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Can Golden Retrievers Swim? The Ultimate Guide (2023)

As a golden retriever owner, you may be wondering, “can golden retrievers swim?”

As an owner of a golden retriever myself, I can confirm that these outdoor-loving pups are excellent swimmers! 

The breed is known for its love of water and swimming, and most of them can actually swim with minimal training, but this is not always the case. 

Throughout this article, I will share how and why golden retrievers can swim, the factors that may affect your dog’s ability to swim, and how to train them to swim from an early age. 

We will also discuss a few safety tips to help keep your golden retriever safe in the water.  

Let’s begin!

🌊 I recommend this dog life jacket for large breeds. Theo loves it!

Golden retriever swimming with a stick in its mouth. Close up of it in the water.

FAQs: Can Golden Retrievers swim?

Before we get into the factors that affect a golden retriever’s ability to swim and how to train them to be more confident in the water, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about golden retirevers and swimming! 

Can Golden Retrievers Naturally Swim?

Yes, golden retrievers are natural swimmers. This is because they were bred to help hunters retrieve their game from the water, particularly waterfowl, and other birds. Over the years, they have continued to improve as swimmers, and many are born with an inclination toward swimming.

Why do Golden Retrievers like to swim?

Golden retrievers have a natural affinity for swimming as they have bred to be water retrievers. Their anatomy also makes them good at swimming, and it’s an exciting way for them to cool off on hot summer days. 
Overall, golden retrievers enjoy swimming and being in the water. Most goldens take to the water quickly, so don’t be surprised if your pup wants to dive right in!

How Long Can Golden Retrievers Swim?

Usually, golden retrievers can only swim for about 30 minutes continuously, depending on their age, fitness level, and prior dog training. Watch out for signs of fatigue or discomfort while your dog is in the water. If your dog seems to be struggling, immediately lead them out of the water.

How Long Can Golden Retrievers hold their breath underwater?

Although golden retrievers are good swimmers, they cannot swim underwater for very long. Although they have strong lungs, Gold retrievers can only hold their breath for 5 to 8 seconds, on average, and this is not long enough to swim very deep underwater. 

Do Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet? 

Golden retrievers have partially webbed feet, which helps them swim faster and more efficiently when compared to other breeds. This webbed feature was bred into golden retrievers for their original purpose as hunting dogs and retrievers of waterfowl like ducks.
Check out other webbed footed breeds here.

Are Golden Retrievers Strong Swimmers?

Yes, golden retrievers are strong swimmers. This is primarily due to their lean bodies and webbed feet, but it is important to note that not all golden retrievers are created equal. Your dog might be less confident in the water than others and need additional training to feel comfortable swimming.

Can Golden Retrievers swim in a pool?

Yes, golden retrievers can swim in a pool, like in any body of water. However, you must ensure a safe and easy way for your dog to get out of the pool. This will also prevent them from damaging the pool lining.  Be sure to wash off the chlorine afterwards.

Can Golden Retrievers Swim In Cold Water?

Golden retrievers can swim in cold water due to their double-coat insulating them from cold temperatures, but this is only safe in water more than 50°F (10°C). If your dog attempts to swim in water colder than this for an extended time, there is a high risk of hypothermia. 

Always check the temperature of the water before letting them swim, and a good rule of thumb is – if the water is too cold for you, then it is too cold for your golden retriever. 

If unsure, you can also use an insulated dog-life vest to help them stay warm while swimming in cooler water. 

Old golden retriever swimming in a smooth lake on a sunny day

Factors That Affect A Golden Retriever’s Ability To Swim

Golden retrievers are a popular dog breed. They love to swim as they are natural swimmers.

The anatomy of the golden retriever is the most significant factor in helping them swim. They have strong lungs and lean bodies, allowing them to swim for long periods. Their webbed paws make paddling effortless, and golden retrievers have a water-repellent double coat that keeps them warm even in cold water!

Some other factors that affect a golden retriever’s ability to swim are:

General Health: A dog’s overall health plays an important role in its ability to swim. Medical conditions like respiratory issues, arthritis, and other ailments can reduce the strength and endurance of a dog while swimming.

Age: Puppies need time to develop their muscles before they are ready for swimming. Older dogs may have weaker muscles and tire more easily when swimming.

Previous Training: Dogs should be trained to swim from a young age to become strong swimmers. Proper training helps them get comfortable with the water and understand basic swimming commands.

Temperament: Some dogs are initially apprehensive to water and need time to adjust. If a dog is too timid or fearful of the water, it will be challenging for them to swim confidently right away.

What Are The Benefits Of Swimming For A Golden Retriever?

Swimming has many benefits for golden retrievers, including cardiovascular health, healthy exercise, and mental stimulation.

Low-impact Exercise: Swimming is a great low-impact exercise that can help your golden retriever maintain a healthy weight and strengthen their muscles through physical activity.

Joint Pain: The buoyancy and resistance water provides helps reduce strain on a dog’s joints, which can be especially beneficial for older dogs with arthritis or other joint issues.

Cardiovascular Health: Swimming is an excellent way for goldens to get their heart rate up without taxing their body too much, making it an ideal aerobic exercise for active dogs.

Mental Stimulation: Being in the water simultaneously engages multiple senses and challenges your pup’s brain and body. This can help with anxiety and other behavioral issues related to boredom or lack of stimulation.

Fun and Enjoyment: Swimming in a lake or spending time in the pool can be a fun and relaxing experience for your golden retriever. It’s also a great bonding activity between you and your dog to enjoy together!

Golden retriever with sunglasses on floating on a few blue pool noodles in the water in front of a sandy beach

How to Teach Your Golden Retriever to Swim

While many golden retrievers are natural swimmers and love to spend time in the water, this is not a universal truth, and your pup may not be as comfortable in the water as other dogs. If your golden retriever is hesitant or afraid of the water, there are some strategies to help teach them to swim.

Here are some helpful ways to teach your dog to be more confident in the water. 

  1. Start in shallow water. You can use a kid’s pool or the shallow part of the ocean. Either way, this will help them acclimate to being in the water while still feeling the safety of their paws on the floor. 
  2. Don’t leave them alone. Stay in the water with your dog and give them encouragement and positive affirmation while they are learning to swim. You can also give them small treats each time they enter the water as positive reinforcement. Theo wouldn’t go in on his own until I got in the water with him.
  3. Practice often – The more time your golden retriever spends in the water, the more comfortable they will feel, so be consistent and practice often with your dog, especially in the early learning stages! 
  4. Use a dog life jacket – This will help them float significantly easier and reduce the fear of being in the water while your dog learns to swim independently. Theo loves his life vest – although it took a few tries to get him comfortable in it before I took him to the beach. It should be in your dog travel packing list if you’re going to beach areas.

🌊 I recommend this dog life jacket for large breeds. Theo loves it!

Yellow labrador retriever swimming for a toy in the lake

Can Golden Retriever Puppies Swim?

Despite being natural swimmers, golden retriever puppies still need to be introduced to the water for the first time, and they may not feel confident swimming right away. Stay close to your puppy and make them feel safe while introducing them to swimming. A life vest for the puppy is a great idea when starting out. 

golden retriever puppy walking into Lake Tahoe to swim in winter

Can Golden Retrievers Swim Without Training?

In some cases, golden retrievers can swim naturally, but this is not always the case, so you need to be very careful when taking them into the water for the first time. Even if they seem to know how to swim naturally, keep an eye on your dog and make sure they know how to get out of the water safely. 

Golden Retriever Swimming Safety

When it comes to swimming with your golden retriever, keeping them safe is the most important thing. Swimming can be a fun and rewarding activity for both you and your pup, but if not done properly can lead to injury or increased anxiety in your dog. 

To ensure that everyone stays safe in the water, here are the answers to some common questions about swimming safety so that you can enjoy a worry-free swim with your furry friend!

Do Goldens need life vests?

Though golden retrievers are good swimmers, having life vests on them is a good idea. It will keep them safe and secure in case of an emergency or if they get too tired while swimming. Be sure to buy a dog life vest that fits your dog properly since a life vest that is too big or small may make it even more difficult for your dog to swim. 

🌊 I recommend this dog life jacket for large breeds. Theo loves it!

At What Age Can Golden Retrievers Swim?

Golden retriever puppies can usually swim by the age of 5 or 6 months. They can start learning how to swim at this age, but it is still a good idea to gradually introduce them to the water. Forcing them into the water could make them afraid of it and impede them from actually learning how to swim.

Theo - golden retriever - walking into the water in San Fransisco

How to Clean Your Golden Retriever’s Ears After Swimming

Dogs can get ear infections the same way we can, so cleaning your dog’s ears after each swimming session is a good idea. 

Once your dog gets out of the water, they will shake out most of the water from their fur and ears, but you can make a simple drying solution to help with additional moisture by combining vinegar and water (1:1 ratio) and putting a few drops into their ear. Then use a cotton ball to remove any remaining moisture.

Doing this each time your dog gets into the water will prevent your golden retriever from getting swimmer’s ear or any other bacterial infection. 

Wrap-Up: Can Golden Retrievers Swim?

Yes, golden retrievers can swim very well, even if they need some training to boost their confidence and feel comfortable in the water.

Retrievers have been swimming for generations, and as long as you keep an eye on them while they are in the water and take the necessary safety precautions, you and your pup will have a fantastic time swimming together! 

Once your dog is confident in their swimming abilities, you can visit dog-friendly beaches together! Check out the best dog friendly beaches in the USA:

Read More About Golden Retrievers

Dog Travel Planning Guide

🐶 How do you travel with a dog?

You can road trip, go camping, fly (depending on your dog’s size), go for day trips, and even live in an RV or motorhome with your dog! I’ve done all of the above with my dog, Theo.

✈️ How to travel with a dog by plane?

Check the airline requirements, if you’re flying with a large dog you’ll need to book far ahead, get a travel crate or carrier, and make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccinations. And don’t forget to bring along a leash, collapsible dish, and plenty of treats! (Read more)

🚗 How to travel with a dog in a car?

Get a seatbelt or car-friendly crate, a seat protector, and a few toys to keep your pet safe and comfortable. Bring along items like a leash, pee pads, treats, collapsible bowl, and some calming treats for anxious dogs. Take frequent potty breaks (I recommend every 2 hours minimum).

🧳 What should I pack in my dog travel bag?

I always pack a collapsible bowl, back up leash, 50ft long leash, Toppl food toy, plenty of dog food, and a few toys for my pup when we go on our travels. It’s important to have all the essentials packed before you leave home since it can be difficult to find pet-friendly stores in some locations. (Read more)

📝 What paperwork do I need to travel with a dog?

The paperwork you need will depend on where you’re going. You will always need your dog’s veterinary records and their vaccine status. You may also need an international health certificate, titre test, and even a spay/neuter certificate.

🐾 What is the best travel dog crate?

This collapsible crate is great for local travel and road trips. For plane travel, I recommend this hard crate for large breeds and this carrier for small breeds.

📍What is the best way to travel with a dog?

It depends! The best way to travel will depend on you and your dog. Small dogs will have an easier time with plane travel. Large breeds are better for long term trips to minimize plane time, or road trips.

🛌 Best dog travel mat?

This non-slip, water-proof, easy to wash travel mat is my go to!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy cheap flights?

To find cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap hotels?

To find cheap hotels, I recommend

Or stay for free with Trusted Housesitters!

🚗 What’s the best site to rent cars abroad?

To find cheap rental cars, I recommend Discover Cars.

🚗 What’s the best site to find tours?

To find epic tours, I recommend Viator.

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