Can Pugs Swim? (& do Pugs like water?)

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Pugs: cute, lovable, spunky, and squishy. Pugs are fearless companions, but do they like water? I live in a hot climate, so I decided to find out if it’s safe to toss my Pug in the pool on a scorching hot day.

Do Pugs like water? No. The vast majority of Pugs do not like water. Pugs’ short muzzles make water a breathing hazard, and most Pugs aren’t too fond of it. However, every Pug has their own individual personality. There are definitely some that do love water.

A Pug’s tolerance and fondness for water can be managed by introducing them to water early on in life. With some patience, it is more than possible to make a Pug comfortable around water and maybe even like it.

How to Introduce Pugs to Water

How should you introduce your Pug to water? It is important to start while your Pug is young, around 8 weeks of age. For the best results, create a good relationship between your Pug and water.

  • Create positive associations with water
  • Give your Pug plenty of praises, affection, and treats any time they deal with water
  • Avoid situations where water can enter your Pug’s nose and prevent breathing
  • Make sure the water isn’t too hot or too cold for your Pug

But, what if your Pug is older?

It’s still possible! It might take a bit more work, but with enough patience you will see results.

There are a variety of activities you can do to introduce your Pug to water.

  • Let them stand in shallow water and become familiar with getting their paws wet
  • Give them a warm bath
  • Cool them off in hot weather with a sprinkler
  • Play with them with a hose (but don’t point it directly at them!)
  • Entice them into water with treats
  • Enter water together while holding your Pug securely. If he panics, stop until they calm down before continuing

Make sure to praise and reward your Pug for doing any of these activities. With enough repetition, your Pug will start to associate water with positive emotions.

Sometimes, despite a trainer’s best efforts, their Pug will refuse to like water.

That’s okay!

Just because some Pugs like water doesn’t mean all of them will.

Can Pugs Swim?

With plenty of adorable videos of swimming Pugs on the internet, the answer to “can Pugs swim?” seems obvious, but…

There’s a reason why all those swimming Pugs are wearing life jackets.

So, can Pugs swim?

The short answer: not well.

Unfortunately, Pugs have a huge disadvantage when it comes to swimming – their bodies.

Pugs just aren’t built for swimming.

What makes it so difficult for Pugs to swim? There are several factors:  

  • Physical intensity
  • Squished snout
  • Small, compact body

A Pug’s most attractive feature is also their greatest downfall when it comes to swimming. Their signature squashed face and skull makes swimming a serious breathing hazard.

Pugs are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have a short, broad head shape. By this design, Pugs struggle with breathing. A physically intense activity like swimming can exacerbate that.

Being a brachycephalic breed causes other swimming related issues, too. Pugs have to tilt their heads straight up when they swim to just to keep their nose above the water. Because they’re so small, this causes their bodies to go vertical.

What happens when a dog goes vertical in water?

They sink.

Plus, Pugs’ small, compact bodies makes them extra sensitive to rapid temperature changes. Swimming in water that’s too cold can make an unpleasant experience for your Pug.

In a worst case scenario, it can make your Pug sick.

Swimming in water that’s too hot isn’t good for your Pug, either. When a Pug overheats, it increases the chances for a heat stroke. Make sure the water temperature is safe for your Pug’s health before going for a swim with them.

This is not to say your Pug can’t enjoy swimming. As evidenced by those videos, many do!

How to Teach Pugs to Swim

How can you teach your Pug to swim?

Pugs will follow their owners anywhere, but does that hold true for a swimming pool?

A lake?

An ocean?

There are a few things to keep in mind before teaching your Pug to swim.

  • Not all Pugs will like swimming
  • Your Pug may be nervous, so it’s important to ease them into it
  • Make sure the swimming environment is safe! Remove any potential hazards
  • Be patient

The biggest thing is to make sure your Pug doesn’t have any negative associations with swimming.

There are several different ways to help teach your Pug to swim:

  • Play fetch with your Pug and gradually increase the depth of water it runs into
  • Enter the water with your Pug until they become more confident
  • Slowly lower your Pug into the water and hold them afloat to practice their doggy paddle
  • Use a floating device so they can focus on paddling    
  • Start them near an easy exit, such as steps, and show them how to use it
  • Let your Pug swim out of the water when it wants to leave

Make sure to reward them for going into the water!

The more positive experiences your Pug has with water and swimming, the more likely they are to enjoy it.

How to Keep Pugs Safe When Swimming

How can you keep your Pug safe while swimming?

Since Pugs don’t make the best swimmers, there are a few things you can do to help them out and make sure they have a good time:

  • Have them wear a flotation device to prevent drowning
  • Keep a close eye on your Pug
  • Make sure you are within grabbing distance to them
  • Check the temperature of the water to make sure it’s not too extreme for your Pug
  • Rinse them off after a swimming session to prevent skin irritation
  • Dry their ears properly to minimize risk of an ear infection

And, for extra precaution, here’s a list of Pug swimming don’ts:

  • Don’t throw them into the deep end and expect them to swim successfully. While your Pug may be able to swim its way back to land, it’s doing so out of panic and desire to survive. Your Pug will create a negative association with water and potentially become traumatized.
  • Don’t mistake your Pug panicking for being adorable. While a Pug paddling its little legs is an adorable sight, make sure your Pug’s body language is relaxed and happy. If your Pug looks more like it’s flailing and thrashing than paddling happily, go in and rescue it. There may be another issue going on that you can’t see from the sidelines.
  • Don’t let your Pug swim unsupervised. You never know what can happen in the water, especially with a breed as water-shy as Pugs. Swimming Pugs need close supervision.

Be ready to step in if it looks like things are going wrong—or even if your Pug just wants to get out of the water.

Related Questions

Does my Pug enjoy swimming?

How can you tell if your Pug enjoys swimming? It’s important to pay attention to your Pug’s body language when teaching them to swim. Some Pugs will enjoy it and some Pugs won’t. If your Pug is showing signs of extreme anxiety and fear, it’s better to ease off of swimming. Try a smaller water-related activity first to build up their confidence.

Do Pugs like baths?

It depends on the Pug! Pugs are more likely to tolerate or even enjoy baths if introduced to it early.

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