Can Pugs Swim? Should you be Worried?

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pug on a pier ready to jump in the water

When the summer season rolls around, there’s nothing better than taking a dip in the pool or your local lake. Many dog owners are eager to bring their canine companions along for the ride.

For the most part, dogs have no issue splashing around and having fun.

They have that innate ability to swim and many pups will jump at the opportunity to dive headfirst in a cool body of water.

That said, not every breed is capable of keeping up.

Pugs are one of the most unique dog breeds around. Not only do they have quirky personalities that make them a beloved companion, but they have very distinct physical attributes.

If you’re a pug owner, you’re probably all too familiar with the physical limitations the breed has.

It begs the question: Can Pugs swim?

Can Pugs Swim Safely?

The question you should be asking is whether or not Pugs can swim safely. All dogs are capable of swimming to some extent. It’s an innate behavior.

While some dogs are certainly better than others, that iconic “Doggy Paddle” is something that all dogs know how to do.

That said, it’s not always an enjoyable behavior. Not only that, but your dog may not even know that they are swimming at all! Let me explain…

It’s a common misconception that dogs know what to do when they find themselves in a deep body of water.

Truth is, those “Doggy Paddle” movements are often your dog’s fight for survival.

It’s not like they go into water confident that they can swim. In most cases, that kicking is simply their way of trying to get to safety.

So when you plop your dog into a pool or lake for the first time, they might actually be panicking inside!

The Issue with Pug Biology

Pugs are notorious for having a difficult time swimming. That’s because they are a brachycephalic breed. They have broad and short skulls with a squished snout.

Despite how adorable these pups look, their physical characteristics don’t do them any favors.

Pugs can have difficulties breathing after only a few moments of exercise. If the dog is overweight, those issues start to creep up even faster. This is why many airlines do not allow Pugs to fly.

The risks of these dogs having breathing difficulties are far too great.

pug walking through water before he tries to swim

So, how does that relate to swimming? Well, swimming involves exerting a ton of energy. Swimming is a full-body workout after all!

Those kicks will wear a Pug out very quickly. Not only that, but dogs will instinctively do all they can to keep their noses above the waterline.

Because Pugs don’t have long snouts like other breeds, they have to tilt up the entire head. This causes the rear of the body to sink down into the water even further.

After a few moments of desperate kicking, your pup may be in a vertical position while they fight to keep their noses in the air. Pair that with breathing difficulties and you have a recipe for disaster.

Teaching a Pug to Swim

While there are several risks involved when you take your Pug swimming, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to enjoy the water safely. Pugs are smart dogs.

They can learn how to swim efficiently without overdoing themselves.

All dogs are different. Some will cower at the thought of being in a pool while others love the challenge.

The first thing you need to do is just gauge your dog’s enjoyment of the water.

You should never plop them in the pool and see how they react! Instead, take a gentle approach.

Carry your dog to the shallow end and hold them by the rear. Then, slowly lower them in. You’ll notice that your dog will start padding before they even touch the water.

Pug in a swimming pool

We recommend letting your dog splash around in shallow water for a few minutes. Keep an eye on their composure and breathing.

If your dog doesn’t have any issues after 10 minutes, you can start to slowly introduce them to deeper waters.

This may take some time, so just be patient. Always have a firm grip on your dog as they learn how to use their legs to stay afloat.

Once they have gotten confident enough to swim without your assistance, make sure that you’re always within arms reach. You need to be close enough to react if your dog experiences any issues.

You can invest in a flotation vest if your dog is having issues. They take some of the load off, allowing your Pug to use their legs for navigation rather than floating.

It’s also recommended that you teach your dog how to exit the pool. Install ramps or stairs to make things easier.

As always, you should never force your dog to go swimming

if they don’t want to. If they look scared or having a tough time breathing, you must accept that swimming is just not for them.

Swimming Safety Tips

Whether your Pug is a hardcore swimmer or a pup that likes to just get their feet wet, you need to be careful at all times.

Beyond the safety tips we covered earlier, here are some things to keep in mind.

Be Mindful of Chlorine

Like humans, dogs can have negative reactions to the chemicals in pools. Pugs are known for having sensitive skin.

After a few minutes of being in a pool, take some time to check on your pup.

Pay attention to their skin and eyes. If you notice any irritation, such as redness on the skin or bloodshot eyes, remove them from the water and bathe them immediately.

In these cases, you might want to switch your pool cleaning techniques to a more natural alternative.

Exercise Caution in Lakes or Rivers

While natural bodies of water don’t usually have chemicals, there are plenty of other things lurking below the surface.

Many lakes are teeming with bacteria and potentially dangerous toxins.

Blue-Green Algae, for example, can be fatal to dogs if consumed. It doesn’t take much for your dog to get poisoned, so exercise caution and keep a watchful eye on your pup.

Dry Your Dog Thoroughly

Once your dog has had enough, you need to ensure that they are fully dry. Towel-dry your dog and get into all of those wrinkles.

Leftover moisture can cause fungal infections and extreme skin irritation.

Pay Attention to the Ears

The ears are especially susceptible to infections. Water that gets into the ear canal can lead to inflammation. This can worsen over time, resulting in discharge and even deafness.

Dry out your dog’s ears thoroughly. You can carefully use a cotton swab.

We also recommend getting an ear flush. This will remove water and help to dry out the ear canal completely.


It’s important to be careful if you plan on taking your Pug to the pool. They are not the best swimmers in the canine world. Their unique bodies work against them.

Thanks to their short snouts and penchant for breathing difficulties, it’s a risky activity. However, you can do your part to keep them as safe as possible.

With a bit of training, your dog can cool off in the summer heat without any problems.

Also Read: How to Tell if Your Dog is Cold

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