Do German Shepherds Like to Swim? 

Anyone who owns a German Shepherd would likely tell you they love to swim; however, they weren’t bred to be swimmers.

In fact, they aren’t naturally attuned to the water like other breeds.

They are athletic, and that allows them to excel at activities they weren’t necessarily meant to do naturally, like swimming.

German Shepherd Athletic Built Makes Them Good Swimmers

Most people take their shepherds to swim, and they gladly jump in.

Sometimes they need more coaxing than other breeds, but their athletic breeding allows them to swim proficiently and may allow them to enjoy the water.

There are many other factors that can go into their preference or distaste for the water, and it may come down to personality.

However, there are some things owners can do to ensure their German Shepherds can swim without fear and perhaps even come to love the water.

  • Bathe them in the tub at early ages
  • Avoid scaring them with water
  • Ensure they’re exposed to open water
  • Stay with them when introducing water and swimming activities

The German Shepherd is a powerful dog with plenty of capability to swim easily, and it’s safe to assume most Shepherds can swim if they need.

However, it’s up to the owner to ensure they safely and calmly introduce swimming to them for the best results.

Taking Your German Shepherd Swimming – Keep this in Mind

One of the most important things to avoid is scaring your German Shepherd.

If you calmly and slowly expose them to water early in their lives, most likely, they’ll love the water and enjoy swimming with their owner or other dogs.

Don’t throw your dog into the water. This will traumatize the dog in some cases, and they won’t want to get back into the water.

Always work with them slowly and patiently and offer plenty of reassurance. Don’t force them to go in if you can tell they are terrified.

It’s best to also closely monitor young puppies for trouble swimming or in case they find themselves in a difficult situation. Being close to them will also increase confidence and make the process easier.

Past Experiences

Your German Shepherd’s past experiences with water are a huge determining factor as to whether they like to swim or not.

If they live elsewhere earlier in life (i.e., They came from the shelter or rescue), they might have fear associated with an unpleasant experience.

They may have fallen into a body of water or some similar event that makes them fearful.

You can work with them patiently to slowly determine if they will adjust. This process may take plenty of time and patience for both parties.

It’s worth noting they may never actually enjoy swimming, but you can get them used to the idea in cases where they find they need to swim.

German Shepherds can naturally swim but may have more trouble if they’re fearful when the need arises.

Different Types of Water

There are instances where your German Shepherd is exposed to different types of water. This can include both salt and freshwater.

  • Open water (salt)
  • Open water (fresh)
  • River
  • Bayou
  • Pond

These different types of water may have unique conditions and issues owners need to consider before allowing their German Shepherds into the water.

The Dangers of Salt Water

Although they can swim in saltwater, keep in mind that this breed usually swallows some of the water they swim in, so it’s best to limit saltwater swim sessions.

Try to limit lengthy water exposure to clean fresh water.

Saltwater ingestion can lead to vomiting and create dehydration. If the dog swims in open water in the ocean or sea, there are also strong currents and waves they need to navigate.

This water action can make swimming more challenging and may get them into trouble. Always watch German Shepherds while they swim in salt water and make sure to keep them out of rough seas.

Brackish Water

Brackish water is a blend of saltwater and freshwater. The salinity of the brackish water can fluctuate because it’s fed by both fresh and saltwater sources. If tides are up or storm surge forces salt water into a brackish body, the salinity can be nearly as high as open saltwater.

It’s essential to know how salty the water is in a brackish body of water.

Try to avoid the water when it’s particularly salty because it can pose a danger to your German Shepherd. Try to aim for times when the water is primarily fresh and fed by local rivers or lakes.

It’s also worth noting that brackish water can house many different species of animals not found in purely freshwater.

For example, this water tends to have alligators, snakes, and sometimes sharks like the bull shark that can live in fresh and brackish water. Prime places to avoid include the bayou or small marsh areas with diverse wildlife.


Rivers may seem like the ideal place to bring your German Shepherd to swim; however, consider some of the hazards the river can pose.

  • Large slippery rocks
  • Rapids
  • Swift Currents
  • Holes

If you decide to take your German Shepherd to the river, be sure to take precautions and watch them closely. Avoid areas with fast-flowing water or rapids.

Also, avoid areas with large rocks and varying water depths. Your dog can get its paws stuck in holes or under rocks. They may also get swept away by fast-moving water.

If you choose to bring your dog to the river, make sure it is a gentle area with even surfaces and a small width from bank to bank. This is also true of creeks.

Creeks can have rapids and feature large rocks that can cause injury or trap them by dislodging and rolling on their feet.

Lakes and Ponds

Lakes and ponds are probably the ideal environments for letting your German Shepherd swim. They usually don’t have a strong current, have limited wildlife, and don’t have saltwater.

They usually have smooth embankments and fewer rocks and debris that cause problems.

The water temperature is also more ideal year-round and can make the experience more pleasant for both the owner and the Shepherd.

Training Your German Shepherd to Swim

Although German Shepherds aren’t naturally born swimmers, they are trainable and may take to the water like other web-footed breeds. The first thing you need to do to begin training is finding a still body of water.

Start practicing in an area with few distractions like other dogs or wildlife.

You’ll want to do this in a portion of water that is shallow and clean. Don’t forget to reward them for positive progress.

Slowly guide your German Shepherd into the water and allow them to get their feet wet. Sit with them while they inspect the water and get used to the feeling. After a time, coax them deeper into the water.

You should enter the water with the dog to ensure they feel secure, and you can assist them with anything that makes them uncomfortable.

Watch closely to see if your dog starts making the appropriate swimming motions. Try to assist in the process.

Making Progress

Once you’re sure your German Shepherd can swim and doesn’t have a problem with moving their feet and staying afloat, you can graduate to other types of water—one word of caution. If you use a pool, try to avoid using a saltwater pool and overuse the pool chemicals when training your dog.

Once you introduce water sufficiently, you can move on to more water types.

For example, you can bring them to a gentle creek or a slow-moving river with shallow banks.

If you plan to get them to the beach, don’t allow them out there without assistance, and make sure it’s a calm day.

Limit the amount of time they stay in the water and never allow them to swim in deep areas or when the waves are high.


Although German Shepherd breeds naturally aren’t bred to be swimmers, they’re trainable and may naturally take to the water due to their athletic nature.

They are also personable dogs with a high level of loyalty that prompt them to swim with their owners.

If you get a German Shepherd as a puppy, introduce them slowly to the water, so they become accustomed.

If you get them later in life and seem fearful, you can slowly work with them, but don’t force them into the water.

Always keep an eye on a German Shepherd when they swim and watch for dangers such as current, rocks, waves, and wildlife. Avoid rough water and especially salt water for prolonged periods because it causes dehydration and nausea.

Remember, each German Shepherd is different, and one may love the water, and another may not like it at all.

Always be patient and aware of your surroundings to avoid danger and illness, and mostly make sure they are enjoying their time in the water without fear.

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