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German Shepherds are known for their courage and loyalty, but they’re not exactly the first breed to come to mind when you think of a water dog.
But how do German Shepherds feel about water? Do they like it? Are they good swimmers?
Even though German Shepherds weren’t exactly bred to be swimmers, most German Shepherds love spending time in the water. Their athleticism, lean body, and natural bravery give them the tools needed to excel in the water.
Why Might a German Shepherd like the water?
Even though they’re not bred to swim, many German Shepherds adore playing in the water. My German Shepherd would spend all day in the water if I’d let him.
So why do they like it so much?
To Keep Cool During Hot Summers
While the German Shepherd breed is fairly tolerant when it comes to extreme weather, they will gladly take the chance to cool off on a hot day. Getting in the water means they’ll be able to have fun and exercise without overheating even if it’s hot outside.
To Burn Off Extra Energy
German Shepherds are highly active dogs, needing around 90 minutes of exercise every day. That exercise could include a range of activities from walking, to running, to playing fetch at the dog park.
Swimming in particular is an excellent workout for German Shepherds. It will give them both the physical exercise and mental stimulation they crave.
Why Might a German Shepherd Not Like The Water?
All German Shepherds are unique; some might love the water, and some might not. If your dog is one that isn’t a fan, there could be a reason behind their dislike or distrust of the water.
They Weren’t Exposed To It Enough As A Puppy
It’s no secret that puppies are easier to train and influence than older dogs who might be set in their ways. If your German Shepherd wasn’t exposed enough to water as a puppy, they may be unwilling to engage with water when they’re older simply because they aren’t used to it.
They can definitely still learn to like water and enjoy swimming, but it may take a little more patience and training to get there.
They Had A Bad Water-Related Experience
If your German Shepherd had a traumatic experience with water in the past, they may be more resistant to water in the future. If a German Shepherd hated bathtime or experienced fear while swimming, they’ll have to undo that bad experience before they can relearn how to feel about water.
If this is your dog, start slow. Play with a hose on their paws on a hot day or let them just dip their paws in a kiddie pool. Give them lots of positive reinforcement in order for them to understand that this kind of water is good. That will put them on the right track to enjoying water and swimming.
Are German Shepherds Good Swimmers?
While German Shepherds can definitely be good swimmers because of their natural athleticism and bravery, they’re not natural-born swimmers, the way retrievers or other water dogs are.
But the physical build of a German Shepherd will help them to become a good swimmer. German Shepherds have long, muscular legs, which will definitely assist them in swimming. Their long snouts will also help them to breathe better as they’re swimming by helping them keep their head above water.
Lastly, their double coat will benefit them in swimming. The outside coat is water repellent, which means their coat won’t become as weighed down with water, and they’ll be able to move through the water a lot easier. Their inner coat also insulates against the cold which will help your German Shepherd enjoy swimming a bit more than short-coated dogs like pit bulls.
So, it’s safe to say that even if German Shepherds aren’t naturally bred for swimming, they can definitely still learn how to swim and thrive doing it!
Just look at this German Shepherd loving his time in the pool:
Do German Shepherds Have Webbed Feet?
If a dog has webbed feet, that means there is connecting skin between each of their toes. While all dogs have padding on the bottom of the feet as well as some skin at the base of their toes, dogs with fully webbed feet will have skin that connects each of their toes.
Webbed feet can indicate a natural skill for swimming, as they help move water more efficiently than feet that aren’t webbed.
A purebred German Shepherd will not have webbed feet the way a retriever or water dog does. While they have some connecting skin between their toes, the skin does not extend far enough to be considered fully webbed.
Again, they can definitely learn how to swim well even without webbed feet. It just shows that the German Shepherd wasn’t bred specifically for work in the water.
How to Help Your German Shepherd Enjoy the Water
Unsure of how to help your German Shepherd have fun in any kind of water?
Here are a few tips:
Give Them The Kind Of Water They Enjoy!
What kind of water does your German Shepherd enjoy? Maybe it’s a sprinkler or a kiddie pool in the yard or attacking the hose when you’re watering the flowers. It could be playing fetch in the shallow part of a lake. It could also be a full-fledged jump into the deep end of a pool.
As you expose your German Shepherd to different kinds of water, watch their body language to determine what they’re comfortable with. Give them the chance to enjoy whatever kind of water they like.
Stick to Freshwater
German Shepherds typically end up swallowing a little bit of water while they swim, so we recommend sticking to freshwater rather than saltwater. When they swallow salt water, it can lead to health problems such as dehydration or vomiting. Additionally, your German Shepherd may have some trouble handling ocean waves and currents.
Make it Entertaining
Although most German Shepherds could easily entertain themselves with water, they always have more fun with their humans. Interact with your dog while they’re swimming! Play fetch in a lake, have a biggest cannonball competition in the pool, or play chase in the sprinkler. This will keep your dog entertained as they exercise in the water.
Keep Them Healthy
A common problem with dogs in water is getting water in their ears. If water gets trapped in your dog’s ear canals, it can cause infections and other problems down the road. After swimming, always dry your dog’s ears off with a soft towel or cotton ball.
If you notice your dog shaking their head a lot or scratching their ears excessively within a few days of them going swimming, it may be time to call the vet. That could be a sign of an ear infection, which will definitely be uncomfortable for your pup.
How To Train Your German Shepherd To Swim
German Shepherds may not be natural swimmers, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit them to hoses and kiddie pools. If your German Shepherd needs help learning how to swim, here are a few tips to get you started:
Allow Them To Get Comfortable With Water At Their Own Pace
If your German Shepherd has never been in water before, it may take them a while to adjust to getting themselves wet. Encourage them to stick their paws in, splash around, and gradually ease their way in.
They’ll most likely want to keep their feet on the ground at first. It also may help if you’re able to get in the water with them. That will help make them more comfortable with the idea.
Use Plenty of Positive Reinforcement
If your German Shepherd is timid around the water, encourage them with treats once they get themselves in the water and play around a little. German Shepherds also respond very well to positive reinforcement, so use lots of verbal praise and head pats when they get in the water.
Use A Life Jacket and Don’t Leave Them Alone In The Water
When it comes to the actual swimming part, you’ll want to make this as easy on your dog as possible. Choose an area with still water where your dog can practice swimming and get more comfortable with the water. Avoid rivers, creeks, or anywhere with a current that could cause your dog to panic or struggle.
Be Patient and Give Them Plenty Of Practice
Swimming takes time! For German Shepherds, who aren’t natural swimmers, it will take lots of practice for them to learn how to swim well. Make sure that as they’re swimming, they’re using all four legs to push water and that they’re able to keep their heads above water.
It might help to turn swimming into a game, like playing fetch or letting them chase you. When my German Shepherd was learning to swim, a ball was what finally convinced him to let go of the ground and try swimming. Now he loves it!
Not only will games like this keep them entertained, but it will also turn their focus towards something else, forcing swimming to become more natural. In time, your German Shepherd should be able to swim without having to really think about it.
Enjoy the water with your German Shepherd
No matter what kind of water your German Shepherd enjoys, have fun in it this summer! Swimming and water play in general is a great way to exercise, cool off, and enjoy some quality time with your German Shepherd.