Pitbulls don’t necessarily look like the best swimmers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the water! Even though Pitbulls may be more than eager to get in the water there are some potential pitfalls.
Do Pitbulls like water? Most Pitbulls love the water, even if they aren’t great swimmers. Pitbulls enjoy wallowing in mud, wading through shallow water, and playing with sprinklers and hoses, but their physical build and musculature mean that they have trouble swimming and may not be able to stay afloat well.
Here’s everything that you need to know if you would love to bring your Pitbull to the lake or beach but aren’t sure how they’ll handle the water, as well as tips for providing aqua entertainment for your Pitbull at home.
How do Pibulls Feel About Water?
Pitbulls aren’t called little piggies by their adoring pet parents for no reason! Pitbulls have a couple of key features in common with pigs, and it’s not just their adorable snorts.
Like pigs, most Pitbulls enjoy a good wallow in the mud more than just about anything. The average Pitbull also enjoys wading through the water, splashing in kiddie pools, and chasing after sprinklers.
In general, most Pitbulls are water-lovers. However, liking the water doesn’t mean that Pitbulls are great swimmers.
Why Pitbulls Like the Water
Bold, Enthusiastic Personality
Most Pitbulls aren’t scared of much. Pitbulls launch into life with a great degree of enthusiasm and eagerness. They needed this bold, brave personality for many of the jobs they’ve done in the past.
Just as a Pitbull won’t think twice about defending livestock from raiding wild dogs or wild animals, they typically don’t think twice about launching headfirst into a new situation either, provided their people are supportive and encouraging. That means that if you go jumping into the pool, there’s a pretty good chance that your Pitbull will follow you. Water features that may frighten some dogs, like sprinklers, hoses, or ocean waves, often don’t deter the enthusiastic Pitbull.
Pitbulls Tend to Get Hot
Pitbulls are highly energetic and active dogs. The average Pitbull can’t stand to be off-leash without running around until they’re exhausted.
Pitbulls also have a shorter snout than many other breeds. While the average American Pitbull Terrier does not have as short a snout as other bully breeds like Boxers or the American Bully, they do have a considerably shorter snout than other breeds like Labradors or Golden Retrievers.
That short snout means that Pitbulls sometimes have trouble cooling themselves by panting as effectively as some other breeds. There isn’t as much room in a Pitbull’s mouth for moisture to evaporate from their tongue. In other words, panting just isn’t as effective for Pitbulls as compared to other dogs.
If you’ve ever seen a Pitbull honking and coughing when they are panting because they have trouble getting enough air past their tongue, you understand the trouble with Pitbulls panting. Many Pitbulls are quick to realize that water can cool them down and seek out opportunities to get wet whenever they are hot (which is often).
A History With Water
The American Pitbull Terrier has been a favorite breed in America, but they have been particularly popular in the American South. Pitbulls were all-around farm dogs, carting supplies and defending livestock from wild animals.
Pitbulls also have a long history as effective hog hunting dogs. Feral hog populations can be very high in some areas of the South and they can cause significant damage to crops. Not to mention the conflicts between hogs, people and livestock. Pitbulls have often been used to find and chase down wild hogs in the wet and marshy southern states.
Pitbulls would go splashing through marshes and rivers in pursuit of the hog, which often sought out water to escape. This historical connection to water may be part of the reason that so many Pitbulls are still comfortable with water today.
Pitbulls Love To Have Fun
Perhaps the most straightforward reason that Pitbulls may enjoy the water is that they simply love having a good time! Anything can be a toy to a Pitbull, and splashing through water or chasing after a sprinkler or hose can be a blast for a fun-loving pittie!
Your Pitbull can entertain themselves for hours chasing the water from a hose or running in and out of a kiddie pool or muddy spot in your yard. These clowns will have a blast just about anytime they can, and they often find that water is a great way to aid in their fun.
Why Pitbulls May Not be The Best Swimmers
Unfortunately, despite the fact that most Pitbulls like the water, they aren’t necessarily very well suited to it. A Pitbull’s physical build does not set them up for success in the water:
Short Single Coat
On hot summer days, Pitbulls are perfectly comfortable jumping in and out of the water, but when the temperature drops, your Pitbull is probably going to avoid getting wet. Unlike breeds that are better suited to the water and have double coats or long curly coats, a Pitbull’s short, single coat is not a good fit for water in any but the hottest temperatures. In other words, the water does too good a job of cooling off a Pitbull and the lack of a thicker coat means they can quickly lose too much body heat.
Paws Made for Gripping, Not Swimming
Pitbulls have paws designed for gripping into the dirt, not paddling through the water. Unlike Labrador Retrievers or Standard Poodles, which have large feet with webbing between the pads to assist in moving through the water, Pitbulls have well-defined toes without webbing.
A Pitbull’s strong toes and hard nails are made for ripping into the dirt or spreading out across rocky terrain so that Pitbulls don’t slip. While Pitbulls certainly can paddle through the water, they tend not to be as good at it as other breeds.
Cropping and Docking Make Swimming Harder
Many people, unfortunately, choose to crop their Pitbull’s ears and dock the tail. While this is not something we support, it’s still happening.
Both ear cropping and tail docking make swimming harder for Pitbulls. The exposed ears are more easily splashed with any spray or water, which irritates the dog and may make an ear infection more likely.
Even uncropped ears aren’t as well-suited to the water as other breeds. Compare this to dogs designed to go in the water, that have droopy ears to help protect the ear canal from water coming in.
A docked tail means that a Pitbull cannot use the tail as a rudder the way other dogs do. For instance, Labradors’ tails are so muscular and wide that their tails are often referred to as otter tails.
This kind of tail makes it easy for Labradors to steer in the water. Without a tail, Pitbulls have no way to control their movement through the water other than swimming hard in the direction that they want to go. While they may still be able to swim, they will not be able to maneuver nearly as well.
Dogs with shorter snouts, like Pitbulls, may not breathe as easily as other breeds, and this becomes problematic in the water. The reason that Pitbull’s snore and snort is that there isn’t as much room for oxygen to move through their snouts as other breeds.
That means that when a Pitbull is trying to breathe hard in the water, they may struggle. Even more important, their short snout makes it harder for a Pitbull to get their nose well out of the water to breathe. Compare a Pitbull’s snout to the extremely long snout of a poodle, and it becomes clear how it may be a detriment to their swimming.
Short Necks and a Stocky Build
Pitbulls have short, powerful necks designed to help them grip even as they are being flung through the air. Unfortunately, the short neck does not provide very much room between the water and the dog’s head. That means that it is even harder for a Pitbull to keep their head out of the water and get air, particularly if there is any chop or waves.
The Pitbull’s stocky build is extremely muscular. Muscle is dense and tends to sink in the water. Pitbulls also have a very sturdy bone structure which tends to be quite heavy.
This muscular, stocky build weighs Pitbulls down the water so they have to swim harder and faster to remain afloat. The most muscular Pitbulls may have trouble treading water at all.
This Pitbull uses their heaviness in the water to their advantage by diving down for their toys (even if he has quite the little routine before he begins his decent):
How to Help Your Pitbull Enjoy the Water
Just because your Pitbull is not designed to be a water dog doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy swimming! There are things that you can do to help your Pitbull get the most out of the water:
Provide Shallow Water and Water Features
Most Pitbulls love wading through shallow water and playing with water features like sprinklers and hoses. Your Pitbull will likely thank you for a dog-friendly kiddie pool and this one Amazon is my favorite! These are perfect because they let Pitbulls get their water fix without having to actually swim.
And if you want to give your Pitbull some mental stimulation on top of water fun, you should check out this sprinkler toy on Amazon that dogs can actually activate on their own.
Many people find that this is the best way to give their Pitbull access to water without taking any of the risks associated with swimming. Even Pitbulls that can’t swim well can enjoy the water in this way.
Use Safety Equipment
If you do decide to take your Pittie pup swimming you should consider a life jacket. While it might feel a little silly, a life jacket can counteract your Pitbull’s weight and muscular build so that they have much better buoyancy in the water. Not only will this make you feel better about the safety of your dog but it will also make swimming easier and more enjoyable for your Pitbull, too. They won’t have to work quite so hard to stay afloat and they’ll have a much easier time keeping their short snout out of the water.
As far as picking out a life jacket, it’s hard to go wrong with the Outward Hound brand which is why I recommend their simple life jacket which you can see on Amazon. Be very careful the first few times you use a dog life jacket. If it doesn’t fit properly or if your dog struggles in it, your dog could trap a foot in it or it could slip around and actually make it more difficult for them to swim. However, when used properly, a dog life jacket can be a very effective tool for helping your Pitbull to swim.
So make sure you pay close attention on the first few test runs with a new life jacket.
Choose the Right Conditions
Pitbulls will have a much easier time swimming in calm water than rough seas. Whereas a Labrador will happily leap into the ocean waves and have no trouble treading water and coming back to shore, a Pitbull may jump into the water with the same sort of enthusiasm but then struggle to stay afloat as the waves crash over them.
Set your Pitbull up for success by only bringing them to water when it is calm enough for them to swim easily. It’s also best for Pitbulls to be able to choose their depth easily. Graduated bottoms that go from shallow enough for your Pitbull to wade to over your Pitbull’s head make it much easier for your Pitbull to choose their depth and alternate between swimming and wading in a way that’s comfortable for them.
Do Pitbulls Like Baths?
Pitbulls are individuals like any other dog, and some will take to baths readily while others may be a bit more reticent. However, at large, Pitbulls typically like baths more than most other breeds.
Pitbulls are deeply eager to please their people, so if you want your Pitbull to take a bath, there is a very good chance that they will do so willingly just because you want them to. Pitbulls also soak up affection from their people, so if you make bath time fun spa time, your dog will likely adore the opportunity to get attention from you.
Since Pitbulls typically like water and being wet, they usually don’t have any inherent aversion to taking a bath. If your Pitbull seems a bit unsure about bath time, give them a few high-value treats while they’re in the water and they will likely begin to enjoy their bath very soon.
Why is My Pitbull Scared Of The Water?
If you have your Pitbull from the time they are a puppy and you expose them to water in positive situations throughout that time, it is very unlikely that they will be frightened of the water. However, one bad experience with the water, particularly when your Pitbull is in a critical socialization period, can cause a lasting fear of water. If your Pitbull has been frightened or had a less than gradual exposure to water in the past, it may explain their fear.
If you have adopted an adult Pitbull from a shelter, there are a few possible explanations for a fear of water:
- They’ve never seen water before. While most Pitbulls are more than willing to take on new experiences without hesitation, for an adult Pitbull that has never seen water before, it can be very intimidating.
- Water as punishment. Unfortunately, Pitbulls are some of the most abused dogs in America. Pitbulls raised for fighting or as status symbols are often treated inhumanely. Dogs may be sprayed with a hose as a punishment. It may also be used to break up a dogfight. If your rescue dog has experienced something like this before, they may think that water is a bad thing.
Regardless of why your Pitbull is afraid of water, you’ll likely find that with slow introductions and plenty of positive reinforcement, they can overcome their fear.
Have Fun With Your Pitbull in The Water
It’s a lot of fun to watch your Pitbull splashing around in the water or chasing a hose or sprinkler. These enthusiastic dogs make the most of everything, including opportunities to splash around and swim. Make sure that your Pitbull is safe in deeper water and enjoy your Pitbull in the water.