Can Frenchies Swim?

I grew up thinking that all dogs were able to swim. My thoughts changed after watching a home surveillance video.

Can Frenchies Swim?

In the surveillance video, a lady was doing yard work outside of her home.  In the background, a Frenchie was walking around a large in-ground pool.  Somehow the dog lost it's footing because it fell into the pool.  Luckily, the lady heard the splash, and she went running!  She dove into the water to save the Frenchie, who would have drowned if she hadn't been there.

So can all dogs swim?  No!  Dogs need several characteristics to be a good swimmer.

Larger dogs with longer legs have evenly distributed weight.  It is easier for a dog to keep their head above water if their snout is longer.  Webbed feet helps with paddling.  And longer tails aid with propulsion and changing directions in the water.

A Frenchie does not have any of the characteristics to be a good swimmer. Frenchies can drown due to:

  • stocky body
  • top-heaviness
  • dense musculature
  • round head (smaller sinus cavities makes it harder to hold their head up in water)
  • lack of webbed feet  

To repeat, due to their physical features, A FRENCHIE WILL SINK IN THE WATER AND DROWN!

It takes a lot of energy for a Frenchie to doggie paddle and maintain their head above water.  Eventually, they will become too fatigued to paddle, sink, and drown. If possible, make sure to place fences or gates around any pool so your dog does not wander off and fall into the water.  

Many people have seen the videos that featured a Frenchie swimming across a pool without a life vest.  While those videos contradict everything stated in this blog, those were controlled events.  The dogs were not falling into the water.  They had a controlled launch from a step or a person held them so they had stability.  

While it's important to teach your dog the basic skills of swimming, it's never safe to have a Frenchie near water without a life vest and supervision.  

Like humans, most canines need to be taught how to swim.  Exposing your Frenchie to swim lessons while they are still young is always a great idea.  Keep lessons brief (around 15 minutes) and frequent (1-3 times weekly).  And don't forget the life vest!

Remember to keep your dog hydrated.  Rinse their skin after water exposure to reduce potential irritation, especially if chlorinated.  Reward good efforts with treats (because who doesn't like treats).

Be sensitive to your dog’s moods and emotions.  Lessons can be overwhelming, as well as exhausting.  Forcing a dog to swim can increase fear and anxiety when around water.  Swim time should be a happy, enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, so be patient.  If your dog is having a bad day, cut the lesson short, and try again another day.

Make sure to invest in a good life vest for your dog.  The vest should fit snug but not too tight.  There are many good options and styles of life vests that are available online.  

We use the Outward Hound life vest  but there are other options. Most vests are inexpensive (under $20) making it a cheap investment that could save your dog's life.

Rules to keep your Frenchie safe near the water:

  1. Start swimming lessons for your dog while they are still young.  Even if they are older, it is never too late to start.
  2. Keep swim lessons short to decrease exhaustion.  Repetition is key to teaching a successful swimmer.
  3. Never force your dog to swim.  If they are moody or exhausted, stop the swim lesson.
  4. Invest in a life vest!  It could save your dog’s life.
  5. Never leave your dog unattended around water, even if wearing a life vest.

Not every dog is a natural born swimmer, especially Frenchies.  Whether your dog is a good or bad swimmer, life vests and supervision are key to keeping your dog safe around water.