Can Labradors swim naturally? Maybe. It really depends on your dog.
There is an assumption that Labradors are some of the best swimmers in the canine world and love being in the water.
This then leads to expectations over the personalities and abilities of our dogs.
Is this label justified?
Are Labradors natural swimmers or could they benefit from some swimming lessons?
Can Labradors swim naturally?
The keyword here is naturally. A large percentage of Labradors will indeed love being in the water and swim with ease.
After all, they were bred to work in the water.
However, that doesn’t mean you can put any Labrador in the water and expect them to reach the other side of the pool or lake competently.
It is still a good idea to train Labradors to swim and to keep an eye on them when they are in the water.
It also means that some Labs won’t like the water as much as you hope they will.
Do Labradors love water?
Let’s continue with the misconception that every Labrador wants to be in the water and will love swimming.
There is a good chance that your Labrador will get a taste for swimming and have great fun whenever they get the chance.
This could mean spending time playing in the water in the family pool, chasing waves at the beach, or chasing after toys in a lake.
The latter plays into their love of fetch and that genetic disposition as a Labrador Retriever.
Dogs bred as gundogs would go into the water to fetch fallen waterfowl without question.
However, some Labradors dislike going in the water. This doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with them.
Humans are the same way. It is important not to force a dog to get into the water if it is uncomfortable, nor to make them swim for too long.
If they would rather hang out poolside, that’s fine.
Can labs swim instinctively?
The second misconception is that all dogs will swim on instinct when put in the water.
There are even stories of pet owners throwing dogs into the water to shock them into swimming.
This will do more harm than good, especially if a dog isn’t a strong swimmer or is too young.
Labradors have the build and strength to create a good motion through the water.
However, this is something they need to develop. They may have nothing but an ineffective doggy paddle until they are comfortable in the water.
How do you train a Lab to swim?
This all means that your Labrador will need swimming lessons in a controlled environment before they are considered “good” swimmers.
Encourage your dog into the water in its own time and see how it handles the water.
Work on building technique and familiarity with the water with the lengths of the pool.
Don’t be afraid to use a life-vest at first for extra peace of mind. You can then move on to open water and the ocean as they get more confident.
At what age can Labradors swim?
You can teach your Labrador to swim from an early age, and this helps to build confidence and skills they can use into adulthood.
However, you don’t want to start too early.
If a pup is too young, they won’t have the strength, reach, and general fitness or coordination to handle the water.
It is best not to let puppies near the water until they are at least 3 months old.
Even then, you need to be sure that they are supervised at all times to avoid accidents.
They could tire easily or get into difficulties. Also, make sure that children and other pool users are careful around them.
How long can Labs swim for?
The length of time a Labrador can stay in the water will vary from dog to dog.
Animals that are young adults, enthusiastic, fit, and healthy, could spend a long time swimming before they get tired out.
You could make an afternoon of it with enough rests in between swims.
Older dogs may not have quite the same stamina and may need to leave the water after 10 minutes or so.
You may also notice that your dog is tiring a little more easily than normal on hotter days – or if they are already tired from their walk.
This is another reason why you should always keep an eye on them and help them out the water as needed.
Can Labradors swim in cold water?
Labradors are pretty good in cold water because that is what they were bred for.
They should have the metabolism and coat to protect them from colder temperatures.
This means that they can go into ponds and lakes after birds in bad weather or the winter months.
The general rule of thumb is that dogs shouldn’t swim in water that is below 10 degrees C (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you have ever been in the water yourself at similar temperatures, you will appreciate why that is.
The water takes your breath away and you can feel your body starting to shut down.
Labradors are bred for cold water, but you still need to exercise caution and be very wary of the dangers, including hypothermia.
It’s ultimately your responsibility to look out for them.
Obviously, it isn’t always possible to tell just how cold the water is when your dog jumps in a river in November, without taking a thermometer with you.
Therefore, it’s important to limit your dog’s time in the water to avoid any risk of hypothermia.
Keep it as short as possible and remember to dry them off well so cold water doesn’t linger on their coat and start to chill them.
If you have any concerns, speak to your vet for further advice.
Personally, I have witnessed our own labs swimming and retrieving in some seriously cold water, with some powerful currents at play and they seem to be able to handle it extremely well.
However, you still need to watch them as they aren’t infallible.
Is your dog a pure Labrador?
A final point to mention here is that many factors related to a Labrador’s abilities will depend on their heritage.
The points above relate to pure-bred Labradors.
Cross-breed dogs can behave differently in water or may not be as strong swimmers.
Labradoodles could be as strong and enthusiastic, if not more so, because of their Poodle genes.
Lab-crosses with shorter legs and a distrust of water will need more help.
Can Labradors swim naturally?
In short, there is every chance that your pure-bred Labrador puppy will grow up to be a confident swimmer that enjoys the water.
Effective swimming lessons at the right age will help, but you should not expect too much from them.
Make sure they are always comfortable in the water and bring them out when they have had enough.
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