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If you live with a boxer then you already know that these brave dogs are up for just about anything…as long you go with them!
With a history of hunting wild boar, bear, and other large game you’d expect boxers to be brave but when it comes to having fun in the water bravery is only half the battle!
So do boxers like the water?
Boxers don’t have a history of working in deep water, but many will be happy to go for a swim- even if they’re not very good at it. However, because it can be difficult for some boxers to keep their short snouts out of the water, they may not enjoy swimming.
Let’s look a little closer at what might make a boxer enjoy time in the water along with why they’re not always the best swimmers.
Do Boxers Have Any History Working In Water?
Boxers don’t exactly have a history of working in water- at least not water that’s deep enough to swim in.
Some breeds, such as retrievers, are bred for swimming and jumping into a lake to chase after downed prey. For these breeds, jumping into a lake is just another day in the office. Then there are breeds with zero history of water work. These would be dogs like pugs that are clearly not designed to go fast or swim hard.
Boxers fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes.
Originally bred to hunt hogs, boar, and other large animals brave boxers are a descendent of the now extinct Bullenbeisser breed that was an integral part of hog hunting in Great Britain for hundreds of years.
This kind of hunting not only required courage as these dogs would hold down large game until hunters could arrive but it also required boxers to run in the swampy marshes and bogs of England.
So in a roundabout way, boxers have a history of being exposed to water and wet environments but they’ve never had a history of diving deep into lakes or swimming outside of the shallow end. Because of this, most boxers won’t be afraid of water but that doesn’t mean they’ll like it going for a swim.
Can All Boxers Swim?
While natural swimming ability is a part of many breeds, that’s not the case for boxers.
It’s actually a myth that all dogs can swim and many breeds with limited history in the water, like boxers, need help from their owners to successfully enjoy the water.
Of course, all dogs can be taught to swim but you shouldn’t expect your boxer to immediately understand how to swim. Again, their short snouts don’t make them naturals in the water so you should be prepared to take it slow.
Why Do Some Boxers Like To Swim?
With all this talk of history and trouble in the water, you might assume that all boxers dislike the water…but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Despite a lack of natural ability, many boxers love going for a swim!
It will really just depend on your pup’s individual personality and confidence level so let’s look at a few factors that may encourage your boxers to enjoy their time in the water.
It’s A Great Way To Cool Off
Swimming (or just playing in the water) is a great way to cool off on a hot day and that’s all it takes for many boxers to want to jump in!
As brachycephalic breeds with short snouts, boxers aren’t always very efficient at staying cool. Dogs rely on panting to help regulate their body temperature and a boxer’s shorter snout makes the overall process of panting significantly less efficient since there’s less overall airflow. Less airflow means less evaporation and a hotter boxer.
It also means a boxer that’s eager to jump in a pool of water in order to cool off!
Once a boxer realizes that water is an awesome way to stay cool, most will be happy to least take a quick dip to cool off.
It’s A Fun Exercise
Dogs are supposed to be active and boxers are no exception. These dogs have had plenty of jobs over their years and none of them included sitting on the couch all day!
Boxers will be excited about any activity that lets them get out their energy and swimming can be a great option! With exercise needs of around an hour a day, it can take a lot of work to keep your boxer healthy. It’s also easy to get stuck into a bit of a boring routine.
Swimming and water activities can be a good change-up for boxers and their owners. Because it can also help boxers keep cool, it can be a great exercise option when it’s just too hot for the usual walk around the neighborhood.
Some boxers will also love the fact that swimming is easy on their joints and a more comfortable way to wear themselves out.
You’re Doing It!
If you have a boxer, you already know that they love their humans! If it was their choice, they’d hang around you 24/7. They adore you, and they want to do anything you’re doing.
That means if you’re swimming, they want to be swimming. For some boxers, seeing you hop in the water is all the encouragement they need to jump in right beside you!
Additionally, if your boxer has been a little more hesitant to get on board with the whole swimming idea, you getting in with them might be just enough to get them in the water too.
Why Are Some Boxers Afraid Of Water?
Despite typically being quite brave, some boxers may be afraid of the water or at least not at all interested in going for a swim. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the reasons why some boxers may be a little water-shy.
By understanding what’s going on, we have a better chance of helping boxers get over their fear or hesitancy.
They’ve Never Seen It Before!
I know, it’s obvious. But it can also be easy to forget!
As humans, we take the concept of water for granted but your boxer may be seeing a large body of water for the first time in their life. This can be even more impactful if they’re an adult since the best time to be exposed to new things is as a puppy.
Additionally, boxers may not have been introduced to that specific type of water. There’s a big difference between a pool in the backyard and a lake with boats, all kinds of critters, and strange people. So make sure you consider what your boxer’s water experience has been before you assume they don’t like it.
They Had a Bad Experience
While having no experience is easy to manage, some boxers may not like the water because they’ve had a bad experience which can be a lot trickier to deal with.
These bad experiences often happen because they’re forced to do too much too soon. If your boxer gets thrown in the deep end (literally or figuratively), they could be very resistant to water in the future.
This is why it’s so important to start slowly when introducing your boxer to water for the first time. If your dog did have a bad experience, you’ll need to backtrack and show them that water in little ways, like hoses and kiddie pools, can be lots of fun and not scary at all.
They Aren’t Great Swimmers
I don’t think boxers have the same judgemental inner voice that makes us want to quit swimming or piano practice (just me?) but they still may avoid water if they’re bad swimmers. That’s because unlike piano practice, swimming can have some very unpleasant and immediate consequences if you aren’t good at it.
For your boxer, that means water up the nose, in the mouth, and the very uncomfortable feeling of not being able to keep your head above water. If your boxer doesn’t feel confident in the water, they aren’t going to be eager to jump in.
Our next section will look at this more closely!
It’s Too Cold
The short coat of a boxer can be both good and bad for swimming.
A short coat means boxers won’t get too waterlogged and weighed down like some longer-haired breeds but it also means that they don’t have much insulation from the cold. In some cases, the water can be a little too good at cooling off boxers, and on anything besides the warmest of days they may get cold after a swim or even in the water.
The short-coated pitbull has the same problem in the water and both breeds can benefit from a warming life jacket, careful monitoring by their owner and just making sure they stay active!
Positive Reinforcement Can Help
As always positive reinforcement training can help introduce your boxer to water for the first time or overcome a previously bad experience. Take your time, go slow and be generous with the treats and most boxers will learn to appreciate the water for all the fun it can be!
Why Boxers Don’t Make Amazing Swimmers
At this point, I’ve mentioned several times that boxers don’t make the best swimmers. But what does that really mean and what’s actually slowing down these cute pups when it comes to hitting the water?
Let’s take a look at why exactly boxers make poor swimmers.
No Tail, No Rudder!
There’s a reason water dogs, such as retrievers, have such long tails: they use them to help steer in the water.
Many boxers have a short, docked tail which means they’re effectively rudder-less! Instead of easily steering where they go, they’re left to just swim harder (which isn’t always very fun) or you can end up with some more unique swimming strategies like the ones used by this very handsome boxer named Tuuka:
Cropped Ears Means More Water
Many boxers have short-cropped ears, rather than the long floppy ears you might see on a traditional water dog. Again, this isn’t a coincidence and floppy ears help protect a water dog’s ears from the water. Without floppy ears, more water is likely to make its way into your boxer’s ears.
Not only is getting water in the ear annoying for your boxer, but it can also lead to ear infections down the road. If you notice your boxer shaking their head a lot or pawing at their ears excessively, they could have water trapped in their ear.
Short Noses Are Hard To Keep Out Of Water
This is by far the biggest issue boxers have to deal with but they’re certainly not the only ones! Water up the nose is a big issue for any brachycephalic breed and while boxers may not have a snout that’s as short as dogs like pugs they’re still at a distinct disadvantage in the water.
Not only can it be uncomfortable for dogs to inhale water, but it can also be dangerous if it goes on for too long.
With some patient training, most boxers will be able to keep their head above water but if you’re dealing with any kind of choppy conditions or a fatigued boxer then they can quickly get in over their head…literally.
No Webbed Feet
You might be surprised to find that many dog breeds have webbed feet!
Not only can this help dogs be more efficient in the water since they effectively have paddles for feet but some dogs that love to dig, like dachshunds, use their webbed feet to be more efficient when it comes to digging holes.
But without any history of swimming or digging, purebred boxers won’t have webbed feet which means their paws aren’t quite as efficient for paddling, at least compared to other dogs.
That doesn’t mean boxers can’t produce good power in the water, but they aren’t likely to beat a lab when it comes to a water race!
How To Set Your Boxer Up For Success In The Water
Are you ready to help your boxer learn how to swim?
You already know that positive reinforcement training will be a big part of the process but let’s look at a few other things to consider before you hit the deep end with your boxer!
When you’re first teaching your boxer about water, start small. We don’t want them to freak out with ocean waves or to be swept away in a river current.
Consider allowing them to first play with water in a hose or a kiddie pool. This lets them adjust to the water at their own comfort level. They’ll learn that water is something fun instead of something to be scared of.
Another great option for starting small is to buy your boxer a sprinkler. This shallow kiddie pool and sprinkler is one of our favorites! Your dog will be able to have fun playing in the water before actually having to learn how to swim.
Stick With Shorter Sessions
Learning to swim is exhausting and the consequences of your boxer getting too tired in the water can not only be uncomfortable but also dangerous.
Your boxer will be using a ton of energy as they swim, especially as they’re first learning how to do it. Wearing them out will only cause them to struggle in the water and maybe even trigger them to be fearful of the water in the future.
In order to avoid that, stick with shorter swimming sessions and focus on having a successful swim session more than anything else!
Consider A Life Jacket
I love life jackets for dogs, especially short-noted pups like boxers!
A life jacket alone won’t make your boxer a super swimmer but it will give you little peace of mind knowing that they’ve got some extra support.
But it’s certainly not just for you! A well-fitting life jacket will make it much easier for your boxer to swim and the best options for boxers have extra floating power towards the head to help keep their snout out of the water.
That’s not just safer but it can also make swimming more fun for boxers! If you’re interested in learning more, check out our list of the best life jackets specifically for boxers in this article.
Even though boxers aren’t necessarily natural swimmers, that doesn’t stop them from having a blast in the water!
However, don’t expect your short-snouted boxer to be ready to swim right away. Not only will some boxers be a little timid about jumping in but many will need some extra help becoming strong swimmers.
Once boxers are more confident in the water, it can be a great way to burn off extra energy without getting too hot or putting extra pressure on joints.
What do you think? How well does your boxer swim?