Can Bulldogs Swim? Here’s Why They Can’t.

Many people assume that all dogs are natural swimmers, which is understandable- they are so famous for their skills in the water that they even invented their own stroke, used by many humans – the doggy paddle. But while some breeds do indeed take after Michael Phelps, others are not exactly built to swim. Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and English Setters are among the breeds well known for being great swimmers, while Bulldogs are among the breeds that may struggle to swim. Read on and find out why Bulldogs aren’t known for their swimming skills…
Stephanie Laming - Licensed Insurance Agent of 11 years & Dog Mum
September 21, 2022
min read

Can Bulldogs Swim? 

Most Bulldogs aren’t competent swimmers, due to their body structure. 

Some Bulldogs can learn to swim, but this will require a lot of training. Others may simply like to splash around in water, rather than going for a full dip.  

Can English Bulldogs Swim?

All types of Bulldogs share similar physical characteristics that make it difficult for them to swim. English Bulldogs are not natural swimmers, and neither are their French or American cousins. 

Why Can’t Bulldogs Swim?

The main reason why you won’t often see a Bulldog swimming is that their body poses three challenges. They have a barrel-shaped body, a short, wide skull, and short legs.

Bulldogs are among the breeds considered brachycephalic. This means that along with other breeds including the Pug, Pekinese and Boston Terrier, Bulldogs have short snouts and nasal passages. Because of this, they have to try and tilt their heads upwards in water, which further adds to their difficulties when attempting to swim. 


In addition to this, their body shape is too wide for them to effectively turn in water, while their short legs mean that they are unable to paddle fast enough to float. 

Why do bulldogs sink in water? 

If you’ve heard that bulldogs can easily sink in water if their humans aren’t careful, that’s because it’s true. This is mainly due to their large heads and bodies, coupled with their legs, which are too short to allow a Bulldog to properly float. 

Can Your Bulldog Swim?

Despite all the challenges we’ve covered, there is a percentage of Bulldogs that can learn to swim. 

In some cases, a Bulldog’s enthusiasm for water will exceed their abilities. Some Bulldogs can swim, but get tired very easily. Others can swim but have difficulty turning in water. Some Bulldogs love to go swimming but will need a life jacket, and some will avoid water at all costs. A small number of Bulldogs can even become skilled swimmers if they are taught properly. It all depends on the personality and past experiences of your best Bulldog. 

If you do want your furbaby to become a swimming bulldog, however, this will take dedication and patience, and you will need to ensure that you are taking precautions to keep your Bulldog safe. 

It’s also vital not to force your Bulldog into the water, and only teach them to swim if they seem keen on learning. 

How to Help Your Bulldog in the Water

If you think your canine companion wants to become part of that elite group of Bulldogs who can swim, you will need to make sure that your favorite fur-friend is safe while doing so. Here’s how…

Life vests

Doggy life vests are available for purchase online as well as from most pet stores, especially in Summer. This will enable your Bulldog to take his time in the water and paddle to their heart’s content, with far less risk of them drowning. The risk does, however, still exist, as life vests can slip off accidentally, so you will still need to keep an eye on your Bulldog best friend. 

Buy a brand that sells vests which are fully adjustable and make sure it fits your Bulldog snugly. Many dog life vests also come with handles, so you can quickly pull your pooch to safety if you need to. 

Swimming lessons 

Teaching a Bulldog to swim will require plenty of patience. It is recommended that you spend plenty of time building them up to swimming by ensuring they are comfortable near or in water. Make sure they start in the shallow end if they’re swimming in a pool, or that the water isn’t too deep if you’re at a lake or the ocean. It’s also vital to ensure that your Bulldog has a way out of the water if a quick exit is needed. 

Some suggest that the best way to teach a dog to swim is to get in the water with them. Others suggest appointing another dog as teacher. If you know of any humans with dogs known for their swimming skills, arrange a doggy playdate and let your newly-appointed doggy swimming lead by example. 

Water safety 

If your Bulldog doesn’t seem keen on swimming, they may still enjoy splashing around in water. A doggy pool can be great for this, especially if you live somewhere that gets very hot in the Summer. If you do get your furbaby their own pool, make sure you don’t allow them to swim unsupervised.

If you have a human-sized pool, make sure it’s fenced off and consider installing a ramp so that your Bulldog can get out of the water if they manage to scale the fence. 

Final Thoughts

While Bulldogs aren’t built to swim, many love a splash in the water all the same, and a rare few can even be painstakingly trained to become adept swimmers. 

Humans are used to leading their dogs around, but this is one instance where you will need to follow your Bulldog’s lead. Only expose a Bulldog to water if they seem keen on the idea of having a splash, and if you do want to try to teach them to swim, make sure you take the proper precautions and don’t rush the process. 

Speak to a dog trainer if you would like to know more about your Bulldog and water. 

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GoodPaw Pet Services Inc., GoodPaw, offers free advice, product information and other editorial resources that are intended for informative purposes only, and should not be used in place of proper veterinary care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your pet. If your pet is experiencing any health concerns, contact a licensed veterinarian. GoodPaw assumes no responsibility for action taken based on information given from

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