Can Golden Retrievers Swim?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can swim – not only that but they also typically love being in the water and are usually excellent swimmers. This dates back to their early days when they were bred for hunting and retrieving game, often in rivers and streams.

Nowadays, most Golden Retrievers are in the water for fun rather than for work. They just can’t resist splashing around, although it means it’ll be bathtime afterward. Their powerful long legs, water-repelling coat, and need for intense exercise makes swimming a perfect activity for them.

Read on for everything you need to know about Golden Retrievers swimming, including things to consider before letting them in the water, how to train Golden Retrievers to swim better, and more.

Do All Golden Retrievers Naturally Know How to Swim Well?

No, not all Golden Retrievers can naturally swim well. While it’s true that all Golden Retrievers are born with the natural instinct to swim, they’ll need proper training before they become strong swimmers. You should avoid the sea and deep water until you’re confident that your Goldie can swim well.

Most Golden Retrievers will need to be slowly introduced to the water and have swimming lessons before they can independently swim. Sometimes they’ll be fine without any help, but you’ll still need to supervise them in case they become exhausted or get into trouble and need a helping hand.

How to Teach a Golden Retriever to Swim

If your Golden Retriever hasn’t mastered swimming on their own, there are some steps you can take to help them learn how to become true water babies.

This process will need you and one other person and involves you getting in the water too.

  1. Take them to a small, calm body of water: The best ones are lakes or swimming pools. Ideally, it’ll be somewhere quiet with no distractions around and water you’ll be happy to get in with your Goldie.
  2. Let your Goldie get used to water: Staying on the edge, let them touch and smell the water. You can also hold them while standing in shallow water if they’re nervous.
  3. Hold your Golden Retriever in the water: Keeping a firm hold of them, lower them into the water. Make sure you speak to them in a reassuring tone at the same time. You can use a life vest to help them float too.
  4. At this stage, their legs should start paddling once they’re in the water: Give them plenty of praise and positive reinforcement. 
  5. Have the other person call your Goldie from the other side of the water: You can release your hold on them, and let them swim to where they’re being called. 
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 as much as necessary: Keep practicing until your Golden Retriever can swim unaided and confidently. 

They’re intelligent dogs, and eager to please so they’ll pick swimming up in no time. They can naturally paddle in water, so they only need a little practice to refine their skills.

Make sure you teach your Golden Retriever how to get out of the water safely too. This includes using steps or going to a flat part of the shore. This means that they won’t panic or swim further into the water if they get stuck.

When Can Golden Retriever Puppies Swim?

You shouldn’t let a Golden Retriever puppy swim until they’re at least 2-3 months old. You want them to be able to walk confidently and regulate their body temperature before you introduce them to the water for the first time.

What If My Golden Retriever Can’t or Won’t Swim?

As mentioned, swimming is a huge part of a Golden Retriever’s life – it’s practically built-in. But that being said, some Goldies just won’t enjoy it and some will have fear or anxiety holding them back.

If your Golden Retriever is terrified of the water, you could get a small paddling pool with just a bit of water. Gradually re-introduce them to water, adding more water as your Goldie gets used to it. Give them plenty of rewards and positive encouragement so they associate water with something good (not scary).

You could also have an older Golden Retriever show them the ropes. They can learn and play with each other, in a way that’s hard to reciprocate without getting another dog involved. 

Where Can Golden Retrievers Swim?

Depending on where you live, there will be several options of places where your Golden Retriever can safely swim:

  • In the sea (if the beach is dog-friendly. Make sure to check tide times, weather forecasts, flags, and signs beforehand. This should only be for strong swimmers).
  • Swimming pools (that are private or dog-friendly. You’ll need to rinse the chlorine off your Goldie after. Beginners can start learning here).
  • Paddling pools (you can get specific doggy pools, or if not, just be careful that their claws don’t pierce it).
  • Lakes (watch out for other people using the lake for example sailboats).
  • Slow-moving rivers (shallow, slow-moving are best here. Make sure you check for debris and dangers first).
  • Streams (again you’ll need to look out for sharp rocks and potential danger).

Places Your Golden Retriever Shouldn’t Swim

There are a few places where you should keep your Golden Retriever away from.

Avoid letting your Golden Retriever swim in:

  • Canals (it’s often stagnant water which poses a health risk, and sometimes there’s debris under the surface.
  • Reservoirs (although tempting, they have strong currents and are usually deep and cold. Your Goldie could go into shock).
  • Fast-flowing rivers (these can overwhelm your Golden Retriever and pull them along making it almost impossible to reach the safety of the shore).
  • Rough seas (look out for huge waves, stormy weather, or warnings on entering the water).

Things to Consider if Your Golden Retriever is Swimming

Before you let your Golden Retriever dive headfirst into the water, you should do a few things to make sure that they’re safe. 

  • Don’t let them eat stuff: Wherever you go, there’ll be all sorts of rubbish and debris. There might be animals, spoilt food, or toxic plants to name a few.
  • Suncream SPF: Golden Retrievers can get sunburnt too! Pick up some sun cream and remember to pay particular attention to their nose and where fur is thinner.
  • Lifevest: You can pick up special doggy life vests for extra aid while they’re swimming. It’ll help them stay afloat and they’re easier to spot or grab in the water.
  • Allow rest: Swimming is tiring, and after a while, their muscles will get tired. Make sure you have somewhere they can rest, re-hydrate, and catch their breath.
  • Clean up after yourself: Leave the water how you found it. Clean up any poop, take your litter with you, and remember all your possessions.
  • Check the water is safe: Before letting your Goldie dive right in, check for danger in the water like predators, sharp objects, rip tides, and more. 
  • Watch out for drinking dirty or salty water: Try to stop your Golden Retriever from drinking dirty water or seawater. They can get sick from this, and end up in a lot of pain. Make sure you always take a bowl and clean water for them.
  • Supervise constantly: You’re basically a lifeguard for your Golden Retriever. Don’t turn your back for even a second. 
  • Clean them after: Make sure you thoroughly clean their ears to try and prevent infections and rinse them off as they could have chlorine, salt, or be generally dirty from the water. Check out this article to learn more about bathing your Golden Retriever.

For more safety tips, check out this link.

If your Golden Retriever gets into trouble in dangerous water, don’t go in after them. The smartest thing to do is call for help (999) and get the professionals in. You could get into the same difficulty and potentially lose your life in the water trying to save your pet.

Is the Water Too Cold for My Golden Retriever?

Any water your Golden Retriever gets in has to be over 10 degrees Celsius (50F). Anything less than 10 will be too cold for them. To gauge the temperature, try holding your hand in the water for 10 full seconds – if it’s too cold for you then it’ll be too cold for them too. 

Swimming in cold water can lead to shock, hypothermia, and frostbite. Watch out for wind and cloud cover which can affect how cold it feels. 

If your Golden Retriever does swim in the cold, make sure it’s brief and that you properly dry them after. You’ll need to raise their core body temperature back to normal as soon as possible.

Can Golden Retrievers Catch Diseases From Swimming?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can catch diseases from the water where they’re swimming. You can help avoid these by keeping your Golden Retriever’s vaccines up to date and carefully choosing where you let them swim.

They could swim in or drink blue-green algae which grows in stagnant water. This is extremely toxic to dogs, and if you suspect your dog has been near any, get them to a vet ASAP.

Another disease they can get is called leptospirosis – an infection spread through rat urine and infected water. This can be in canals and stagnant water. But fortunately, your Golden Retriever can easily get protection from this disease through their annual booster.

Can Golden Retrievers Swim Underwater?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can swim underwater. They can dive and retrieve objects from up to 15 feet under the surface! They have a reflex to hold their breath called the Mammalian dive reflex, but they can’t form a water-tight seal.

This means that diving too frequently can cause issues like pneumonia. So while your Goldie might enjoy being underwater, you’ll need to monitor them and make sure they don’t develop any health issues.

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