Can Dalmatians Swim and do Dalmatians Like Water

posted in: Dalmatian behaviour | 0

Can Dalmatians swim. This is a question you could be asking yourself if you’re considering getting a Dalmatian, or have one that seems reluctant to swim. You may have a Dalmatian who is apprehensive of water.  Do Dalmatians like water?  You might wonder if Dalmatians enjoy the water at all.

Some breeds are better known for being water lovers than others. Dalmatians aren’t particularly known as water lovers in the same way as other breeds, such as Retrievers, but they are not generally known to be afraid of water.

Which dog breeds make good swimmers

This is more a question of the physical attributes of the dog. Factors which affect a dog’s ability to swim include;

  • Length of muzzle. Your dog will need to be able to keep its head out of the water to prevent the possibility of drowning. Dogs with shorter muzzles (brachycephalic) need to tilt their heads upwards, which in turn angles their back downwards. This makes their body more vertical in the water than dogs with a longer muzzle, in turn making swimming more difficult. Dogs with longer muzzles seem to glide through the water effortlessly in a more horizontal position.
  • Length of legs. Dogs with shorter legs find swimming more difficult. Essentially, they will need to paddle more than their long-legged cousins and will tire more quickly.
  • Length of coat. Dogs with heavy or long coats will find swimming more difficult when their coats get wet as their coats will become much heavier.
  • Size of head. Large headed dogs, such as Bulldogs will find swimming difficult due to the size of their head. The size and weight of their head is disproportionate to body weight, meaning they will naturally tip forward in the water, losing buoyancy and are unable to keep their heads above water.

Does the Dalmatian breed make a good swimmer?

Not necessarily. It could be a dangerous to assume Dalmatians make good swimmers. It is a misconception that all dogs love to paddle and will instinctively survive in water, but this isn’t always the case. Some dogs will be in Can Dalmatians Swimsevere danger in water as they may not be able to swim, or even swim for long periods of time.

Breeds like Bulldogs, Chihuahua, Dachshund and Pug will find swimming difficult due to the shape and/or size of their heads. When you think of gun dogs and water dogs, they all have a similar physique, similar fur and length of muzzle which make them more likely to be comfortable in water.

Do all Dalmatians like to swim.

No, not at all. This can be answered from our own experience, as we’ve had Dalmatians that hated swimming, loved being in the water and also the ‘take it or leave it’ brigade. We had a Dalmatian who disliked all types of outside water to the extent, that the merest ripple of a wave on the beach would be a threat worthy of a hasty retreat. Most of her life was spent as a non-swimmer.

There was the odd occasion we would take a dip in the shallow waters of our local beach and she would swim to us. On reaching us, she would turn immediately to the shore, shake herself and then realising we were still in the water, swim back out to us again! This makes it sound like we were asking our dog to complete a long distance endurance swim, but in essence, we were never more than a few feet from the shore. When we saw her start to walk around puddles, we knew for certain she was not a lover of water, although she did enjoy a paddle at the beach sometimes.

Lottie, one of our current dogs showed early signs of being an avoider of water. The first time we encountered any kind of water ‘obstacle’ that didn’t resemble a puddle, we had ‘first refusal’ to cross the water. Let me set the scene; at low tide, rivulets of water left behind by the receding tide, which meander lazily back to the sea. The ‘threat’ could have been no more than five centimeters deep and a meter wide, was so shallow we could cross it without getting wet feet! Could we get the dog to cross? Well, let’s just say we had to carry her across! At the time, we thought we may have another ‘aquaphobe’ on our hands.

The first time we stopped near a river it was the same. There were a couple of friends sat by the side of a lovely shallow part of the river chatting while their three Red Setters played in and out of the water. Lottie wanted to say hello and would tentatively put one paw in the water before retreating. We could tell she was suffering from fear of the unknown. We remained calm and watched as we saw her carefully but continually venture in and out of the very shallow water. Eventually, the overwhelming desire to acquaint herself with new friends gave her the confidence to go in up to knee-deep!

Gradually, this repeated action saw her confidence grow until, eventually she would be in and out of the water without much hesitation. In the subsequent months, she began to ‘launch’ herself into water, without fear and almost appear to dive. We’ve videoed her doing this and when slowed down, the efficiency of movement as she enters the water is simply amazing. She became so proficient, we gave her the nickname of “Tom Dally” (named after a local high board diver and Olympic medalist, Tom Daley). In our opinion, Lottie is a gold medal winner every time. We must point out that we will never allow her to enter the water unless the conditions are safe for her to do so.

Our other Dalmatian, Ruby is neither an aquaphobe nor a water baby yet.   Several of our regular walks are near a watercourse of some description and she has been bought up near water. She has also witnessed Lottie swimming and often we will walk with a friend with two Hungarian Vizsla, one of who loves to swim and the other who can take it or leave it.

As yet, Ruby hasn’t shown a keen interest in swimming. She will happily play in the water and her comfort zone is currently up to her belly.   She did swim once, which more by accident than intent, so it remains to be seen whether she will enjoy swimming or not. Either way is fine with us.

So, it appears that, while Dalmatians have the correct attributes to be able to swim efficiently, it is down to the individual dog.

Can I teach my Dalmatian to swim?

In common with all dogs, Dalmatians possess an instinct for survival. A few centuries of domestication will not eliminate those natural instincts, but is it possible or even advisable to teach a dog to swim? I’m not sure you would want to.

Unless a dog enters the water of its own volition, it is probably safe to say that it would cause panic and distress to do anything other than allow your dog’s swimming choice to take its own (water) course!

Things to consider when your dog goes swimming.

Considerations for dogs swimming are the same as for humans. Simply, it is common sense which should prevail.  A dog has a much better regard for danger than its owner in most cases, but things a dog will not be able to consider include;

  • The tide.  Always be aware of tides when swimming in the sea.  An outgoing tide or rip tides can force your dog away from the shore very quickly. Instinct may be to try to rescue your dog by entering the water. The advice is not to follow your dog into the water. There are numerous cases on record where an owner has attempted to rescue their dog and either just the dog has got back safely out or neither of them have got out alive.
  • Hidden obstacles. If you can’t see what’s under the surface of the water then you should expect there could be something which may cause injury. A dog jumping into water could impale itself on a submerged branch or old rusty pole. This has happened to a friend’s dog, whose injury luckily managed to miss every vital organ. If you don’t know or can’t see what is under the water, it is always best not to take any chances.
  • Becoming snagged by submerged objects. If your dog is being swept along by the flow of a river and gets its leg caught on something submerged, like a branch, it may be unable to free itself and be dragged under the water, which could result in drowning.
  • Dry drowning. Dry drowning is caused by swallowing water; its that simple. I’ve written another article on the dangers of dry drowning and salt water poisoning. The danger of dry drowning is increased if a dog is jumping into the water. If your dog, like our Lottie enjoys jumping into water, don’t overdo it!  This is the case especially if your dog is swimming with a stick where their mouths will be slightly open, allowing water to enter their mouths.
  • Scratch marks. I only had to learn this lesson once when swimming with my dog! Your dog will swim using doggy paddle, hence the term. If any part of your body or skin is in the path of your dog’s claws, you will receive a nasty scratch. Trust me! Ouch!

So, can Dalmatians swim? Let the dog decide and enjoy

Spending time outside with your dog is great fun, but in our experience, it is always best to think about it from a dog’s point of view. We only tend to head for places with water when other dog walkers tend to be there and not so much in the middle of the day when the weather is nice. The reason being that, at peak times, everyone else is there. Although you may enjoy soaking up the rays on the beach or by the river on a hot day it will be uncomfortable for your dog as they cannot sweat. Dalmatians are fair skinned dogs and will require shade, something which is usually difficult to find on a beach!

Whenever we are outside, we love it and our dogs love it too. We keep a close eye on them at all times and like to think that as a pack, we all get rewards from our time spent together in the great outdoors. If your dog likes to swim and wants to swim, it will. The only time we will actively deter our dogs from swimming is when there is danger. Apart from that, the dog will decide. So, get outside with your dog, let your dog will choose if and when its going to swim. Above all, enjoy.

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