How Fast Can Dogs Swim

dog swimming

Have you ever watched your dog swimming and thought about how fast they actually move. That tennis ball you just threw was enough encouragement to get them to swim after it but i wonder if they could swim even faster than that.

Dogs can swim between 1-2 mph depending on the type of breed, some breeds will swim slower than this, if at all. Dogs with webbed feet such as the Portuguese water spaniel will be able to swim the fastest. 

Its no lie that dogs are great swimmers and the speed in which they swim is remarkable considering their physical disadvantages. We have a look at what makes a fast swimming dog and the reasons behind their ability.


Can Dogs Swim Faster Than Humans 

According to Livestrong the average human can swim at around 2 mph, depending on conditions. Olympic swimmers can reach speeds of over 5 mph but this is at the very top performance level. Humans have a much bigger advantage physically than dogs do, allowing us to perfect our own swimming abilities.

When looking at how fast a dog can swim compared to humans on average it could be said that a human swims faster than a dog in the same conditions. However, a dog could certainly swim faster than a human of low swimming ability.

What Makes Dogs Fast Swimmers

As mentioned before dogs love swimming and water is something just cant resist. Despite not all dogs being able to swim, in general dogs are good swimmers. Here we breakdown some of the different types of swimmers and discuss what makes them good swimmers or not.

Natural Swimmers

In the dog world there are natural born swimmers. These dogs tend to be working dogs bred over centuries for retrieving game during hunts. There are a few breeds that fall into this category, the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Newfoundland, Portuguese Water Spaniel to name a few. These dogs tend to have some familiar characteristics, giving them the ability to swim better than others.

  • Webbed Paws – Generally speaking every dog has webbed feet, just like humans have skin between their fingers. However, dogs that are natural swimmers, usually have webs that cover a larger surface area. This trait is one of the main reasons they are such strong swimmers, allowing them to be the fastest dogs when it comes to swimming.
  • Thick Coats – Many of the naturally gifted swimmers have double coats giving them extra insulation when in colder water. Thick coats may sound like a disadvantage but their are benefits to having some extra protection. Dogs such as Golden Retrievers have oily double coats which repel the water making them feel less heavy while swimming.
  • Strong Front Legs – the doggy paddle is the foundation of a great doggy swimmer. Their front legs allow them to power through the water whilst displacing more water with their large webbed paws. This is a natural trait as their webbed feet mean its harder to push through the water.

Train To swim

If your dog does not fall into the natural swimmer category then don’t worry there are still plenty of dogs capable of becoming great swimmers. Training is something that makes dogs great companions, they live to please you and want only your love in return.

Training your dog from an early age is a good idea, have a look at our article on “What Age to Teach a Puppy to Swim. Make sure you dog feels confident with the water as they are not natural born swimmers they may not take as easily to swimming. Let your dog play around in the shallows, until slowly introducing them to the deeper water. Going in with them is the best thing you can do to help encourage swimming. When they see their owner doing it they will soon follow suit.

Dogs That Cant Swim

Just because dogs love the water you should never assume that your dog is a good swimmer whether they are on the list of dogs that cant swim or not. Here is a list of dogs that cant swim by Pet Guide. 

Dogs that cant swim have a handful of disadvantages. Firstly some dogs have legs that are too short, this means they cannot propel themselves forward meaning that they just sink. Secondly some dogs have flat noses, these dogs usually have breathing difficulties and so its not wise to allow them to swim in water they may submerge in. Finally some dogs are naturally obese and struggle with movement especially when swimming, if this is combined with short legs then there is no way they are moving anywhere whilst swimming.

If your dog falls into this category don’t worry as your can purchase life jackets made specifically for dogs with these disadvantages. These life jackets will give them the flotation they need to be safe but don’t expect them to be the fastest in the pool.

What Does Swimming Fast Depend On

When talking about the how fast a dog can swim there are many factors that come into play. As discussed so far in this article, the type of pooch is a large factor in determining the speed of a dog in water. However, the conditions in which they swim are also important.

Much of the time we see our dogs swimming in natural sources of water, whether it be the sea, a lake or a river. Each of these water sources have different conditions. A dog is most likely going to swim the fastest in an indoor pool, which is temperature controlled and has no other external conditions. When your dog swims in the sea there are many factors effecting how fast they swim, including the waves, current and weather. This is the same for a river, as the current is always flowing no matter what time of year. The one natural source of water that your dog would be the fastest swimming in would be a lake. However there are still some factors effecting their speed including the temperature of the water, causing there muscles to work inefficiently. Lakes tend to have a strong wind blowing just above the surface of the water this can be difficult for a dog, especially ones with large heads.


Its no doubt that dogs are great swimmers and they love the water. However next time you enter a swimming gala don’d expect to tag your dog in to finish the final lap. If you enjoyed this article why not check out our other post all about walking your dog and getting outside.



Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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