shape.

If your Lab has already packed on a few extra pounds, swimming is perfect. The buoyancy of the water helps keep that extra weight off your pooch’s sensitive joints.

If you have a dog with joint troubles or arthritis, swimming is a perfect exercise for them. It is easy on the joints and helps to increase their range of motion.

Parasites, Swimming, and Your Lab

While my veterinarian recommends that all dogs be vaccinated and treated for parasites as she schedules, it is especially important to do this if you will be letting your Labrador swim.

Especially in open bodies of water, there are many organisms that live in water. Schistosomiasis and Giardia are just two of several parasites that dogs can get from water.

Another parasite that you need to watch out for around water is mosquitoes. Mosquitoes transmit heartworms to dogs like Labradors. They are expensive to get rid of and can even result in death.

If your dog swims, they need to always be up-to-date on their vaccinations and parasite treatments.

If your

Choosing the Perfect Spot

Before taking your Lab to swim, you want to make sure that you pick the perfect spot. Ask yourself these questions before you head out:

  • Can Labradors swim here?
  • Is it safe for Labrador puppies to swim here?
  • Will my Lab enjoy this spot?

The first thing you need to do is find out if the beach or waterway you are going to allow dogs. If they require your dog to be always leashed, you want to make sure your Lab is used to swimming with a leash on.

When Lab puppies are first learning to swim, they need to be in shallow waters. You don’t want your Lab puppy to have a scary experience. That can lead to a fear of water that is hard to shake.

While most Labradors swim naturally, not all Labradors take to the water easily. Do some research and ensure the place you are going suits your Lab’s level and abilities.

Teaching Your Lab to Swim

Even though Labrador retrievers love water, you want to make sure they have positive experiences with water starting with the first time they wade in. Don’t just grab them and throw them in cold water and hope they make it out, ease into things for a better experience.

When your Labrador puppy is about 8 weeks old, get them used to going in the water by using shallow water that is warm and inviting.

Although this breed has a double coat to keep them warm, you don’t want to shock or frighten your Lab puppy by throwing them into cold water.

After they are used to comfortable water temperatures and shallow waters, you can move up to deeper water gradually. As you go to deeper waters, stay where the water is calm and there are no distractions.

You can support them with one arm under their stomach until they get the hang of things. You want to make sure they are kicking with all four legs before you remove support or go to deeper waters.

Professional Swimming Lessons

If you are concerned about your ability to help your Lab swim, or if your Labrador isn’t a strong swimmer, you can get professional swimming lessons for your pooch.

Most major cities will have a trainer that offers swimming lessons. If you don’t have one near you, talk to your vet about some personalized tips and tricks to help your furry companion.

For Labs That Are Scared of Water

While most Labs love the water, some can become scared of it if they had a bad experience. If your pooch had a near-drowning experience, they may be afraid to go back in the water. Also, if you adopt an older Labrador, they may have had scary times in the water before.

It is important for these dogs to take your time and help them overcome their fear and learn to love the water again. Start with a baby pool or sprinkler. Use water toys and fetching games to show your Lab that water is fun.

Always check the water temperature first. The shock of cold water or the pain of hot water can cause your dog to recoil in fear. Make sure the water is comforting and calm.

Water Safety for Labradors

Although Labrador retrievers have several features that make them excellent swimmers, like webbed feet, you still want to practice water safety. Our vet says that no matter how good of a swimmer your Lab is, you always want them to have a life jacket on in deep waters.

Here are some other safety tips to practice when letting your Labrador swim:

  • Put on a well-fitting life jacket.
  • Watch out for strong currents.
  • Prevent hypothermia by avoiding cold waters.
  • Take breaks to prevent exhaustion.
  • Watch out for predators like alligators and snakes.

Get a Great Fitting Life Jacket

To get the best fit for your Labrador, measure around the neck, measure around the rib cage at the biggest point, and measure from the base of the head to the tip of the tail. Your pooch’s weight is also important to know when choosing a life vest.

When choosing a life jacket for your Lab, you may be tempted to get your favorite color or a cute design, but make sure you get a bright color. In case your dog gets swept away, you want to make sure rescuers can easily spot them. It will also help prevent hunting accidents.

The last thing to do is to check for handles. If you need to hurry and move your Labrador out of the way of any dangers, you want to be able to get a secure grip quickly.

How to Spot Strong Currents

  • In the ocean - Rip currents form in shallow ocean waters. They can be spotted by looking for calm, flat waters. Waves usually break as they come ashore, if you see a band of flat, dark water between normal breaking waves, that could mean a dangerous rip current.
  • In rivers - Rip currents and undertows can also happen in rivers. To keep your pet safe, avoid areas where water is swirling or rough. Don’t swim close to structures. Stay away from outlets and inlets where two bodies of water meet.

This is where handles on the life jacket come in very handy. Since your Labrador is smaller than you, they may get swept away in waters where you can still touch the bottom. If they have handles on their vest, you can quickly grab them and pull them to safety.

Dangers of Hypothermia in Labradors

Even though Labradors have a double coat to help them dry off quickly and stay warm, they can still get hypothermia if they swim in cold waters or stay wet for too long. Here are the signs of hypothermia in dogs:

  • Body Temperature 99 degrees or below
  • Shivering
  • Confusion and clumsiness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Rapid heart rate followed by sluggish heart rate
  • Fixed dilated pupils

Hypothermia can lead to death. Monitor your dog in cold temperatures and don’t let them stay wet for too long. Labs that are sick and injured can get colder faster, so only take your dog swimming if they are healthy.

If your furry friend is showing signs of hypothermia, it is important to get them dry and bring them somewhere warm. You can use heated towels, warm water bottles, or your vehicle’s heater.

Take Frequent Breaks with Your Dog

Labradors like to swim so much that they may need help knowing when to take a break. Make sure your pooch takes a break every 15 minutes and has plenty of fresh water available.

Exhaustion can lead to muscle cramps and weakness. These are very dangerous for a Lab in the water. This is why it is very important to always put a life jacket on your dog.

Quickly Spot Dangerous Animals

When Labradors swim in natural bodies of water, always keep an eye out for dangerous animals like alligators and snakes. While a dog is swimming, it is harder for them to protect themselves, so they need you to help keep watch.

Alligators and snakes usually like to stay in weedy areas. They will often hiss as a warning when they feel threatened. Often, you will only see the nose and eyes of these foes, so keep your eyes sharp.