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Can French Bulldogs Swim? – Here’s Why Frenchies Aren’t Good Swimmers

A French Bulldog swimming.
Written by Richard Jeng

French Bulldogs are excellent companions for millions of households around the world. It’s why they’ve become one of the most popular dogs in America. And while they’re active and energetic dogs, you may be wondering if swimming is a good activity for them.

So, can French Bulldogs Swim? No, French Bulldogs cannot swim well. Thanks to their brachycephaly skull, a Frenchie’s facial structure will have a short nasal passage and flat skull. This makes it difficult for French Bulldogs to tilt their heads upward in water, thus making it difficult to breath while swimming.

If you were counting on swimming with your French Bulldog this summer, it’s still possible. There still are ways you can safely swim with your Frenchie. However, it’s important to fully understand why they aren’t good swimmers.

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Why French Bulldogs Can’t Swim

If you do a simple YouTube search, you’ll see plenty of videos of French Bulldogs enjoying themselves in a pool or lake. We’re not saying that it’s impossible for Frenchies to become capable swimmers – they obviously can!

However, Frenchies are climbing an uphill battle when it comes to swimming. Because of how they were developed, their physical features aren’t the most ideal for swimming. Read on to learn why most Frenchies aren’t good swimmers.

Brachycephaly in Frenchies

Simply put, Brachycephalic syndrome in dogs refers to a shortened head. Dog breeds with this condition have wide and short skull bones, thus giving the dog a “flattened face” look. As such, this leads to changes in the anatomy of the soft tissue structures.

Based on the description, it’s easy to see that French Bulldogs are brachycephalic dogs. But they aren’t the only ones. Other brachycephalic breeds include the Boxer, Pekingese, English Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Pugs and more.

After witnessing my frenchie fall into the pool, and sink straight to the bottom, without so much an attempt at a doggie paddle, we keep him far away from any bodies of water!

– Tesignedingold (Chrono of Horse)

So how does this physical quality affect the Frenchies’ ability to swim? Brachycephalic dogs will have a hard time staying afloat because they’ll need to tilt their head upwards while in water. Of course, this means they’ll be swimming in a near-vertical position.

The flatter and shorter the dog’s muzzle, the more the dog will need to tilt its heads. Thus making it even more difficult to breath and stay afloat simultaneously. While it’s manageable for some Brachycephalic dogs, the Frenchie has an especially flat face.

This is perhaps the biggest obstacle in getting your French Bulldog to safely swim. Some owners have reported that their Frenchies immediately go vertical and sink like a stone.

Heavy and Compact

The French Bulldog is undeniably a muscular dog breed. Plus, they’re typically heavy-bone dogs that’s built with a compact frame. In other words, Frenchies have a high muscle to fat ratio, which isn’t ideal for swimming.

Comparatively, Frenchies are small dogs. A full adult-sized dog will stand between 11 to 12 inches at the shoulder. However, they weigh anywhere between 16 to 28 lbs, depending on factors like gender and genetics.

Frenchies weigh so much because muscle is heavy. Like we mentioned, they’re muscular dogs cramped into a small 11-inch canine body. In addition, muscle is more likely to sink because, well, it’s more dense. Just like Frenchies.

Short Frenchie Legs

French Bulldogs are one of the few true dwarf dog breeds. No, we’re not making fun of the Frenchie. Rather, they actually have the dwarfism gene, as seen in several popular dog breeds. This condition is responsible for their abnormally short legs.

Osteochondrodysplasia, or Osteo for short, is a condition where the dog sees abnormal growth and development of bones and cartilages. However, Achondroplasia is a variation in which the bones don’t grow to their full potential size.

The result from Achondroplasia can be abnormally short limbs, which is called Dwarfism. This is what Frenchies have, and it can be a huge disadvantage for swimming.

It doesn’t matter how hard frankie paddles, the short legs don’t do much and he will sink within seconds.

– Frenchiethefrank (Dog Forums)

When put into water, all dogs will naturally start dog-paddling. However, just because dogs paddle in the water doesn’t mean they’re able to stay afloat for a long period of time. After all, not all dogs are instinctual swimmers, such as Poodles.

And given the short dwarf legs of the French Bulldog, they’re essentially trying to stay afloat with smaller paddles. I’ll admit, there are plenty of short-legged dog breeds that can swim. But when you combine all the other limitations, it’s can be quite difficult.

Teach a French Bulldog to Swim

Pied French Bulldogs are also very popular coat colors for the breed.

Sure, French Bulldogs have a difficult time swimming – some more than others. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to teach them how to swim. With proper equipment and training, it’s not only possible but also safe for them.

Remember that swimming can be a scary activity for your Frenchie. It can be overwhelming for most dogs. That being said, you should never force your Frenchie into the water. This process will take some time, so patience is necessary.

Dog Life Jacket

The first step to teaching your Frenchie how to swim is to buy the right equipment. And by equipment, I only mean a dog life vest. Frenchie or not, this is something I recommend to all owners when beginning the training.

Not only will life jackets increase the confidence of your French Bulldog, but it’ll give owners peace of mind knowing their pets will be okay. This advice is something even the American Kennel Club recommends.

As such, there’s only one dog life jacket that we’ve used and can recommend: Outward Hound Granby Life Jacket.

There are a few reasons why we love this. First, it’s made from high quality ripstop material that’s both comfortable and flexible. Not only does it provide extra buoyancy in the water, but also doesn’t restrict your Frenchie’s movements.

The bright color options are great for swimming in natural bodies of water. When the sun starts to go down, you’ll be able to spot your dog easily. Plus, rescue handles are perfect in case you need to pull them up quickly.

Frenchie, Meet Water

The next step may be the most crucial: introducing your French Bulldog to water. While it may be tempting to throw your dog into the shallow end and start, it’s not the best idea. You want to gradually introduce them to water.

Chances are, your Frenchie already understands what water is. That is, if they’ve been getting their baths. Even so, you’ll want to start with small bodies of water and slowly move up to bigger bodies of water.

You can start with the bath tub or a small kiddie pool. In this early stage, you just want to get their feet wet – literally. The tub or pool doesn’t have to be filled all the way up. But make sure some parts of the body are submerged.

After getting the dog adjusted for some time, move on to larger bodies of water, such as the lake or a pool. It’s not time to bring them in yet, though. In this step, you just want your dog to sniff the water and “explore” it.

French Bulldogs are inquisitive dogs, so they likely won’t shy away or become intimidated in the beginning. Their curious nature will take over and they’ll be inspecting the water before you know it!

And if you already know where the dog will be swimming, it’s a good idea to take him to the exact spot. This way, they’ll be more familiar with the area and surrounding, creating extra security and comfort for the dog.

Into the Water

After days and possibly weeks of preparation, it’s finally time for your Frenchie to swim. It’s important that you start with the shallow end. And if possible, try to go somewhere with warm water. Or at the least, not freezing cold.

Make sure to bring the dog’s favorite treats and toys to incentivize them into going in the water. The best way to do this is to go into the water yourself. Because dogs have trust in their owners, this simple action will give them confidence.

You can also try bribing them into the water by holding a treat and signaling the “okay” for them to come in and get it. Try to throw their favorite toys into the water. Often times, they’ll instinctively lunge in after it.

If this little trick works, try throwing the toy deeper into the body of water. Similarly, you can move deeper in and bribe them with treats. With a little patience, your French Bulldog will be swimming in no time!

Frenchie Swimming Tips

The best time to introduce your Frenchie to swimming is after you’ve taught the dog basic obedience commands and skill. Going through obedience with dog and owner means that a trusting relationship has likely been built.

Dogs learn best by modeling the behaviors of other dogs. That said, if your Frenchie sees other dogs enjoying their time in the pool, they’re more likely to join. The same can be said if familiar people are swimming.

Radar swims without a life jacket but only because he chases other dogs into the ocean at the beach and has no choice when the waves come in.

– Mmclean (French Bulldog News)

So, it’s a great idea to bring another friendly and familiar dog that already knows and loves to swim. Most dogs don’t like to be left alone and out of the “fun.” With more humans and dogs enjoying their time, they’ll be sure to follow.

It’s best to train for short periods at a time. Swimming can be very energy-draining. And while French Bulldogs do have a lot of energy, this activity can be mentally exhausting for first-time canine swimmers.

And finally, never force your Frenchie into the water. They may not feel like going into the water on some days. The most important thing is that they feel comfortable and secure. All it takes is one bad experience to ruin swimming for them forever.

Swim Health Benefits for Frenchies

Swimming is a healthy activity for all dogs, including their owners! As such, there are a ton of great health benefits for your French Bulldog when it comes to swimming.

Frenchies are active dogs and need a decent amount of exercise. In fact, they need around 1 hour of exercise each day. This is the bare minimum. But the reason why swimming is so great is because one minute of swimming equates to four minutes of running.

Naturally, more time swimming leads to various health benefits, such as better heart and lungs, increasing metabolism and reducing inflammation. Plus, the circulation will keep the Frenchie’s coat smooth and shiny.

In addition, Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common health issues with French Bulldogs. But because swimming is a low-impact activity, it’ll help reduce the pain and inflammation, while strengthening joints and muscles.

According to the AKC, Frenchies are prone to obesity. Being overweight leads to all kinds of other health issues. But fortunately, swimming is the best exercise for obese dogs. They are able to burn a lot of calories without much risk of injury!

Do Frenchies Like Water?

Not all individual dogs are the same, even within the same breed. Like humans, they each have their own personalities and quirks. Some Frenchies will love water, but many will not.

To better understand whether French Bulldogs will enjoy swimming or not, we surveyed the popular Frenchie Subreddit and other dog forums to ask this question. However, the only way to know is to try for yourself.

Real Owner Answers:

1. Alice Kabel says Yes:Buster loves getting in lakes, rivers and creeks, and his little pool but he HATES taking a bath!

2. Eeturk says Yes:Hudson LOVES water. He loves having a little pool and is obsessed with the sprinklers. His new favorite activity is surprise bursting into the shower with me any chance he gets. It is a mixture of horrifying and terrifying.

3. Carrotthefrenchie says No: Carrot went into the pool for the first time. Trying to find alternative exercise methods when it’s too hot outside. Carrot hates the water!

4. Mavis says No:We have a pool for the first time this year. I got a vest for Bambi and put her in the pool one time. She was terrified and hated it. She despises getting wet.”

5. Jakeyjake says No: Jake and Stella don’t like the pool at all and Jake will go all crazy barking whenever we go in. They don’t mind getting their feet wet at the beach though.

6. Shortstuff says Mixed:If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Bisou was a retriever or something with how much she loves water. Shasta is the exact opposite and almost won’t go potty if the grass is wet.

7. Bullymama says No:It’s not possible for me to tell you how much Cheli hates water. We even have trouble getting him out for potty when it is raining.”

8. Brittany Ernst says No:Rootbeer dislikes water. He hates baths and will escape any chance he gets! We have a kiddie pool for him and he won’t go in it. My parents have a pool but he heads straight for the stairs and hops out.


So let us know in the comments section below, does your Frenchie like to swim? And if you have any helpful tips, leave a comment for the other Frenchie owners!

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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. Read More.

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