Have you ever wondered if your German Shepherd likes to swim?
Can you teach a GSD to swim?
What about water – do they generally like water or are they not a breed that likes it at all?
In this guide we discuss swimming and water related issues to do with GSDs.
Let’s take a look!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Do German Shepherds Like To Swim, & Do They Like Or Hate Water?
Since we are discussing German Shepherds as a breed, this guide might be a good complementary guide to this guide we’ve written about interesting overall facts and information on the German Shepherd breed.
You might like to read both guides for a more accurate picture of the breed.
Let’s check out information specific to GSDs and swimming/water …
Do German Shepherds Like Water and Swimming?
The answer is, some do, some don’t!
And this really applies to all breeds of dogs.
Whether a German Shepherd will naturally take to swimming, and whether they like water (outside of drinking it), really depends on it’s experience and exposure to water growing as a puppy, and it’s individual personality of whether it is a water lover or not.
Some German Shepherds absolutely love biting at the garden hose water stream when you aim it in their direction, and also love swimming in your pool or the ocean if you expose them to it and teach them from a young age.
German Shepherds As A Breed, & Whether They Were Bred For Swimming
The two biggest factors that indicate whether a dog will naturally like swimming and be good in the water are:
The breed of the dog
It’s body composition (long limbed, short limbed, tall, small, heavy, light etc.)
Some breeds were specifically bred to be good swimmers or naturals in the water, and others due to body limitations are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to swimming and playing in water.
The Labrador, and ‘Retriever’ type dogs for example were bred to navigate swamps and lakes and retrieve their owners’ hunting spoils.
These types of breed have water resistant coats, webbing between their toes, and generally are strong swimmers.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are breeds that for whatever reason – big chests, small limbs, abnormally structured respiratory organs, dogs that get chilled and frightened easily – aren’t very good at swimming or staying afloat!
Think Bulldogs, Daschunds and Pugs for example.
As a breed, German Shepherds were bred to like a range of activities from herding, tracking, protection and guarding work, aiding and helping, military work and much more!
They are naturally athletic dogs.
They certainly have the capability to like water and become strong swimmers, but weren’t bred specifically for swimming.
German Shepherds that haven’t swam much as puppies or have had a scary experience with a body of water (pool, beach etc.), or the hose before might be hesitant around it.
If this is the case, there is training you can do to gradually expose your GSD to water and get it playing and swimming in it (and liking it) eventually …
Can You Teach A German Shepherd To Swim?
The good news is, if your German Shepherd doesn’t like swimming in or playing with water right now, there is a good chance it can be trained in both these areas with gradual exposure and teaching.
German Shepherd Swimming Training
The key with water and swimming training for German Shepherds is to GO SLOW and be patient.
You can even use a dog life jacket in the beginning for GSDs who are poor swimmers, or just for extra safety.
Remember, you are dealing with a dog who might have a legitimate fear, and if you push it too far too quickly, it may get aggressive or more likely get scared and produce large amounts of stress and anxiety.
Lead, but don’t force or push your GSD to the water.
Get advice from an animal expert if you are unsure of how to train your GSD in a safe and comfortable way.
Training your German Shepherd To Swim, And Like Water involves these 7 steps:
1) Go to a beach or lake with calm water (waves and strong currents can scare your GSD), and water which your GSD can wade in before it submerges most of or its whole body under. Take a leash/lead with you, and potentially a family member, friend or fellow trainer (although not necessary).
Also take some treats.
A life jacket or life vest for your German Shepherd may be a good idea for additional safety, especially if you want to teach your GSD to swim.
You can read about The Best Life Jackets/Vest for German Shepherds and Large Dogs.
2) Observe your GSD’s reaction around the water’s edge.
How cautious or scared is he or she?
The more anxious your GSD acts around water, the more he/she has to be treated with patience, and the slower you should go with training.
For extremely scared GSDs, you want to keep the sessions extremely short to prevent overload of stress or anxiety.
If you notice any extremely aggressive (snarling and biting), or fearful behavior (extreme shaking or whimpering), it may be wise to see a vet or get professional training.
3) Go to the water’s edge yourself, and stand about 5 feet (1.5 metres) away with your GSD by your side on it’s leash.
All you are trying to do to begin with is to get your GSD to touch and feel the water on their feet.
4) So, take one step at a time towards the water.
Each time your GSD joins you at your side either sitting or standing, give him or her a treat and praise them with your attention.
5) You do this until your GSD joins you in the water.
Act calm and relaxed around the water so your GSD knows there is nothing about it that will harm it.
6) Once you get your GSD comfortable with playing in paw and chest high water, you should think about putting a life jacket on your GSD, and do the exact same process out into deeper water.
You may need to demonstrate a few times wading and swimming in deeper water with a friend holding your GSD by the lead to show him/her it is ok.
7) Dogs should naturally ‘dog paddle’ with their front and hind legs, and a GSD should be able to keep itself afloat as they are capable with most exercise.
If not, stand by your GSD’s side and hold them as they try to swim, intermittently letting them go and holding them again if they go under for too long.
To train your GSD not to be scared around the garden hose, you do the exact same process of edging your GSD one step at a time towards the hose until it is able to touch it with its body without being frightened.
Be mindful of wasting water, so you may want to try it while your family member is watering the garden, or with the hose turned on VERY lightly sitting in a bucket (which you will use to water the garden anyway) for very short periods.
My German Shepherd Has Water In It’s Ear…What To Do?
Dogs are similar to humans in that if they get water in their ears, they should be able to get it out by their selves by shaking or tilting their heads.
To add to this, German Shepherds are quite robust and flexible with what their bodies can tolerate and handle.
But, with their long ear canals, water may get trapped in the ear and stay there. If you suspect this to be the case, monitor your GSD’s behavior carefully, and looks for signs of pain or discomfort like:
Rubbing it’s tilted head on the ground
Pawing at it’s ear consistently
Yelping or making sounds of discomfort after swimming
You might decide to do two things if you suspect water is trapped in the ear: 1) Try to remove it yourself (if you can definitely do it in a non invasive and safe way),
or 2) See the vet.
Only try removing the water yourself if you think you are capable without harming your GSD.
LoveThatPet.com has written a step by step guide for you to follow.
TheDailyShep.com are not veterinarians, or animal professionals/experts. Information provided is for informational purposes only – it is not a substitute for professional or qualified advice.
The information is based on either our own thorough research, and/or own experiences, as a means of free speech.
By consuming this information, you accept that TheDailyShep.com do not have client or patient relationship with you, and TheDailyShep.com are not advising you to act on anything you read.
You should always consult your own veterinarian, animal expert, or health care professional and follow their advice before making decisions on all matters.
You can find our full set of disclaimers and T & C’s in the footer of this site.
Enjoy your reading, and thank you for being here