Pugs on a float.
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Can pugs swim? All about pugs and swimming

Come summertime, when the heat rolls in, there’s nothing better than cooling off with a nice swim. And sure, you’ve probably seen large dogs like labradors and golden retrievers enjoying the water, but what about pugs? Can pug dogs swim?

With their blocky heads and stocky little bodies, many would probably assume that they can’t. But they’d be wrong! Pugs, like other breeds, can be great little swimmers, and often enjoy playing in water. Here’s the low down on pugs and swimming.

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Can pug dogs swim?

Yes, pugs can swim! Just like other dog breeds, pugs can enjoy water and doggy paddle like the best of them.

That said, keep in mind that dogs, like people, have individual, personal preferences. So while some pugs might love the water and getting wet, others may prefer to keep their paws dry.

Are pugs born knowing how to swim?

Pugs, like all dogs, are born with a natural and inherent instinct to paddle in water. You’ve probably seen it – you hold a dog over a body of water and they start to kick their legs even before their paws have gotten wet.

But, unfortunately, that doggy paddle may be the extent of their ability to swim. While some dogs (think retrievers and settlers) were born to swim, it may be difficult for some pugs to keep their head above water. Stubby legs, big heavy heads, and barrel chests don’t exactly give pugs a leg up.

But that doesn’t mean that pugs can’t swim! It just means it may be harder for them than other breeds, and that you’ll need to keep an attentive eye on your pug any time they’re around water.

A pug in a kiddy pool.

Introducing a pug to water

A pug’s introduction to water is going to have a major effect on their attitude towards swimming. For example, a dog who is thrown into the pool without warning will likely develop an understandable fear of water.

It’s important to make sure that your pug’s first time in water is a positive experience! That way, they associate water with fun.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your pug has a good experience their first time in the water:

  • Make sure the water temperature is comfortable – not too hot and not too cold!
  • Swim in an area that’s not too crowded, and is relatively quiet.
  • Be sure the area is clear of obstacles and debris.
  • If possible, have other, more experienced dogs, in the water.
  • Have toys and other fun items around that your pug enjoys.
  • Go slow. Offer them time to adjust, and to familiarize themselves with the scene.
Swimming pug.

Teaching your pug how to swim

If you throw a pug who is unfamiliar with water into a pool or lake, here’s what’ll happen. Their adrenaline will kick in, they’ll kick their legs like mad to survive, and they’ll learn to fear water and associate it with all the negative emotions that this first experience brought up. That’s no way to teach your dog how to swim!

Instead, do the following to teach your pug how to swim:

  • Get a life jacket. This will ensure safety and that your pug floats, no matter how good or bad they are at doggy paddling.
  • Encourage your dog to enter the water on their own. Giving your pug freedom, instead of forcing them in, will make them feel more secure. Let them enter at their own pace.
  • Entice your dog to enter. Bring a toy or ball that they like.
  • Start in shallow water. Let your dog start with just getting their paws wet.
  • If possible, bring a friend. Having another dog with more experience who loves to swim will show your pug that water isn’t scary.
  • Use lots of praise and reinforcement. Reward your dog for going in the water or swimming.
  • Show your dog the exit. Learning where to exit a body of water is just as important as learning where to enter. The barrel shape of a pug requires more exertion to swim than some other breeds, so your pug may tire out faster than you expect.
  • Be patient. Move slowly, and take your time. If your pug is scared, let them sit back and watch.
Boogie the pug at the beach.

Pug Water Safety

It’s super important to be aware of water safety when it comes to pugs and swimming. Spending time in the water can be great fun when done safely. Here are some tips for making sure you and your pug stay safe in the water:

  • Water temperature: Make sure the water temperature plus the air temperature equals at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit before letting your dog swim. If the water temperature is too cold, your pug might get cold tail (also known as limber tail or swimmer’s tail). This is when their tail will droop and no longer wag or lift up. They can also get hypothermia, which is even more serious.
  • Pug age: Puppies are particularly sensitive to potentially dangerous pool conditions, like water temperature and poisoning. Be particularly careful if you’re taking your pug puppy for a swim.
  • Water toxicity: Water can be toxic to dogs if they swallow too much of it while swimming. A common sign is throwing up after swimming. To avoid this, play with a flat, small toy, like a soft flying disc, and feed your dog dehydrated or freeze-dried treats to help absorb the excess water in their stomach.
  • Algae: Lakes and ponds might contain blue-green algae, which can poison your dog. Even a very small exposure to this, like a mouthful of water, can be fatal. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.
  • Critters: If you’re swimming in natural water, beware of critters like crabs, water snakes, or even gators.
  • Dehydration: Just like with humans, a long day in the sun and in the water can cause your pug to become dehydrated. Make sure fresh, cool water is available to them for drinking, and make sure they don’t drink the water they’re swimming in!
Pugs in a float.

Swimming pugs: do’s and don’ts

  • DO supervise your pug when they’re in the water.
  • DO have fresh, cool water around so your pug stays hydrated.
  • DO use positive reinforcement.
  • DO have a life jacket available, if your pug needs it.
  • DON’T let your pug swim alone.
  • DON’T let your pug drink the water they’re swimming in.
  • DON’T force your pug into the water.
  • DON’T put your dog in dangerous situations where they can’t find the exit or are forced to swim for too long.

Pugs gone swimming: items to help your pug enjoy the water

Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket

Pug Pool Float

Pug Face Inflatable Island

Microfiber Hooded Pet Towel

Are the chemicals in a pool bad for a pug?

Just like pool chemicals can irritate a human’s skin, they can affect your pug’s skin too. The breed, as you probably know, has very sensitive eyes and skin, and each pug will react differently to each pool.

Keep a watchful eye on your pug if they’re in the pool, and check their skin and eyes after 5 to 10 minutes of pool time to see if there’s any sort of reaction. After a swim, be sure to rinse your pug off well to remove any traces of chlorine.

Boogie swimming in the ocean.

Pug maintenance: what to do after a swim

Pugs ears and wrinkles are sensitive, and if they’re soaked, especially in water with chlorine or other harmful pool chemicals, they’ll need to be properly washed and dried.

Post swim, rinse your pug off well with fresh water and pat them dry. Make sure moisture doesn’t remain in their facial folds or ear canals. You can use a soft towel, facial wipe or cotton ball to help out.

Water retained on your pug’s skin can lead to fungal growth, ear infections and more.

Does your pug swim? Let us know in the comments!


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Pugs, like other breeds, can be great little swimmers, and often enjoy playing in water. Here's the low down on pugs and swimming.

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