Pugs are adorable toy breeds that love to have fun and provide entertainment for their humans. However, can they have just as much fun in the water as they do on land? Can pugs swim?
Well, it really depends on each pug. In short, pugs can swim and can do a decent doggy paddle. However, they won’t be the best swimmers out there. Pugs typically aren’t good swimmers because it’s just not what they got bred to do.
Understanding a Pug’s Purpose
Pugs are an ancient dog breed with histories that trace back to 400 BC. Some pugs were pets for Chinese royalty and had just one job: be a good lapdog.
Ancient Chinese breeders conducted selective breeding to draw out the qualities of a good companion dog. Therefore, many pugs have cheerful and friendly personalities. They’re also low-energy dogs, so they don’t have to leave their owner’s side.
When you examine a pug, you’ll notice that they really aren’t meant to be good swimmers.
The Pug’s Face
Pugs belong to a group of dogs called brachycephalic dogs. Brachycephalic means “short-headed.” Other dog breeds that fit into this category are boxers, bulldogs, and Shih Tzus. All these dogs are susceptible and at high risk of difficulty breathing due to obstructed airways in their nose and throat.
Dogs of these breeds can develop brachycephalic airway syndrome, which means that they have difficulty breathing due to the shape of their heads and muzzles. Difficulty breathing can cause dogs to overheat easily, so they should avoid participating in intense or strenuous activities or stay outside in hot weather for an extended amount of time.
On top of having difficulty breathing, pugs also have wrinkles that aren’t the best for water. Moisture trapped between the wrinkles can lead to skin infections.
The Pug’s Body
A pug’s body composition also doesn’t make it a good swimmer. Some dogs got bred specifically for swimming, such as retrievers and water spaniels. Many of these working dogs bred for swimming have high energy levels, water-repellent coats, and a powerful set of legs. Some even have webbed feet.
In contrast, a pug has shorter legs and lacks the muscle mass to swim for a long time. This isn’t to shame the pug. Pugs are true companion dogs, and it was never their job to hunt or be a working dog.
How to Teach a Pug to Swim
Fortunately, you don’t have to leave your pugs by themselves whenever you go to the beach or pool. Pugs can learn to swim, but just don’t give them the unfair expectation that they’ll become excellent swimmers overnight.
Teaching a pug to swim will require some patience, and it might take several swimming lessons before you start to see results.
Use a Life Vest
One of the best things you can do for a pug learning to swim is to give it a life vest. Constantly treading through water can become tiring, which can cause pugs to start having difficulty breathing. Along with preventing them from drowning, a life vest will help pugs not work as hard to stay afloat.
Before you even hit the waters, have your pug get used to wearing a life vest. When you first introduce your pug to this new piece of equipment, don’t put it on right away. Let your pug sniff and investigate it first.
You can give your pug treats every time it gets close to the new life vest. Providing treats near the vest will develop a positive association with it.
Once your pug doesn’t show any sort of intimidation by the life vest, you can move on to putting it on. Again, work in increments. If you keep the encounter positive, your pug will be more likely to feel comfortable with the life vest.
Start by putting a treat in front of the vest’s head. Encourage your pug to peek his head through this hole. As long as your pug starts to peek through, give a treat. Work towards having your pug get its head through the hole completely. Once your pug can confidently do this, you can strap the rest of the vest onto its body.
Throughout this introduction phase, remember to give a lot of praise and treats to ease your pug from any nervousness or resistance.
Introduce Your Pug to Water
Start in shallow waters where all of your pug’s paws can firmly touch the ground. The best place to start would be in a bathtub or kiddie pool. Avoid beginning at the beach because the current and waves can easily knock over a small dog. If the tub or pool is too slick or slippery, you can place a non-slip bathmat or towel underneath your dog.
Start by encouraging your pug to come into the body of water. You can position yourself inside the tub to motivate your dog to go inside with you. Use extra special treats and your pug’s favorite toys to try to get them to stand in the water.
Make sure to praise and reward your pug with treats when it’s standing in the water so that it develops a positive association with the water. Continue to repeat this process until your pug confidently enters in and out on its own.
Gradually Go Deeper
The best way to transition your pug from standing in water to swimming is to do it so gradually that your pug barely notices.
Add more water to the kiddie pool or tub and keep rewarding your pug as the volume of water increases. When your pug’s paws can barely stay planted on the ground, make sure to hold them securely until they get used to the feeling of floating.
Throughout the experience, use a lot of praise and encouragement. If you’re having fun, your pug will most likely feel more safe and enthusiastic.
Soon, your pug will swim on its own. However, don’t keep it in the water for too long. Keep the first few moments of swimming short because this will prevent your pug from feeling exhausted and unwilling to re-enter the water.
Final Thoughts – Can Pugs Swim?
So, do pugs swim? Yes, but they’ll most likely need some help. Get them used to a life vest first and then move on to the kiddie pool.
Always supervise your pug when it’s swimming, and make sure to give it plenty of breaks in between. Once your pug finishes swimming, do a thorough wipe down and dry them off completely to avoid skin infections.
Although pugs may not be the best swimmers, they can still enjoy hopping into the pool with you. It’ll take some patience, but the training will be worth it. These companion dogs will love that not even a body of water can separate them from their favorite humans.
About the author
Rachael is the co-founder and head writer at Barkzine. Owner of one elderly pug, she’s dedicated to helping other dog owners create healthy, happy, lives with their furry best friends.