What You NEED To Know About Bulldogs And Swimming
Alex Vicente • Updated on September 29, 2022
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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
It is no secret that most dogs love playing in and around water. A quick dip in a pool or lake can be a great way for dogs to get exercise while having a great time. However, not all dogs are physically capable of swimming, which means that they should probably not be around a body of water. So, what do you need to know about bulldogs and swimming?
In almost every circumstance, bulldogs cannot and should not swim. Select physical characteristics prevent bulldogs from having the ability to swim well – or at all. It is not a good idea to let your bulldog attempt to swim.
Continue reading to learn what you need to know about bulldogs and swimming. Though you have already figured out that bulldogs should not – and typically cannot swim, it is important to find out why. Also, you should learn other ways to keep your bulldog happy and healthy.
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Table of Contents
Can Bulldogs Swim?
Although most dog breeds are excellent swimmers, bulldogs are one of the select few who are lacking in that category. There are several different reasons for this, which will be covered shortly. The fact is, bulldogs are not strong swimmers. Technically, some bulldogs can swim, but in most cases, it is not a good idea.
The attributes that make most dogs good swimmers include the following:
- Long limbs
- Excellent buoyancy
- Neck durability
- Snouts able to stay above water and allow airflow
If you know anything about bulldogs, you are likely aware that they do not possess any of these qualities.
With short limbs, compact snouts, and extreme muscle mass, bulldogs do not make good swimmers. This does not mean that they can never swim without some help, but if you do not take the necessary precautions, swimming may not be the best activity for your bulldog.
So again, while some bulldogs might be fairly able to swim, they are certainly not the most capable of doing so. With that in mind, if you have a body of water at or around your home, it is essential that you always keep a close eye on your bulldog. As you will learn by reading on, there are plenty of other ways for bulldogs to get the necessary exercise that will keep them happy and healthy.
Why Bulldogs Cannot Swim Well
Bulldogs cannot swim well because of their inability to:
- Wade in
- Push through
- Stay above water
Different physical characteristics prevent bulldogs from being able to swim strongly. Unfortunately, these physical differences are not ones that your bulldog can overcome.
Especially if you don’t have something like a doggie life vest, you should not let your bulldog swim. Like most other dogs, bulldogs love playing around in the water, but that does not mean they should be swimming.
Below are the main physical characteristics of bulldogs that make them unable to swim well. While the noticeable traits make bulldogs as adorable as they are, there are also obvious setbacks. Read below to learn exactly why bulldogs do not make for strong swimmers.
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Bulldogs are one of the select dog breeds that have Brachycephalic Syndrome. This physical condition consists of three things:
An Elongated Soft Palate
An elongated soft palate causes the bulldog’s soft palate to extend into the airway, resulting in minor blockage of airflow into the lungs. Thus, it is more difficult for a bulldog to breathe in general, but especially in situations that require physical exertion. If a bulldog were to attempt to swim, it would not be able to breathe smoothly.
Everted Laryngeal Saccules
Everted laryngeal saccules mean that the tissue in a bulldog’s airway is pulled into the windpipe, causing even more obstruction for airflow to the lungs. Obviously, the more things barring airflow, the less ideal it is for a bulldog to partake in strenuous physical activities.
Stenotic nares are the scientific way to describe nostrils that are malformed and become narrow during inhalation, further preventing sufficient air intake during physical activities. Particularly for swimming, dogs are less likely to breathe through their mouths because this would cause them to swallow water.
Since bulldogs cannot breathe sufficiently through their noses, they have trouble getting the air they need while swimming.
As you can see, these problems alone make it difficult enough for a bulldog to properly breathe while swimming. They are not the bulldog’s only physical barriers to swimming, but they are certainly an important factor to consider.
Bulldogs also make poor swimmers because of the size of their limbs. To be able to swim well, dogs need long enough legs to tread water and stay afloat. Bulldogs – particularly English bulldogs and French bulldogs – have tiny legs, making it nearly impossible for them to tread water.
Along with brachycephalic syndrome already making it hard enough for bulldogs to swim, short little legs do not help in any way. Some dogs with the brachycephalic syndrome can still swim fairly well because their limbs are longer, but when it comes to bulldogs, the combination of:
- Short legs
- The inability to effectively breathe through their noses
Prevent any ability of bulldogs to swim.
Another characteristic that makes it tough for bulldogs to swim is their body shape. Their barrel-like bodies and a high percentage of muscle mass make it very difficult for a bulldog to float in water. Buoyancy is key for assisting a dog when swimming.
Dogs with more compact bodies have a smaller muscle to body size ratio, which means that comparatively, bulldogs are like rocks. They have very little buoyancy, and without the physical abilities to offset this lack of buoyancy, they cannot swim well at all.
When looking at all three of these physical characteristics, it is no surprise that bulldogs are not good swimmers. Dog breeds with just one of these physical setbacks struggle enough to swim as it is, so because bulldogs have to deal with all three, it makes sense that your bulldog should not be swimming.
Do Bulldogs Like Being Around Water?
Although bulldogs are not ideal swimmers, they do love being around water – which makes their inability to swim even more unfortunate. Most bulldogs are quite energetic, a characteristic of the breed that requires physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Bulldogs, like most other dogs, enjoy being around water, but that does not mean that the only way for them to have fun is by swimming. As you will learn later in the article, there are plenty of other ways you can let your bulldog enjoy being around the water. As they do love water, you should not completely prevent them from being around it.
So, while bulldogs cannot swim well, this does not mean they are afraid of being around water. As a result, you cannot expect your bulldog to stay away from a body of water if left unattended.
If you live near a pond or lake or have a pool in your yard, you should make sure that you take necessary precautions to keep your bulldog away from the water, especially when you are not around. This can be as simple as putting a gate around the water.
Even though dogs are predominately intelligent animals, they may not know better than to jump into a body of water when they see it. If your bulldog has the urge to do so, and you are not around, this can quickly lead to a problem. To avoid this, you have to make sure your bulldog is not left unattended around water.
Should Your Bulldog Swim?
Now that you know the traits of bulldogs that prevent them from being ideal swimmers, you might still be wondering whether your specific bulldog can have fun in the water. In short, you should never let your bulldog try to swim alone. If they are going to be in relatively deep water, they should always have a doggie life jacket. Even professionals heavily advise against keeping your bulldog around water unsupervised.
If the water is shallow enough for you to stand in, you could let your bulldog enjoy the water by holding it or guiding it as it swims around. Again, bulldogs should never be left to swim alone, but if you are there to help them, it can be a fun way for them to get some necessary exercise. Below are specific characteristics of types of bulldogs that might give you a better idea of whether you should take your bulldog swimming while under your supervision.
French Bulldogs are small and short-limbed with compact faces. They do not tend to struggle with their weight as much as other bulldogs, so their body shape is less barrel-like than others. However, they have still got the staple compact face of all other bulldogs.
Because of the shape of a French bulldog’s face, they are prone to the brachycephalic syndrome. When paired with their short limbs, they do not make good swimmers. Especially as puppies, French bulldogs should not be swimming. They are much too small to fend for themselves in the water.
Even as a French bulldog gets older, it will not grow substantially. So, without any kind of preparation or training, it would not be a good idea to let your French bulldog try to swim. In some cases, however, proper training can help your Frenchie become familiar with being in the water, and with additional aid – such as a doggie life jacket or dog floating device – your bulldog can enjoy the water to an extent.
For now, know that French bulldogs should not be swimming independently. With you in the water or with other swimming aids is a different story, but the bottom line is that French bulldogs are not physically able to swim by themselves.
Like French bulldogs, English bulldogs should not be swimming alone either. In addition to short limbs and the likelihood of brachycephalic syndrome, English bulldogs are prone to obesity, making their barrel-shaped bodies even more difficult to float.
When you think of a bulldog, chances are the English bulldogs come to mind. They are the small, largely overweight-looking, droopy-faced bulldogs that many people know so well. Although their physical traits make them adorable, these characteristics prevent them from being good swimmers.
If you are considering bringing your English bulldog around water, you have to make sure that you have the most high-quality floating aid available. English bulldogs are not going to float, and their limbs are not long enough to prevent them from sinking. Since they are so heavy for their size, you must make sure that the swimming devices they are using are sufficient enough to keep them afloat.
If you do not have anything to help your English bulldog stay above water, you should never let them swim in water that goes above their head without holding onto them the entire time. Even letting them go for just a second can cause them to panic.
American bulldogs are a bit different when considering whether they can swim or not. Though their faces are similar, American bulldogs are built much differently than English and French bulldogs. They have much longer limbs relative to their size, and though they are still quite muscular, they have thinner bodies that can float better.
Because American bulldogs have the build of a more athletic breed, they make much better swimmers than other bulldogs. However, this does not mean they can be left unattended.
In still water, American bulldogs will usually be fine. Though, since they may have the brachycephalic syndrome, they cannot swim for long since they would have more difficulty breathing while keeping their head above water.
Still, American bulldogs can manage to swim somewhat well. If your American bulldog is swimming in moving water, this is a totally different scenario. Even though they are muscular and athletic, they are not built for swimming in trying conditions. If your American bulldog is in water with a current, you should consider equipping them with a doggie life jacket.
As has been mentioned above, any dog with physical characteristics that could prevent excellent swimming should never be left alone. If your American bulldog is in the water, you should always be watching it. The chances are that it is not a strong enough swimmer to manage the water by itself for more than a minute or two, so you must make sure that you are nearby to help.
Doggie Life Jackets
If you decide to let your bulldog swim with your assistance – no matter what specific type of bulldog it is – you should heavily consider buying a doggie life jacket. Even with a doggie life jacket, however, bulldogs are still not totally capable of swimming independently.
Doggie life jackets help keep dogs afloat. Even so, they do not aid in paddling or keeping your dog’s head above the water. As these are difficult feats for bulldogs, you should still plan on being in the water with them while they swim around with a doggie life jacket.
Below are a few top choices for doggie life jackets specifically designed to help bulldogs in the water. When looking at these, it is still important to note different sizes and fits. You need to make sure that the doggie life jacket you choose fits properly on your bulldog.
Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket
The Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket is a top choice for bulldog owners. Aside from being one of the most affordable and high-quality products on the market, this doggie life jacket comes in a variety of bright colors to make it easy to see your bulldog – though again, you should always be near your bulldog while it is in the water.
The best feature of the Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket is the extra flotation pad just under the neck. This aids in keeping a dog’s head afloat, and since bulldogs might struggle to do this on their own, this addition is a huge advantage.
EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device
The EzDog Doggy Flotation Device is one of the best doggie life jackets for bulldogs because it is designed for maximum buoyancy. Since bulldogs are likely to sink much more easily in the water, a life jacket that is made to prevent that is essential.
Although bulldogs are not always the heaviest dogs on the block, the handle on the back of this doggie life jacket can support up to 100 pounds, making it durable in emergencies. While it does not have additional neck support other than the initial head hole, it is made with polyester to provide much more buoyancy than its competitors.
RUFFWEAR Float Coat
The RUFFWEAR Float Coat is another exceptional doggie life jacket choice for your bulldog. It comes with extra padding to aid in buoyancy and provide a normal swimming posture, without which your bulldog might be uncomfortable while in the water.
RUFFWEAR products are typically more expensive than their competitors, but their quality is backed by customer reviews and ratings. If you choose this life jacket or any of the others mentioned, you can be sure that your bulldog will be as safe as possible in the water with you by its side.
Other Ways For Your Bulldog To Get Excercise
As you have likely come to realize, it is not always a good idea to let your bulldog swim, especially without aid and supervision. Most bulldogs cannot swim on their own, so if you are not prepared to take the necessary precautions, you should not let them near the water.
Whether it is because you do not have the equipment you need or you do not want to take any extra risks, there are still other great ways you can let your bulldog get the exercise they need. The following suggestions are great for finding an outlet in which your bulldog can enjoy their physical and mental stimulation both in and out of the water. Dogs need exercise for several reasons:
- Relieving stress from boredom or lethargy
- Staying in shape to avoid underlying health conditions
- Sharpening inherited traits that need to be developed
Here are some ways to help your bully have some fun while he gets some exercise.
Get a Kiddie Pool
Kiddie pools are great for bulldogs. As long as the water is shallow enough for them to stand in, they will have no problem having the time of their life in the water. However, you should still be monitoring them around any body of water, just in case of an emergency.
A kiddie pool is great for bulldogs because they do not need to swim. They can splash around and have just as much fun as if they were in a pond or lake. Many bulldogs are prone to overheating – especially in the summer months – so a kiddie pool is a fantastic choice for keeping them healthy.
Take a Romp Through the Sprinklers
Sprinklers are another great way for your bulldog to enjoy the experience of being around water and cooling off on a hot day. Since this does not involve swimming, you will not have to worry about the dangers of being around a body of water with your bulldog.
You will have to monitor the only thing – like any other activity – is your bulldog’s breathing from running around. Other than that, sprinklers are an awesome way for your bulldog to have fun and take a break from the sun for a while.
Go For A Walk
Simply taking your bulldog for a walk is another useful way to help them get their exercise in. Especially for American bulldogs, exercise is essential to developing their muscles and keeping them healthy. Like French bulldogs and English bulldogs, other types might not be as physically capable, so a short walk will do just fine.
While more compact, pudgy bulldogs are still quite muscular, and their body types are not typically ready for excessive exercise. French bulldogs and English bulldogs can be full of energy, but you must make sure that you do not push them too much.
Another outdoor activity to keep your bulldog’s blood pumping is playing fetch. They will not always be able to play for long periods of time, but with proper training, fetch can be a great way to keep your bulldog preoccupied while staying healthy. It also helps you get a bit of exercise into your day.
It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to throw a ball a short distance and having your bulldog bring it back, or you can throw it farther and spend as much time as is safe for your bulldog. If you are playing fetch on a hot summer day, make sure to keep the hardcore physical exertion to a minimum, especially if your bulldog is overweight or has other underlying health problems.
A great way to mix both physical activity and mental stimulation is through the use of puzzles. Whether it be with a maze that your bulldog has to navigate to find a treat, teaching them how to press buttons for voice command, or anything else, homemade and store-bought puzzles are great for bulldogs.
Though they are not necessarily at the top of the list in intelligence, bulldogs are still smart dogs, and it is essential that – especially as puppies – they get the proper mental stimulation they need to develop to their fullest potential. Dog puzzles are an excellent way to help them sharpen their inherited traits.
Something as simple as tug-of-war is a great outlet for allowing your bulldog to get the exercise they need. Keeping close contact with your bulldog during tug-of-war is also good for developing your own relationship with them. By playing games like this with your bulldog, they will become more familiar and comfortable with you.
Since bulldogs are such a muscular breed, a game like a tug-of-war is great for helping them build those compact muscles and stay in shape. High-intensity exercises for short intervals of time are great for keeping your bulldog healthy, especially with the risk of underlying health conditions.
Aside from puzzles designed for dogs, simpler items are equally as useful for helping them stay in shape and get their energy out. For example, an oddly-shaped rubber toy is great for tossing and bouncing around to get your bulldog to chase it.
Additionally, toys that can hold peanut butter and other treats are great for teaching your bulldog how to problem solve while also getting some exercise. While instances like this might not give your dog a day’s worth of exercise, they are still ideal for situations where you cannot set aside to help your dog release some energy.
At the end of the day, bulldogs cannot swim. Unless they have proper training, familiarity with the water, and additional aid to keep them afloat, you should never let your bulldog try to swim, especially without monitoring them.
While doggie life jackets and other support systems can be great for helping your bulldog swim, you may still not love the idea. That is okay; there are plenty of ways to keep your bulldog happy that do not involve them swimming in a body of water.
American College of Veterinary Surgeon – Brachycephalic Syndrome
The American Kennel Club – Bulldog
Vetstreet – Can All Dogs Swim?
Ask Frankie – Can French Bulldogs Swim?
bulldog guide – Can French Bulldogs Swim?
Training Buster – Do American Bulldogs Like Water?
Bulldogology – Your Pet’s Best Bulldog Life Jackets