Can French Bulldogs Swim? + How to Teach Them


can french bulldogs swim

Our Frenchie loves nothing more than cooling off in water on a hot summer’s day. I’m the same, who doesn’t love getting into a pool when it’s hot. But, here’s the thing; French Bulldogs and swimming don’t mix too well, and I’ve had first-hand experience of how scary this can be. I’ll get into that later on, but firstly, let’s answer the question about French Bulldog swimming:

Can French Bulldogs swim? Most French Bulldogs can’t swim without a life vest. If your Frenchie is near a pool or any water that’s deeper than them, it’s a huge risk. Watch your dog just like you would watch a child. If your French Bulldog falls into water or gets out of their depth, there’s the chance they could drown.

I can’t re-iterate this enough. Frenchies are not designed for swimming. Whilst you might see those cute videos of them swimming with vests on, without a life jacket they can sink like a stone.

Yes, there are some French Bulldogs I have seen swimming on social media without a life jacket (see which life vests I recommend), but this is rare and an exception, particularly as they get older and heavier. It is possible to teach one to swim but I would never take the risk unless they are wearing a flotation device.

But my Frenchie loves the water!

It’s a big problem if you live near large expanses of water like we do or have a kid’s paddling pool out in the garden over summer.

Where there’s fun and splashing, our adorable Frenchie Claude will want in on the action. He will get close to the edge of the paddling pool, bark and go crazy – our son will encourage that with splashing and water play. French Bulldogs like water, they just cannot swim in it without a jacket in most cases.

You can see an example of that in the photo below.

Frenchie paddling pool
Claude loves the water in our kid’s paddling pool, but cannot swim.

Do French Bulldogs like water though?

Our French Bulldog loves water. On a hot day he will lay down in it, roll in it, and cool himself down. He also loves to be squirted with a water pistol and is used to having baths and showers.

Handy Hint: Click here to watch our video and step by step guide on how to give a French Bulldog a bath or shower.

But, with any water he’s near we always make sure that it’s not going to be out of his depth. For example, with our paddling pool, the water is no more than coming up to his shoulders, and even then, we will keep a constant eye on him.

If you love swimming too and have a pool, make sure that you keep watch on your Frenchie at all times. It can only take a few seconds for your Frenchie to sink to the bottom.

Our scary French Bulldog swimming moment

We found this out the hard way when we went down to the sea one day. My son (he was only 5) threw a stick into the water and Claude ran after it. He quickly got out of his depth, and we saw his head disappear under the water.

His head popped back up for a couple of seconds and then went under again. He was struggling to keep afloat. I had sheer panic so ran into the waves and dragged him out. The water was only one inch higher than his head. That was enough to make him nearly drown.

Claude swimming in the sea
This was the same day that Claude nearly drowned in the sea. It was a scary time.

So, if you’ve been wondering can French Bulldogs swim, it’s an emphatic no.

After we found out the hard way that French Bulldogs can’t swim, I wanted to do a little bit of research into why and what the reasons are. I also wondered if it was possible to teach a Frenchie to swim or if there are any products available that could help them stay safer in the water?

Here’s what I found out.

Why can’t French Bulldogs swim?

The main reason most French Bulldogs can’t swim is due to their genetic make-up and weight distribution. With those short snouts, cute faces that we love so much, wide skulls, little legs, and body proportions, they are just not cut out for swimming.

This is a common problem for dogs of a similar breed and size.

Because their snouts are so short, they have to tilt their heads up to keep their noses out of the water. There legs are also really short, and they have heavy bodies. All these physical characteristics combined makes it harder for them to keep afloat.

All brachycephalic dogs get exhausted very quickly and can drown in no time at all.

If you have a swimming pool at your home, keep your Frenchie away from it. If that’s not practical, make sure that your eyes are on your dog at all times.

We will often take Claude out into the forest near our house. There are large ponds out there which he loves to get into in order to cool off. We need to be really vigilant, as the water is not clear and very muddy, so there’s no way of knowing how deep the ponds are.

Claude in a pond
Claude is fine in ponds, but you never know how deep these pools in the forest could be.

It’s hard work as French Bulldogs like water. It’s their way to can cool off after exerting themselves on a hot day. We don’t discourage it, as he needs this, but we just have to be close to him at all times to reduce the risk of drowning.

French Bulldog swimming videos 

YouTube is amazing for finding funny Frenchie videos. We even have our own channel now which you can see and subscribe to by clicking the French Bulldog Owner YouTube Channel.

We don’t yet have any videos of Claude in the water, so I found a couple of the best ones from other dog owners.

1. French Bulldog loves the swimming pool

This guy can actually swim without a life jacket. Don’t be tricked into thinking this is a common trait though, most Frenchies can’t swim like this.

2. Juanita the swimming Frenchie

This is more common, a Frenchie wearing a dog life jacket and paddling in the water.

How to teach a French Bulldog to swim

Now you’ve seen a couple of the best videos I could find of French Bulldog swimming; you might want to try teaching your own Frenchie.

You can teach a French Bulldog to swim with the help of a tiny life jacket that has been designed specifically for dogs. You will need:

Step 1: Get a French Bulldog life vest

They will only be able to swim with a life jacket (here’s a great one with a shark fin on). They won’t be able to swim without one except in very rare cases.

Most French Bulldogs will sink without a floatation device, and even if yours can swim for a short while, without a life jacket, they will soon begin to sink due to exhaustion and their physical constraints.

Step 2: Get in the water with your Frenchie

And I don’t mean deep water. Only do this in shallow water first, where they won’t be out of their depth. You will need to be there to make sure that their nose doesn’t go under the water.

Help them hold their heads up out of the water and keep encouraging them!

Step 3: Start playing tug of war with the stick

Grab your stick and start playing with your Frenchie in the shallow water.

If your dog is anything like ours, he loves to play tug of war, and that’s exactly what you should do whilst he is padding up and down in water no deeper than his legs.

Step 4: Put the stick a little out of his reach

Next, take the stick from him, and place it a couple of feet into deeper water, just out of his reach. The stick is the bait, and you want him to walk out to it.

He won’t be swimming yet, but this gradual approach to deeper water will keep him calmer and still in the game.

Step 5: Push the stick so it’s now out of his depth

Once you’re sure that your Frenchie likes the water and is calm enough, you can push the stick into slightly deeper water which is now out of his depth. Be with him at all times though.

The point here is that if you want to teach your French Bulldog to swim, you need to offer positive reinforcement and treats. Saying things like “good boy” and offering a reward if he can paddle and retrieve the stick will encourage him to swim.

One benefit to teaching a Frenchie to swim is that it could even save your dog’s life should they ever fall into water. When teaching them swim with a life jacket in a swimming pool, see if they can paddle to the edge and climb out.

Once again though, I stress, French Bulldogs can’t swim in most cases, so the chances of them being able to paddle and get out of the pool is very slim. It’s extremely important that you never leave them unattended near an open pool.

I would never want anyone to experience the loss of a beloved pet due to accidental drowning. Always be vigilant!

You can see the full step by step process of a French Bulldog learning how to swim in this video.

What to do if your French Bulldog likes water

Most French Bulldogs like water, just like our Claude. Cooling off in water is a great way for them to regulate their body temperature, as they are prone to overheating.

So, how can you help your best friend enjoy the water in a safe way?

A great way for them to cool down without having to swim out of their depth, is to have a small kid’s paddling pool around – just like we do as you can see below.

Frenchie loves the water
Claude loves playing with water on hot summer days, particularly when the water pistols and padding pool is out!

You can even buy small pools that are designed for dogs to play in. They are relatively cheap to buy, and I’ve reviewed a few of the best in my dog paddling pool recommendations.

These little pools are safe for your dog to relax in and cool off. It’s an awesome way for your pup to keep cool without the stress of worrying about them drowning. If you don’t have a pool on hand, you could even put the water sprinklers on.

Your pooch can run through the light spray and enjoy the water in a safe way.

What other dogs can’t swim?

A few years ago, my brother had the most gorgeous Basset Hound puppy. He went on vacation and left his dog in the caring hands of his friend. His friends forgot to put the pool net on, and the Basset Hound fell in the swimming pool.

Thankfully they saw what was happening quick enough and managed to save the dog. Basset Hounds love water, but they can’t swim at all. They have dense bones like Frenchies, long bodies and short legs.

If you own one of the dog breeds listed below to keep them away from swimming pools. Never leave them unattended around water.

  • Basset Hounds: they have heavy bones, short legs and long bodies. These gorgeous animals were not bred for the water but rather as hunting dogs.
  • Pugs: they have the same squashed faces as French Bulldogs. With really short legs they are also prone to exhaustion when swimming.
  • Dachshunds: these sausage dogs are renowned for their comical look, but they were bred to burrow and capture small animals, not swim.
  • Pekinese Dogs: I can’t imagine a Pekinese swimming in all honesty. They look like they belong on someone’s lap, next to a warm cosy fire. They are also a brachycephalic breed and just like a Frenchie, are designed for swimming.

Which dogs are good swimmers?

Maybe you enjoy swimming so much, (or you love going to the beach) that you really want a swimming buddy; if you do, I don’t recommend a French Bulldog for obvious reasons.

So, what dog breed would suit your aquatic lifestyle?

  • Labrador Retrievers: they actually have webbed feet, thick coats and long legs. They love the water and were bred to retrieve critters from out of the water, like ducks.
  • Golden Retrievers: these wonderful dogs really enjoy the water. There are so many pictures on the internet of them running into the water to fetch sticks or toys and swimming very well.
  • Newfoundlands: whilst they might look massive, these fab pooches are incredible swimmers. They have double-thick coats which help protect them against freezing water, plus webbed feet which help them to paddle freely through the water.
  • Irish Setters: they are also great swimmers. Once you get them in the water you might struggle to get them out! They were bred to retrieve things such as ducks and pigeons.

Conclusion

I tried to give you the most comprehensive overview to swimming that I can, as I have seen tons of people asking on forums “can French Bulldogs swim”, with conflicting, and sometimes dangerous information being offered up.

Why they can’t swim is simply down to how they have been bred. They aren’t cut out for it at all, unless you have a special doggie life jacket.

But, with a little patience, it is possible to teach a French Bulldog to swim with a jacket, as they do tend to really love water. Just please play it safe and don’t take any chances.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things I've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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