Do Labrador Retrievers Have Webbed Feet? Effects on Swimming

Our writers & fact checkers independently research, test, analyze, and recommend the best motorcycle products. We may receive commissions from purchases made via our links.

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

The Labrador Retriever, the most popular dog breed in America, loves and is loved by all. This breed is widely known for its great disposition, energetic attitude, and excellent doggy smarts. However, their great swimming ability and love for water is another trait that the breed is famous for. You've probably heard rumors that Labrador Retrievers have webbed feet, but is it true?

Labrador Retrievers do have webbed feet. Most dog breeds have some webbing between their toes, but Labradors have additional webbing that improves their ability to swim. This is a result of generations of breeding Labradors specifically to retrieve hunted game out of icy waters for their owners. 

One of the Labrador Retriever's crowning achievements is their mastery of the water. These dogs are made for all things aquatic with webbed feet, slick, water-repelling fur, and a thick otter-like tail. Let's take a closer look at the Labrador Retriever and its aquatic propensities.

In this article

Labradors Have Paws Made To Paddle

This breed has additional webbing between its paws. Their paws are also larger and broader compared to other dogs of similar size. This gives them a swimming advantage over their differently-footed cousins. 

labrador retriever diagram

With feet similar to a duck's, these dogs take to the water extremely well. But, it's not just their paws that make them one of the best waterfowl hunting dogs available to man. Here are some of the breed's other features that make them such excellent water dogs. 

They've Got A Thick, Rudder Like Tail

Some call it an otter tail. It not only resembles the tail of a giant river otter, but it can help a Labrador Retriever swim by providing a bit of steering capability. This allows them to change direction quickly when chasing down an injured waterfowl on the water's surface. 

Their Coat Is Waterproof

Like most dogs, Labradors have a double-layered coat of fur that has been bred for a specific purpose. Their slick outer coat is saturated with the dog's natural body oils. The oil, in combination with the sleek hair, doesn't allow water to soak the dog. Instead, water rolls off, and the breed can dry themselves off reasonably quickly with a few healthy shakes. 

The undercoat is also thick and fluffy and protects them from the frigid water. Don't be surprised to find it is hard to keep a lab out of the river, even while there's snow on the ground.

They Have Strong Muscles

Labrador Retrievers are very muscular, strong canines. A long pedigree of breeding has created a well-developed natural physique. With deep chests and long legs, their build makes them equally as strong on land as it does in the water. 

While this makes for a strong animal, it can also make for a destructive animal. Proper exercise and training is essential. A bored, anxious lab can make a mess out of the household quickly.

They Have Boundless Energy

This is another trait that can often go overlooked thanks to the breed's relaxed disposition. They might like lounging around quite a bit, but these dogs were built to move and work. Without daily exercise, Labs can develop bad habits and be destructive to the home and yard. 

brown lab running

Long walks, vigorous swimming sessions, or some fetch games are necessary to burn off some of the deep reserves of energy. Obedience training at a young age is a must to ensure that a Labrador's behavior is top-notch. 

Labs were made for water. There's no denying that. They also love it. They will take to the water instinctually. It is crucial, however, that they don't get too excited to swim too early. A lab needs to reach a certain level of strength in their puppy body before they go for their first swim.

How Old Does A Labrador Retriever Need To Be To Swim?

A Labrador puppy might be made to swim, but they can get themselves hurt if they jump off the deep end when they are too young. But, they don't have to wait too long.

In the beginning, it's worth a small investment in a backyard doggie pool to introduce them to the water. Make sure it is a durable one that can handle a dog's paws and nails. My dog has played in this one and it worked very well.

dog swimming pool

At around eight weeks old, a lab puppy can swim in the right conditions. Keep them limited to water that is very shallow, calm, and directly supervised. It is easy for them to get in over their heads as their excitement can outweigh their ability. 

labs swimming in the lake with other dogs

At around three months old, a Lab should have developed a significant level of muscle and strength. Enough that they should be able to swim pretty well. Even so, they should be supervised while they learn the ropes. 

Ensure the Safety of Your Lab in the Water

It is crucial to make sure that a Lab, young or old, takes breaks between swims if they are playing aquatic fetch or just paddling around. The main way that most dogs are injured in the water is when they tire themselves out and can't touch the bottom. 

Access to unsupervised swimming should never be allowed. Pools can be especially dangerous to dogs, and they can drown within a matter of seconds if they run out of energy and begin to swallow water. So, if you have a pool, safety gates and fences are a must. Pool alarms are also a good investment for stubborn dogs and protect human children or any other creatures that might wander into the water. 

labs swimming in the pool

If your dog is going to swim in your pool, they should also be trained on the easiest way to exit the pool. If a dog falls in the water and panics, even the most experienced swimming dog can have a hard time getting themselves out of the water, and they could drown, fast. 

Make Sure To Get Them Vaccinated

Before a young dog goes swimming in any public area, they must have all of their shots. Water can be an excellent vector for the spread of canine diseases, as well as parasites. So, make sure that your dog is up to date on vaccinations and are in proper health before they get to splash.

Make Sure They Don't Drink Too Much Water

While they can get sick from bacteria, viruses, and parasites in bodies of water, dogs are also in danger of water intoxication. Some dogs, especially those learning to swim or those with shorter snouts, can swallow a lot of water when swimming. Some do it actively as they find it fun to chomp at the surface of the water. 

Water intoxication isn't too common, but if your dog is spending a lot of time in the water and you notice that they are swallowing a lot of it, it might be time for a long break. Usually, they will vomit up the excess water in their systems as long as they get out of the water quick enough. 

If you notice any other symptoms like; confusion, sluggishness, bloating, dilated pupils, or difficulties with breathing, it is time for a trip to the vet. 

Labrador Retrievers Love the Water

So, we now know that Labrador Retrievers do indeed have webbed feet. Pretty cool, huh?  Once they are old enough, this breed will take to the water with enough glee that you might need to drag them to the shore for a break.