How Long Can a Dog Swim In Cold Water

Water Dog

Its no mystery that most of the time dogs love water, its something built into them. Despite the joy we get from watching them bound in and out of the rivers and the sea, there are still things we as owners should be wary of when questioning how long a dog a swim in cold water for.

The amount of time a dog can spend in cold water is dependent on many factors including their breed. Double coated dogs such as Golden Retrievers can spend longer periods of time in cold water. However short haired breeds should be wary of swimming in cold water for too long.

The answer to this question is a difficult one and is debatable depending on certain factors. In this article we try to organise the research in a way that gives a good understanding of the facts.

How Cold is Too Cold

If we are just looking at a single factor, that being the temperature of the water. 10 degrees Celsius appears to be the temperature at which problems may start according to, according to Of course the breed is a large part of this and double coated breeds would probably be OK in this temperature. However one important factor that links both temperature and time together is the way in which your dog experiences the water. If they are in the shallows splashing around this shouldn’t be a problem. However if your dog decides to fully submerge themselves or even dive for rocks, then the subject becomes more problematic.

A general rule should be that if its too cold for you then its too cold for your dog. Taking information from “Outdoor swimmer” the advice given to people when swimming in cold water is that water temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees C should only be undertaken for around 10 minutes at the most. By looking at this information you can see why temperatures under 10ºC could be problematic. There are still some additional factors that effect how long a dog can swim in cold water for.

What Dogs Should Never Swim In Cold Water

You may be reading this thinking that your dog could cope with a little cold water, and many dogs can. there are however dog breeds that are not naturally meant for the water, not only for their swimming ability but also for their health.

The first factor that should be considered is whether your dog is a strong swimmer. Dogs such as Pugs and Dachshunds are short legged and cannot easily swim if at all. On top of this, dogs that are obese could have weaker hearts and the shock of cold water could do more damage to them. Dogs such as Springers and Golden Retrievers are natural swimmers having been bred over many years to retrieve game where ever it fell. Dogs that can swim but may struggle in colder water would be short haired dogs such as Whippets.

Try researching information on the type of breed you have and see if they are natural swimmers or whether it may be best to avoid swimming in cold water for any amount of time.

Does The Weather Impact How Long a Dog Can Swim In Cold Water For

This is an interesting point and one that many of us may have experienced. Even on a hot day there is nothing worse than stepping out of  a swimming pool only to be met by a cold sharp wind. This is one of the major factors when it comes to swimming outside and its the same for dogs. A cold brisk wind can easily interfere with the insulating properties of your dogs fur. this can even happen on double coated dogs where the wind gets underneath the top layer disturbing the insulating nature of there coat.

Swimming in cold water is a highly accessible activity and you can do it most of the year round especially in the UK. However, when your dog is not only swimming in cold water but it is the wintertime too you can often find yourself questioning whether to let them in. The weather in the UK is particularly cold in the wintertime and combining this with cold water swimming can be dangerous for your dog. Your dog may be capable of swimming in cold water, but the cold weather could be something that catches them off guard. When your dog exits the water it is vital that they get warm as quick as possible. If the weather is cold or raining they wont have this chance and could catch hypothermia during the remainder of the walk.

What Protection Does A Double Coated Breed Have

As i have mentioned a double coated breed is more capable of swimming in cold water for longer. However what exactly are the advantages of having a double coat?

There is always a misinterpretation of the need to overly groom a double coated breed, this is not entirely accurate. Although its always good to keep a check on those stray hairs and a wash and brush is always required, some owners think its necessary to shave their dogs hair. It may appear in the summer as if double coated breeds require their fur clipped as they could get hot, but this is not true. A double coat has the unique characteristic, which enable your dog to stay cool when its hot and warm when its cold. In the summer the fur allows air to flow steadily across your dogs skin cooling them down and in the winter the thick layers keep them nice and snug.

When it comes to swimming, the double coat acts much like a wet suit. the initially shock of getting into the water slowly becomes more bearable as the water stored in the suit starts to warm up. A double coat retains water between the two layers of fur and warms it up, acting just like a wet suit. If you have a double coated breed of dog, you will know this fact, as they never seem to dry as their fur acts like some sort of sponge.

What Can You Do To Help Your Dog When Swimming In Cold Water

If your dog simply cant resist getting in the water, during the middle of winter, then there are some things you can do to help them cope with the cold.

  • Ensure you allow them in the water for only a short period of time. Keeping an eye on their energy levels, to make sure the cold is not affecting them too much.
  • Try playing with them near the shoreline. keeping them from submerging as much can give them a few extra minutes in the water.
  • Try out some dog wet suits or water proof dog coats. However make sure that anything they wear does not restrict their movement.
  • Take a warm fluffy towel with you when you walk. As soon as they exit the water, you will be able to wrap them up and get them warm as quick as possible. A dog drying coat could be a good idea for afterwards, or simply put a dry dog coat on them.


Letting your dog go swimming is something that every owner should do and encouraging water play is great for their development. However, it is always best to be cautious around water as many things can pose a threat. unfortunately its not just temperature that can cause damage, its many other parts of swimming and i always find a careful eye is one of the best safety measures. If you have just got a new puppy and your wondering when you should introduce them to the world of swimming, then check out our article about “What Age To Teach a Puppy To Swim”



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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