As the proud owner of a German Shepherd, you may be wondering how you can keep your big guy or girl active. If summer is rolling around, you may even be wondering if your furry friend can swim. That line of thought also opens up more questions, such as will my shepherd go into my backyard pool, paddle around in lakes or frolic in the waves at the beach?

Those are all good questions. Let’s take a look at whether German Shepherds take to the water and some safety tips for swimming with your pup if it turns out they can swim along with you.

Do German Shepherds Like the Water?

Although German Shepherds were not bred to swim, the breed is known to take to water like a fish. In fact, many working dogs like them are used in water rescue missions because of their ability to paddle around.

In addition, the German Shepherd dog’s background gives them an athletic build and intelligence that gives them an edge on land and in the water.

Still, that does not mean that every single German Shepherd is delighted with the opportunity to take a soak—or that they are a natural at swimming. As it turns out, some GSDs hate the water, and some are even afraid of it.

Heidi, the Honorary Police Dog

This heartwarming story ABC7 reported on back in 2020 is an example of how one German Shepherd rescued her owner by dog paddling her heart out.

The story discussed how one German Shepherd in Australia named Heidi initiated rescue efforts that saved her owner.

Heidi swam for 11 hours and saved her owner’s life when she and various other floating items attracted attention after her owner’s boat lost power and sank off the coast of Brisbane.

Luckily, a fisherman that found Heidi and her owner radioed the Coast Guard and both were rescued.

Police said they were awe-struck that the GSD treaded for 11-hours while her owner drifted for almost 15 hours. Both Heidi and her owner were not injured, and she was made an honorary police dog for a day.

Teaching Your Dog to Swim

While Heidi got a crash course on swimming, that experience is not an ideal way to teach any dog to swim.

If you are interested in teaching your German Shepherd to swim or want to give them a little bit of water exposure, there are some things you should do first, such as:

  • Start with the shallows: You’ll want to make sure that the water is shallow enough that they can touch the bottom and feel comfortable. A good rule of thumb is that the water should not be higher than their chest.
  • Start slow: You should introduce them to the water gradually. Start with letting them get their feet wet and then work up to getting their whole body in the water. If they seem like they are enjoying it, you can try taking them out a little bit deeper.
  • Don’t force it: Have patience when it comes to getting your shep in the water. If they seem uncomfortable or afraid of the water, don’t force them to swim. This could make them associate being in the water with negative feelings and make it even harder to get them in the water in the future.

Swimming Safety Tips for German Shepherds

Even if your GSD is a natural swimmer, there are still some safety tips you should follow. They are:

  • Invest in a doggie life jacket, especially if your GSD is a puppy or senior.
  • You go first. This is especially important if you are swimming in an unfamiliar body of water. It ensures things are safe, and your dog will be more likely to follow you in if you head into the water first.
  • Have plenty of treats on hand. This is a great way to reward your dog for getting in the water and swimming around.
  • Always keep an eye on them. Dogs can tire quickly when swimming, so make sure you are always keeping an eye on them. If they seem like they are struggling, pick them up and carry them to safety.
  • If you are swimming in the ocean, be aware of rip currents and dangerous waves.
  • Like most dogs, GSDs can overheat. So, make sure to give them plenty of breaks in the shade and water.
  • Be careful of slippery surfaces near the pool, as your pup may want to run and play.

As you can see, German Shepherds are amazing swimmers that have even been known to save their owners’ lives. If you’re thinking of taking a dip with your pup, make sure to follow these safety tips.

Lastly, if your GSD isn’t too keen on getting in the water no matter how many treats you coax them with, that’s ok too. You can still find plenty of other activities to keep them busy and happy.

Regis Regal—A Breeder of Merit

Regis Regal is a small family-owned breeder of German Shepherds located in Spring Grove, IL. We offer world-class adult GSDs that can work as estate, therapy and service dogs. Services we provide include boarding, stud service, and lifetime training.

We also offer quality puppies to families looking for a loyal and lifelong companion. And there’s certain to be an aspiring four-legged swimmer somewhere in the mix! Visit our website or contact us today at 847-721-1908 to learn more about our dogs and upcoming litters.