While most dogs enjoy water and they are natural swimmers, some breeds are just not built for swimming or they simply dislike water. Owners of these breeds who are worst at swimming should always have a life vest on hand if you want to hang around the water with them.

While there are exceptions and individual cases where you'll have a dog of below mentioned breed that loves to swim, or vice versa – dogs known as swimmers being afraid of water – generally, a canine's ability and desire to swim is related to the breed. It's genetic in a large majority of cases. This typically has to do with the dog's physiology and anatomy. And even if they can made paddling movements to get out of water, there's still danger of the dog drowning.

Two other factors may determine whether the dog is a swimmer or not: head shape and size, and the muzzle. Canines with disproportionately large heads such as English Bulldog will be unable to swim well because the weight of the head will make them tip forward. Dogs with very short muzzles (Brachycephalic breeds) are unable to keep their nose above the water without tilting the head way up, thereby going into a vertical position and sinking. There are, of course, exceptions to these case.

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If you're an owner of the of the breeds that are bad at swimming and are more likely to drawn, you can still have your pet with you when near the water, and even take them into water with some safety equipment such as life jacket or pool floats. In general, it's best to start your dog in a more safe and controlled environment, such as your pool. And if you simply want to help your pup cool down in summer, get them a doggy pool.

20 Dog Breeds Who Can't Swim

Pug dogs are some of the worst swimmers


As mentioned above, like all brachycephalic dogs (breeds with a short nose and a flat head), pugs are not the best swimmers. In fact, their short snout often comes with health problems, most notably shortness of breath. That can hinder their ability to swim for almost any time period, in addition to making it hard for them to keep their nose above water, often resulting in a sinking body.

Basset Hound dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Basset Hound

Not even the Dumbo-like ears can help this breed stay afloat (nor fly!) Basset Hounds are not built for swimming because they have short legs and a disproportionately large head, as well as a very dense bone structure. In addition to their poor swimming ability, their lengthy ears are susceptible to waterborne infections, so keep them out of the water at all times.

Corgi dogs are some of the worst swimmers


Although Corgis do have a long enough snout to breathe properly while swimming, their short legs prevent them from doing it well. They also have a very dense body. On the other hand, this breed loves water, so let your pooch enjoy a bath in a kiddy pool or splash around in shallow waters. You can even go boating with a Corgi, but put a life vest on him.

Shih Tzu dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Shih Tzu

This is another small breed with short legs and short muzzle that just isn’t made for swimming. Another problem for Shih Tzu is the full coat that easily becomes too heavy if it gets waterlogged, in addition to covering his face to make breathing in water even harder. Tiny dogs often have fear of water and become nervous easily, so stay away from water if you have a Shih Tzu.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Even though this active breed is well-known for their stamina and love for exercise, due to their dense muscle mass and their weight they are not fit for swimming. They also have a big head that is disproportionate to their body, which can make it hard for them to keep their head above the water.

Bull Terrier dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Bull Terrier

Like their Staffordshire cousins, Bull Terriers are average swimmers, albeit for other reasons. The culprits here are their short-ish legs in addition to their heavy body. However, this breed actually loves water, so keep an eye on them if you are near it and let them enjoy the shallow ends with a life jacket on.

Chow Chow dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Chow Chow

While larger dogs are generally good swimmers, Chow Chow is an exception because he has short legs and deep chest. Another problem for the Chow Chow dog is his flat muzzle that leads to shortness of breath, as well as his thick and heavy coat which can weigh him down when it becomes soaked.

Boxer dogs are some of the worst swimmers


Boxers are freakishly athletic, and they have long legs, which is the most important feature of great swimmers among dogs. However, Boxers are also a brachycephalic breed and that is a problem that’s hard to overcome when it comes to swimming skills. This breed enjoys water, so feel free to let your pooch run on the shore or play in a kiddy pool. Put a life vest on your dog if you go near a larger body of water.

Maltese dogs are some of the worst swimmers


This breed is actually well equipped for swimming when it comes to small breeds because it has smaller chest and a full muzzle. Another good thing is being lightweight. However, Maltese can often experience different problems related to water, like rheumatism, arthritis and chills. For these reasons, it is better to stick to the land if you have a Maltese.

Dachshund dogs are some of the worst swimmers


This is another light-weight breed with a longer muzzle, but that is not enough for Dachshunds to be considered good swimmers because they also have short legs. Even in shallow waters you should always keep an eye on your Dachshund because he can drown if he gets tuckered out.

English Bulldog dogs are some of the worst swimmers

English Bulldog

English Bulldog is probably one of the worst swimmers of all dog breeds. He has a short muzzle, big head, barrel chest and short legs – almost every feature of a bad swimmer. Bulldogs are such bad swimmers that you should keep your swimming pool fenced to prevent any accidents.

French Bulldog dogs are some of the worst swimmers

French Bulldog

Frenchies are not far away from their English cousins. They are a bit better equipped for water, but they are still extremely bad swimmers. Their head shape and size is once again a problem here. Always keep an eye on your dog if you are near water and make sure that your Frenchie has a life vest on in such instances.

Alaskan Malamute dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Alaskan Malamute

Malamutes are not water lovers but you might find a rare one who likes to get wet. Of course, they love snow but for some reason they just don’t like water. They are not the worst swimmers, especially compared to many other dogs on this list, although their weight and thick coat can weigh them down.

Greyhound dogs are some of the worst swimmers


While Greyhounds seem built for swimming with their light weight, long legs and perfectly round head, yet they seem to have a really strong aversion to water. Even a regular shower can become a struggle if you have a Greyhound. Again, they're not the worst of swimmers on this list, but they're not great at it either.

Doberman Pinscher dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Doberman Pinscher

There are many debates online about the swimming abilities of Dobermans. Whether they are bad swimmers or not is not that important since many of them just don’t seem to enjoy water very much. If you have a Doberman, don’t try to force him into water, let him take to it on its own if he is up to it.

Mastiff dogs are some of the worst swimmers


All Mastiffs are brachycephalic and they weight a lot, so they are not really a great fit for water. Even bigger problem is pulling them to safety if they start to sink because they are so heavy. They are also pretty lazy, so it’s hard to even imagine having a Mastiff that is eager to go for a swim anyway.

Chihuahua dogs are some of the worst swimmers


This small breed is overall one of the worst swimmers out there. Their tiny legs are not built for swimming but the even bigger problem is their fearful nature. Chihuahuas are so easily scared that they might get a panic attack and drown in a matter of seconds, so just avoid getting them in the water at all.

Chinese Shar Pei dogs are some of the worst swimmers

Chinese Shar Pei

Another flat-faced breed, Chinese Shar Pei also has wrinkly skin that is hard to dry when it gets soaked. This breed is also well-known for being stubborn, so it might be difficult to keep him close if you get him in water. The risk of swimming away will always be present, so it might be better to stick to pools and shallow waters with this breed.

Pekingese dogs are some of the worst swimmers


This breed is equipped with brachycephalic facial structure in addition to having short legs. That is more than enough to make Pekingese bad at swimming. Another reason to avoid water if you have a Pekingese comes from the lack of athleticism and the fact that this breed is quick to tire.

Pomeranian dogs are some of the worst swimmers


Pomeranians are well-known for their agility and stamina, but they don’t like to show off these abilities in water. They also have a very thick coat that weighs them down when it becomes soaked. Keep your Pomeranian away from water or put a life vest on him if you go near it.

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The 20 Dog Breeds Worst at Swimming

James has been a certified veterinary technician for the last 8 years in Birmingham, UK. After working with many dogs, he's changed his focus to writing, building businesses and researching subjects on canines and products created for dogs.