Can Pit Bulls Swim and Do They Like Water?

While Pit Bulls aren’t exactly the Michael Phelps of the canine world, they can swim.

And there’s good reason for wanting your Pit Bull to enjoy the water with the family. After all, few things give us more joy in life than hearing our kids play in the pool, enjoying the summer days, and hearing your dog bark as they jump in and enjoy the cool water with the family.

At the end of the day, whether or not your dog likes to swim is up to each individual dog. We can’t make a rule about an entire breed's likes or dislikes - each dog is different.

However, some dog breeds simply like swimming (and are better at it) than others.

Pit Bulls do have the ability, and some even like it. But they’re certainly not the best doggy paddlers out there.

a pitbull swimming in the sea


Why Pit Bulls aren’t the best swimmers

A few factors prevent the breed from dominating the doggy paddling games, and much of it is due to their genetic makeup.

Here are just a few reasons:

They have a muscular build

Keeping in mind that these dogs have been specifically bred to run on land and aid their owners on the farm, it makes sense that their build is more at home on dry land than water.

They have an extremely muscular build and are known for being aggressive toward other animals, especially those they aren’t acquainted with.

Their muscular build helps with this character trait but really slows them down in the water.

They have relatively short legs

Pit bulls are medium-sized dogs. They typically stand about 18 - 19 inches at the wither. 

This means that they also have shorter muscular legs. They struggle to doggy paddle and move freely through the water.

Pit Bulls have a large head

You might have noticed that a Pit bull’s head is relatively larger than that of most other dog breeds, which can make it difficult for them to swim without getting exhausted. 

For example, think of the Labrador retriever. 

It has a small head compared to its body size and a pointed muzzle. Couple this with long, lean legs, and you have a comfortable dog in the water.

Pit bulls have blockier heads with jaw muscles attached to the very top of their skulls. This gives the breed enormous biting power but makes it hard to keep its head above water.

Teaching Your Pit Bull To Swim

a pitbull swimming in a pool


If you really want to teach your Pit Bull to swim, you must be proactive and look for opportunities to teach them.

Start them off in shallow water. This will help them get used to the feeling of being immersed. The fact that they can still stand and keep their head above water gives them confidence and reduces anxiety in your dog.

Another good idea is to associate them with other dogs that already have their sea legs and come across as naturally good swimmers. 

By socializing with these dogs, they will learn from their confidence and slowly but surely get their paws wet too.

You could also introduce your Pit Bull to the kiddie pool long before graduating them to a swimming pool.

Again, it’s all about confidence, and these baby steps will allow your dog to get used to water without being overwhelmed. 

And lastly, make it as fun as possible.

When out for a walk, throw a ball or a stick in the water and have them retrieve it. Little by little, your dog will become used to the feeling of the water and start associating swimming with fun and exercise.

Safety First

A pitbull swimming in a river


The last thing you want is for your dog to feel overwhelmed by the whole ordeal and become fearful of the water to the point that it would rather avoid it altogether.

And worst-case scenario - your Pit bull gets harmed while learning to swim.

Here are a few water safety tips to keep in mind when teaching your pup to swim:

Use a lifejacket

While a dog wearing a life vest might be hard to picture, it is a real thing. Doggy life jackets are a vital part of keeping your furry friend safe.

Some dog breeds get so excited or focused when they’re around water that they run out of stamina halfway through a lengthy swim. 

So get the best life jacket you can get a hold of, and rest assured that they’ll stay afloat even if they are in a difficult situation.

Keep an eye on them

Most dog owners will agree that it’s a good idea to be present whenever their dogs swim. 

It's important to keep an eye on your Pit Bull when it goes for a swim because while it can swim, it may not necessarily like it, and its deep chest may cause them to tire more quickly. 

Additionally, their muscular build can make it difficult for them to stay afloat, making it necessary to provide them with support or a flotation device.

Do Pit Bulls Actually Like Water?

Remember that not all dogs enjoy the water, even if they can swim.

So before you decide to introduce your dog to the pool, check if he enjoys being around water first.

Most pit bulls enjoy wallowing in mud, playing with sprinklers, or even running through shallow water. If your Pittie shows signs of being pro-water, you can definitely teach them to swim.

Dog Breeds That Love To Swim

Webbed feet, a dog's weight, and physical characteristics make some dogs better swimmers than others, as seen in breeds like Labrador Retrievers, while others, such as Pit Bulls, struggle to swim.

Here are a few dogs that absolutely love to get wet:

Labrador Retriever

a labrador swimming

Labradors are well known for their swimming abilities. 

This dog breed is known for its strong build, allowing it to carry its weight in the water easily. The dense, water-resistant coat helps to keep them warm and dry, making them natural swimmers. 

Compared to other dogs, Labrador Retrievers have a strong advantage in swimming, as their natural tendencies and physical characteristics make it easy for them to enjoy this activity. 

They can often swim for long periods without getting tired, making them a popular choice for water-based activities and sports.

Golden Retriever

Similar to Labs, Golden Retrievers also have a strong build and are natural swimmers. They are known for their love of the water and are often used as search and rescue dogs due to their swimming abilities.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever


Try saying that name fast three times.

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are well known for their love of water. These dogs are great swimmers with a natural affinity for the water and a strong desire to dive in and swim. 

The breed was specifically developed to work in and around the Chesapeake Bay, where they were used for hunting and retrieving waterfowl. Their water-resistant coats and strong swimming abilities make them well-suited for life in the water.

Whether playing in the pool, retrieving a stick in the lake, or hunting waterfowl, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers truly thrive in and around water.

Dog Breeds That Are Terrible Swimmers

While many dog breeds are good swimmers, some breeds may not be as comfortable or skilled in the water. And a lot of this has to do with the fact that they are considered brachycephalic dogs.

A brachycephalic breed is characterized by short snouts, which makes it harder for them to breathe as they have much shorter airways.

Some of these breeds that are generally not considered good swimmers include:


a french bulldog swimming

Bulldogs have a short snout and a heavy build, making it difficult to swim and stay afloat. They may also have trouble breathing while in the water. This goes for all bulldog breeds, from the English and American Bulldogs to the pint-sized French Bulldogs.

Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers have a short snout and a stocky build, making it difficult to swim effectively. Additionally, they may have trouble breathing while in the water, so it's important to supervise them closely if they swim.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus have a short snout and a compact build, making it difficult to swim effectively. They may also tire easily in the water and have trouble staying afloat.

Shih Tzus are better known for their affectionate and playful personalities, making great companion pets rather than being good swimmers.

In Conclusion

The American Pit bull terrier is a versatile, fun-loving dog. They thrive in most environments and are likely to adapt to whatever life throws at them.

But unlike other breeds built and bred to be around water, pit bulls aren’t necessarily drawn to water.

Pit Bulls swim for short distances and enjoy playing with water, but they’re not considered amongst the most popular water breeds.

But take the time to teach your dog the joys of water life and he’ll be all too happy to share summer months in the pool with you.