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Rottweilers are big, robust dogs with short, oily coats not unlike a Labrador. But do Rottweilers have webbed feet, as Labradors do?
Rottweilers do not have webbed feet. They have sharply defined and well-arched toes that are designed to help them grip difficult terrain in their work as herding, protection, and cart dogs. They also have exceptionally thick pads that help their feet to remain uninjured even in the harshest terrain.
If you’ve been wondering how well Rottweilers swim, whether they are water dogs, and whether webbed feet are essential for you to enjoy the water with your Rottweiler, here’s what you need to know.
What are a Rottweiler’s Feet Like?
The AKC breed standard for Rottweilers is that they should have well-arched toes and thick, hard pads. These kinds of feet are ideal for propelling a Rottweiler across rough terrain and enabling the kind of sharp turns and powerful leaps required for a Rottweiler to herd and fight assailants effectively. The sturdy back feet, which are longer than the front, are used to grip into the ground and enable Rottweilers to leap upwards powerfully.
Rottweilers do not have webbed feet like some other breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever or the Standard Poodle. There is no reason for Rottweilers to have developed webbed feet in their breed history. While Rottweilers love to splash around in the water and particularly in the mud, they haven’t needed to swim through water very often as a part of their breed history.
Why Do Dogs Have Webbed Feet?
Dogs need to have webbed feet if they spend a lot of time swimming. The dogs that have webbed feet are primarily waterfowl retrievers and working water dogs.
They have webbed feet to help propel them through deep water where they can’t get any grip on the bottom. These webbed feet, combined with typically larger paws, enable these dogs to cut through the water much more easily than other breeds.
Which Breeds Have Webbed Feet?
A number of different breeds have developed for swimming. Dogs are often better swimmers than people, and they have the energy to keep swimming for long periods without getting tired. Therefore, dogs have been bred to help us hunt in the water and rescue people from the water. Here are a few groups of dogs that have webbed feet:
Water spaniels like the American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel are midsize dogs that work while jumping out of small boats to retrieve waterfowl. They are also wonderful family companions, with soft expressions and silky coats. While these dogs are relatively small, they are incredibly fast and robust in the water.
The retrieving class was more or less designed for water work. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Flat-Coated retrievers, and more are all superb swimmers, with long, powerful legs.
Some, like the Labrador Retriever, are made for the water from the tip of their nose to the tip of their toes, with not only webbed feet but a water-resistant oily coat and an otter-like tail that acts like a rudder in the water.
Some dogs have served to help fishermen by driving fish into the nets, finding tackle, and bringing messages back and forth between the shore and the boats. The Portuguese Water Dog was such a dog, and the Standard Poodle also started its career as a fisherman’s dog, retrieving lost fish from the boat. These dogs are incredibly powerful swimmers and have a coat of hair instead of fur, which fisherman could cut according to the weather and conditions.
Rescue dogs like Newfoundlands were bred to jump off of boats to swim after sailors who had fallen into the freezing Canadian Waters. Similar to the Saint Bernard rescuing travelers lost in the Alps, the Newfoundland served as a rescuer to anyone caught in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
They also helped to pull fishing nets into the shore and pull fish to market. To succeed in these roles, they have partially webbed feet and an incredibly thick insulating coat, along with a strong desire to rescue people, particularly people who are drowning.
Are Rottweilers Good Swimmers?
Just because Rottweilers don’t have webbed feet doesn’t mean they can’t be good swimmers, but Rottweilers are definitely not among the best swimmers in the dog world. Rottweilers have a powerful, muscular physique that helps to propel their body through the water.
As you can see in this video, this Rottie wasn’t thrilled about going in the water, but he is a very strong swimmer once he’s in.
Rottweilers with uncropped tails can use that strong tail that was designed to help them balance on land to propel through the water. The dense, somewhat oily coat of a Rottweiler is quite weather-resistant and is great insulation in the water as well.
Rottweilers are heavily muscled, big-boned dogs that tend to be fairly dense in the water, so they won’t sit as high as some other breeds. This typically isn’t a problem, but if the water is choppy, your Rottweiler may take a few splashes to the face.
In general, however, the brave, willing Rottweiler is more than happy to take on swimming even if it is not a particularly strong part of their breed history.
How to Train Your Rottweiler to Swim
Most Rottweilers take to the water very readily. Rottweilers are naturally brave, bold dogs and most love new experiences and taking on new challenges.
Rottweilers are also extremely loyal, so if their family is doing something, it’s likely a Rottweiler will want to join in. However, a bad early experience can set your Rottweiler up for failure in learning to swim.
The earlier you expose your Rottweiler to water the better, but a Rottweiler of any age can learn to enjoy the water. Here is how to teach your Rottweiler to enjoy swimming, webbed feet or not:
Start With Shallow, Calm Water
Your Rottweiler needs to learn how to understand the water and how the water will affect their body physics in a safe environment. Start with shallow water so that your dog can understand what weightlessness feels like before they are over their heads, while they still have their feet on the ground.
It can be very frightening the first time a Rottweiler’s feet leave the ground, so you want to give them plenty of time to get used to how it feels to move through water before they start swimming. Any waves or disturbances in the water will only add anxiety, so it’s best to start with very calm water.
Let Your Rottie Move into Swimming at Their Own Pace
It’s very important that you supervise as your Rottie begins going into deeper water, but it’s best to let them do it at their own speed. Your Rottweiler will inevitably become curious about the deeper parts of the area they’re in and begin experimenting with stepping out from where they can reach.
Dogs tend to have an instinct to swim upwards when they go over their heads, particularly if they start to panic, so it’s extremely important to guide your dog and help them learn to swim with four feet in the water in a forward direction.
Gradually Build The Stakes
Once your Rottweiler is happily going in and out of shallow water into water in which they need to swim, you can begin challenging them with different circumstances. Ask your Rottweiler to jump into the water in a place they can’t wade, experiment with low waves at the ocean, and give your Rottweiler other opportunities to experiment with swimming and the water in new ways. Remember that Rottweilers weren’t built for swimming, so don’t expect your dog to perform in the water the way a retriever or spaniel would.
Can Rottweilers Compete in Water Sports?
If you have dreams of retrieval trials or dock diving with your Rottweiler, you may be wondering how adept they are at these activities. Rottweilers are not made to leap into the water or swim in the way that they are designed to herd cattle or pull carts, but the Rottweiler is an intelligent, adaptable, versatile dog that is willing to try just about anything that you want them to do.
The sheer power and strength of a Rottweiler gives them a lot of force when they jump, and it may well be that you can teach your Rottweiler to do exceptionally well at dock diving. Rottweilers are not natural retrievers, and while many enjoy fetch, it is unlikely that your Rottweiler will be able to compete with dogs that were bred to retrieve in retrieval trials. However, that doesn’t mean that your Rottweiler won’t have a good time or that they won’t be quite good at this activity.
Use sturdy floating fetch toys like this one on Amazon to train your Rottweiler to enjoy chasing things into the water and brining it back to you.
What Were Rottweilers Bred to Do?
Understanding the Rottweilers’ history can go a long way to helping you to understand exactly why they look they way they do and how they’re built. Rottweilers started as Roman herding dogs, herding vast herds along with armies.
They also worked as military dogs, fighting alongside their handlers in war. As time went on, they became the precursor to many German breeds and also became military police dogs.
While the police and military used them for attack work, the common people use them for pulling carts and herding livestock. Rottweilers are effective in herding livestock that most other breeds can’t handle, including relatively feral herds and very powerful bulls and cattle.
Rottweilers use intimidation to stalk, follow, and occasionally nip, like most herders, but they also use their sheer size and strength to physically push herds of cattle or sheep into position.
For all of these jobs, the Rottweiler has needed great strength, physical power, a strong jaw, and superb athleticism. They developed feet that were designed to dig into the ground and provide as much traction as possible for their running and jumping.
They have harder, thicker pads to provide protection against harsh terrain. Dense, thick black nails enable them to rip into the ground for added traction. Webbing would only get in the way And Risk Being Ripped On Sharp Terrain.
Rottweilers Like to Swim, But They Aren’t Built for It
Rottweilers do not have webbed feet like some other breeds, such as retrievers and spaniels. While most Rottweilers enjoy going for a swim and the average Rottweiler definitely enjoys splashing around in shallow and preferably muddy water, they do not have webbed feet and they aren’t designed for swimming.