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Can Chihuahuas Swim? – The Owner’s Guide to Swimming with Chihuahuas

The owner's guide to swimming with Chihuahuas.
Written by Richard Jeng

Chihuahuas are sassy little dogs with a big heart and personality. But weighing in at just under 7 pounds, they’re the smallest purebred dog in the world. It makes you wonder how capable they are maneuvering in water.

So, can Chihuahuas swim? Chihuahuas can innately swim, but they aren’t necessarily “safe” when put into water. Because Chihuahuas are small dogs, they can easily be frightened while swimming – thus quickly tiring themselves out. And while some Chihuahuas love swimming, many others hate it.

Plenty of Chihuahuas swim in pools, lakes and other bodies of water. So if you want to swim with your dog, there is hope! Let’s explore what makes them good or bad swimmers, plus how you can train your Chi to love water!

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Why Chihuahuas Can be Good Swimmers

It’s obvious that the Chihuahua wasn’t built for swimming, like with the Poodle. However, they also weren’t built to “sink,” like the Bulldog or Pug. They’re somewhere in between.

It’s impossible to say all Chihuahuas are naturally good at swimming. After all, they were originally bred to be lap dogs (and still are!). But there are plenty of these dogs that do well in water.

So despite the Chihuahua’s petite size, here’s what actually makes them potentially adept swimmers.

Small, But Active

Just because a dog breed is small doesn’t mean the dog isn’t capable or swimming. Many people associate small dogs with lap dogs. And although the Chihuahua is a lap dog, they’re more active than you think.

According to Hills Pet, these dogs are not only active but also enjoy being kept occupied, whether with cuddling, activities, mental stimulation or just lounging around.

In other words, a nice and easy swim in the pool or a calm lake may be the perfect activity for an energetic dog. The only way to know for sure is to try it out.

My Chihuahua is a little ball of energy. I thought they were supposed to be calm lap dogs?

– Charlie T. (Chihuahua Owner)

Typically, the best dog swimmers are active, lively, outgoing and energetic dogs. Though some Chihuahuas are more laid back than others, there are those that have more energy. So if your small dog falls into the latter category, they may enjoy swimming.

For dogs with a lot of energy, physical activity is a must. This can mean walks, dog play dates, fetch and even swimming.

Lightweight Dogs

Being a light-weight dog may actually be an advantage when it comes to swimming. As mentioned, Chihuahuas are the smallest purebred dog in the world. In fact, it’s not unusual to see one between 3 and 7 pounds.

However, if a dog breed is that light, there’s a much better chance they won’t completely sink to the bottom no matter how much they struggle.

Chihuahuas are fortunately not top-heavy dogs, such as with the Bulldog. And even though they’re light, they don’t have the small legs of the Dachshund. So in the Chihuahua’s case, being small provides more of an advantage.

Of course, less pounds on the dog doesn’t guarantee natural swimming ability. Being a small dog also has its disadvantages that you (the owner) should be aware of.

Chihuahua Pitfalls of Swimming

Chihuahuas were bred from the Techichi dog from ancient Mexican civilizations.

One of the most common personality “disorders” with Chihuahuas is the Small Dog Syndrome. It’s not specific to Chihuahuas, but with many other small dogs. Additionally, not all small dogs will have this syndrome.

This syndrome is when small dogs feel insecure about their size and have to compensate for their petite size. They will “act bigger” when they feel threatened, frightened or just nervous.

As such, Chihuahuas are famously known for having Small Dog Syndrome. In other words, these small dogs are often scared and frightened of the surroundings, despite what they may show.

Maximus [our Chihuahua] is deathly afraid of the water. We tried gently easing her into a lake once and she wanted NO part of it.

– Anthony M. (Chihuahua Owner)

So putting your Chihuahua into a large body of water might be extremely intimidating and cause more stress than you may realize. Putting them somewhere out of their “element” can make things worse, especially if it’s their first time.

According to Dog Time, all dogs have the innate ability to swim. However, this doesn’t mean that all dogs are safe in the water.

Most smaller dogs, like the Chihuahua, can easily become overwhelmed by the vastness of the body of water. Even a backyard pool can cause a lot of anxiety for these tiny dogs.

And if overwhelmed, a Chihuahua will likely panic and quickly tire themselves out. They may become desperate and overexert themselves by trying to climb anything and everything.

But this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. You just need to be more cautious and aware of your Chihuahua when introducing the dog to water.

Will Your Chihuahua Swim?

Not all dogs are the same when it comes to swimming ability and preference. Some Chihuahuas are naturally great swimmers and others…not so much.

To really get a good gauge of whether Chihuahuas enjoy swimming (or willing to swim), we surveyed popular dog forums including the Chihuahua Subreddit.

Here’s what these real Chihuahua owners had to say to this question:

Real Owner Answers

1. Stunnergunnar6 says No: “My Chihuahua hates swimming when we go to the lake but he loves sun bathing on the dock. He’ll just peacefully stare into the vast lake for hours.”

2. CitizenIX says Yes: “Both our Chihuahuas are always willing to go for a swim at the lake. Even when it’s a very chilly day…”

3. Suekadue says No: “We go to the lake pretty often but my two won’t even get their paws wet – they’ll freeze up. Someone told me to get a kiddie pool, but I don’t know if it will work. I might try it once the weather gets a bit cooler.”

4. Pam6400 says No: “We have a pool and both Frankie and Ben are terrified of going in. But they will go to the pool’s edge and look around. We tried taking them in slowly but they both froze up. We have “water watchers” now!”

5. Patticakessub says Yes: “Our chi absolutely loves swimming. We started training her very early on in the puppy years and now 3 years later, she can’t stay away from our pool.”

6. Almcr3ynolds says No: “Who else’s Chihuahua hates swimming? I wanted to teach him how to swim but he’ll immediately swim to the pool stairs and run as far away as possible.”

7. Lovesmypup says Yes: “Finn loooves to swim. Last summer we had a salt-water pool and he would always begging to go in every time he went out to potty! However, this year we don’t have the salt-water, but rather a chlorine pool instead.”

8. Mrs_ben says No: “Mine doesn’t even like getting his feet wet. He’ll avoid puddles, sulks if he needs to go outside and it’s raining, and will purposely change his route to keep dry.”

9. Enternallysunnie says Yes: “Donnie is a natural swimmer and he loves it. It’s so funny watching him swimming with his small round head and big eyes sticking out of the water. He looks scared but he’s really not.”

10. Tricializ says Mixed: “Maya and Bruiser both can swim but don’t like it much. But on hot days, they love to cool down by the pool. We do a little swim in the pool and they’ll tolerate it because they’re much happier when they are cool.”

Training Chihuahuas to Swim

It may seem like the odds are stacked against them. However, Chihuahuas can still enjoy and excel at swimming. Really, go on YouTube and watch all the Chihuahuas that are having fun in water!

These little dogs do require a slow and careful process to swimming, though. Plus, you should never force them to do anything they aren’t ready for or don’t want to do. If they aren’t interested, it’s okay to move on.

That being said, here’s what you need to do to train your Chihuahua to swim.

Before Swimming

Before you actually get into the training process, proper equipment is necessary. And by equipment, I really only mean the life vest.

In the event that something goes wrong, you’ll have peace of mind that your Chihuahua will be fine. It’s not terribly expensive and is absolutely worth it. If anything, it gives both you and the dog extra confidence.

Our go-to dog life vest is the Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket. Not only is this the highest rated life vest on Amazon, but also the one we personally use for our Corgi and Australian Shepherd.

The bright colors make it convenient if you’re out by the lake. Even at dusk, you’ll be able to quickly spot your Chihuahua with no problem. It also comes with an useful “rescue handle” just in case you need to quickly pull them out.

Make sure the jacket is snugly fitted around the dog’s neck. I’ve seen dogs get their front leg caught in the front of a loosely fitted life jacket.

– Jennifer Fish (Owner, Dogs Gone Swimming)

For your Chihuahua, you’ll most likely need to get an extra small size. However, it’s best to check their sizing chart first. You’ll want the best fit possible.

Chihuahua, Meet Water (The Intro)

One of the most important part of the process is the introduction. The worst thing you can do is to throw your Chihuahua in without a proper introduction to water.

Chihuahuas will most likely be scared of large bodies of water, at least in the beginning. For these dogs, the AKC suggests starting with a portable baby pool in the backyard. You can even start with an empty pool and slowly add water if needed.

From there, you can start introducing your dog to larger bodies of water. For example, if you have an actual backyard pool, have your Chihuahua sniff around at the water. It’s not time to get them in yet. Let them take their time.

If the goal is to go for a swim at a nearby lake, you want to eventually introduce your Chihuahua to that exact body of water.

You can drive by and go for a walk around the lake. Slowly, bring your dog closer to the shore of the lake. Because Chihuahuas typically need a longer introduction, this may be the several weeks leading up to the swim.

Once your Chihuahua is comfortable “getting their feet wet,” it’s time to get into the water!

Swimming Chihuahua

Before getting into the pool, make sure to put the life vest on. In fact, it may be better to do this many days prior to swimming so they get used to it. Make sure to give treats!

Make sure to bring your dog in slowly. Clicker Training suggests you start off by being in the pool. Call out to your Chihuahua and ask the dog to come. Along the way, give plenty of positive praises and treats.

Being in the water helps a lot. Not only does it give your dog a boost of confidence, but also lets them know that water is okay. That said, don’t be nervous, otherwise your Chi will pick up on that.

If your Chihuahua has a favorite treat or toy, you can bribe them to get in with it. Of course, it works best if your dog is food-driven.

Another way to get your Chihuahua into the water is if you bring a familiar dog-friend that already enjoys swimming. Dogs learn a lot from other dogs. So if you have another dog showing that the water is fun, your Chi may be more likely to join in.

Before you know it, you’ll be swimming with your Chihuahua in no time! Again, this may take some time as these dogs are easily overwhelmed.

If you feel like your Chihuahua is over-stressing, take the dog out immediately. This doesn’t have to be rushed and can take several swim sessions/days in many cases.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd.

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