English Bulldog Blog

Bulldogs Can’t Swim, Here’s Why

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When summer rolls around, taking your pet swimming is a great way to keep their cool. That is if your dog can swim. 

While there are some dog breeds that can rival seals, unfortunately, not every puppy is gifted when it comes to water sports. 

Dogs need specific physical features in order to successfully conquer waters and actually stay afloat and move about in the water. Many breeds, such as pugs, basset hounds, boxers, dachshunds, and yet, bulldogs are just not built for swimming.

Can Bulldogs Swim?

While there are exceptions, most bulldogs cannot swim. This is mainly due to their build, short legs, and snouts, which causes them difficulties during this activity. Their physical attributes make it hard for them to stay afloat, and to keep breathing while swimming. This results in a dangerous activity.

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Why Can’t Bulldogs Swim?

Most dog breeds that cannot swim share similar physical features which hinder their fluent movements when they are in the water. While not all dogs belonging to this breed are bad swimmers, owners need to be aware of this possibility before getting a bulldog. 

But why are most bulldogs such bad swimmers?

There are a few factors we need to consider to answer this question, but ultimately it all comes down to their anatomy. 

We have to be aware of a simple fact: bulldogs were not bread for retrieving sports. This was not a hunting breed or one that was bred to be a companion. Sadly, our beloved bullies were bred for a brutal sport, which is thankfully illegal now – bull-baiting, where they had to fight actual bulls.

Luckily that sport is left in their past and now bulldogs get to enjoy vacation time with us, but not by the seaside.

These are the physical reasons why your bulldog can’t swim:

  • Short Snouts
  • Chunky bodies
  • Small legs

Short Snouts

Let’s be honest, all bulldog breeds look like they have run into the wall at full speed. 

While we love their adorable short snouts, sadly it does cause a bunch of problems for bulldogs. The shorter snout means that their nasal passage is shortened as well, which creates breathing problems.

This is because this type of snout restricts airflow and causes breathing difficulties – especially when they are trying to swim. In water, their snouts are not long enough to be above water, which is why bulldogs must tilt their heads upward in order to swim. However, this creates further problems with the oxygen intake, which they need to stay afloat and… well, to stay alive. 

Their short snouts are the biggest and most relevant reason why bulldogs are unable to swim. They need proper equipment and supervision to enjoy wet activities without drowning.

Chunky Bodies

Bulldogs are known for their barrel-shaped body type. They have chunky, muscular frames that pack on pounds easily. They are not exactly what you would call nimble. 

We are not saying that all bulldogs are fat. No, in fact, they are quite muscular. Unfortunately, muscle is denser than fat, which will cause this breed to sink quicker. Their dense muscles will act as a weight which will pull them down, under the water.

Small Legs

To increase their difficulty in water, bulldogs were also gifted with short legs by Mother Nature. While having short legs is not a problem when it comes to swimming, adding them into chunky, muscular bodies will cause problems. 

Not only do the dogs have to deal with their muscles making them sink, but their legs also can’t really help counteract the problem. Dwarfish dogs, much like the bulldogs, have much shorter legs compared to the rest of their bodies. 

Basically, their legs are not long enough for the doggy paddle – the swimming style most dogs naturally know. Bulldog legs are not long enough to actually give the dog enough force for swimming. As a result, they usually are not able to move forward in the water.

How to Help Your Bulldog Swim?

If you love water sports, the seaside, peaceful trips to a lake, or simply have an outdoor pool, you need to swim-proof your bulldogs. 

First of all, do not let your bulldog into the water without supervision. Much like with toddlers and small children, bulldogs need to be kept under constant supervision when they are in the water. However, unlike children, they will not mind the attention.

Secondly, invest in a life jacket that is made especially for bulldogs. Bulldog life jackets are a bit different from regular dog life vests. Not only will they help keep your bulldog afloat, but they also feature a special front part which will help keep the bulldog’s head above water. That way bulldogs will not have to focus on tilting their heads up in order to breathe. They will be able to relax and actually focus on swimming.

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Swimming Bulldogs? Yes, Please!

Just like with people, some dogs love the water and everything that comes with it, and some do not want to go near it. 

Bulldogs are the same way. If your bully loves water, with the correct equipment and supervision, they will be able to enjoy versatile wet activities. You do not need to religiously keep your bulldog away from water if that’s what they want to do. 

On the other hand, not all bulldogs are atrocious swimmers. Some dogs actually learn to swim well, by throwing their unique twists into the doggy paddle to make the process easier for them. 

It is up to your dog to decide if the activity is for them or not, and it is up to you to keep them safe during it. Owning a swimming bulldog needs to be a teamwork activity between you and your bulldog.

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