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Can Poodles Swim? – The Owner’s Guide to Getting Your Poodle to Swim

Can Poodles Swim? We explore how good of a swimmer these dogs really are.
Written by Richard Jeng

If you’re wondering whether or not poodles are good swimmers – or whether they can even swim at all, you’re at the right place! Read on to find out everything you need to know about a Poodle’s swimming ability.

So, can Poodles really swim? Most Poodles are naturally good swimmers! Because they were bred to be a retriever in water, Poodles are some of the best in terms of swimming ability. They were developed with physical qualities, such as their waterproof-coats and webbed paws, that make them destined to be great swimmers.

If you’re interested in knowing more about why Poodles are so good in the water and how you can use this knowledge with your Poodle, continue reading. I’ll also be discussing how to get your Poodles used to the water and getting the best out of them as swimmers.

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Origins of the “Swimming Poodle”

Poodles are some of the best swimmers because they were bred to retrieve in the water.

In terms of great swimming ability, there’s a clue in the name of this breed of dog. The word ‘poodle’ originates from the Low German noun ‘puddle’ – Pudel.

In English, “pudel” literally translates to “puddle,” which can loosely mean “to splash about.” And as you can guess, this dog was bred as a water retriever.

Before they were renamed to Poodles, they were known as Pudelhunds in Germany. The word “hund” can be translated to “dog.” Hence, they were “splashing dogs.”

With such a name and dog “job,” it’s obvious that this dog breed is likely to be great in the water. How can a dog retrieve from the water if they aren’t prolific swimmers?

In addition, we know that Poodles originated from Europe. However, we aren’t completely sure where exactly.

There are arguments among many that claim they originated in France. On the other hand, some believe they came from Germany. All we know for certain is that they were meant to be swimmers.

Why Poodles Are Great Swimmers

Poodles are great swimmers because they were bred to retrieve game from the water.

When breeders are developing dogs, there are certain characteristics that are desirable, especially if you’re breeding dogs with a specific reason or purpose in mind. Mixing traits is an important aspect of dog breeding.

As such, Poodles were developed to have the characteristics of a great swimmer. Not only does this include their instincts, but also physical qualities.

Poodles Retrieved Ducks

Poodles came about because of a desire to hunt ducks – and their characteristics show. For example, a Poodle’s tail is unique in shape.

It has fur at the top that resembles a pompom. This feature allows duck hunters to see where the dog was wherever it went in the water. In case the dog swam far out, they’re still able to spot them quickly.

The Poodle is the original waterfowl (large aquatic birds) retriever. They were doing this job long before the Labrador was even bred.

And like the other types of water retrievers, the Poodle is capable of flushing bird from land and retrieving from water. Though they’re versatile dogs, their speciality is hunting in the water.

There are several ways a Poodle can retrieve waterfowl, such was from a boat, shore blind or jumping in from the shore.

Because they’ve been doing this for so many years, it’s in their instincts. With just a little bit of help, they’ll come to love the water with ease.

Built to Swim

Believe it or not, the Poodle has webbed feet. This is something that was developed by breeders specifically to make the Poodle a great water retriever.

Webbed feet are common among any animal that lives or spends a significant amount of time in the water. These special paws mean that Poodles are able to swim efficiently.

Webbing is apparent in all dogs but not to the same extent as the Poodle. You could even go as far as to say that a Poodle’s webbed paws are great water paddles!

The Poodle’s fur coat is arguably one of the most recognizable trait. It’s a great feature and is really quite unique. Many dogs have two layers of fur but a Poodle only has one. This single coat is really dense and makes swimming easier too.

Poodles also have “fluff spots” or excess hairs around the chest, head and ankles to keep their organs warm while swimming in the water.

In addition, many Poodles get the topknot haircut to keep the wet hair from covering their eyes during swims. Obviously, Poodles won’t be able to swipe the hair away from their eyes.

Capable, Not Always Avid Swimmers

So far, we’ve been talking about standard Poodles. However, everything mentioned until now also applies to miniature and toy Poodles too.

Since these smaller variations descend from standard Poodles, it means they have similar characteristics, which means they’re good swimmers as well.

Poodles have been designed and bred to be good swimmers for centuries. When a Poodle is in water, it will most likely do really well.

My Poodle likes to play in shallow water but doesn’t like swimming. My parents have a lake house and we’ve been taking him since he was a puppy.

– Detoxnurse (Reddit User)

It’s important to note, however, that not every Poodle is like this. While some will be natural swimmers, other may need to take some time to “warm up” to water.

Plus, there are plenty of Poodles that do not like the water at all. You may still be able to train them to be good swimmers, but it’s better to not force your dog.

Will Your Poodle Swim?

Not all poodles enjoy swimming despite their water instincts. It depends on your dog.

Poodles are likely to love going for a swim due to the features that make them perfect for the water. With webbed feet and a waterproof coat, swimming is just easier for them.

Don’t let a Poodle’s refined and elegant appearance deceive you. Many love nothing more than launching themselves into a pond or river. Given the opportunity, a Poodle will probably launch itself into the water.

But, it’s important to realize that not every poodle will be typical. So we surveyed the popular Poodle Subreddit (and other forums) for answers to this question. Here’s what they had to say to the question:

Real Owner Answers

1. DrGar says No: “My poodle doesn’t like being in water. We had to work with him a lot to get him to go into our ankle deep kiddy pool.”

2. Cementndogs says Yes: “We introduced our poodle to our pool really early on. Since day one, we’ve have a hard time keeping her from the pool. She really loves nothing more.”

3. Charlemagne712 says Yes: “At first she wouldn’t swim…I got her a life jacket and after working with her for about 30 minutes she was fine. Now I cant keep her out of the water.”

4. Slektrekprism says Yes: “So we were told poodles love swimming, but it took ours a while to get used to being in water. Now he’ll sprint towards any body of water we see.”

5. Illbevictorious says Yes: “My parents’ poodle LOVES the water. Even as a puppy, she would splash around in the little tub we had for her in our backyard.”

6. Megmca says Yes: “Our poodle Lola loves swimming. Our other poodle had cataracts and so he was usually surprised by the depth. Otherwise, he loved it and would happily retrieve stuff as long as he could see it.”

7. Whiskersthecurious says Yes: “I have a very shy Standard Poodle. It took months of exposing her to water (2 to 3 times per week) to get her to swim. Now, she enjoys it a lot.”

8. Jaznfazn says No: “We tried our best to get Nala to swim but she’s been so afraid of water since her was a pup. So yeah…we decided not to pursue it.”

9. Tehbob says No: “My poodle doesn’t like the water. He hates it so much that if he sees us in the pool, he will bark at us. And when you swim up to him, he’ll try to pull you out of the water.”

10. Lollicupsquares says Yes: “I think the key is to start young. We were lucky to have a pool so it was easy. We took our poodle out there every weekend when she was a few months old.”

Training Poodles to Swim

Training a Poodle to swim takes patience and consistency.

If you’re keen to get your Poodle swimming well, there are some steps you can take so that both you and your dog can be confident in the water.

Here’s a step by step approach to training a Poodle to swim. But remember, never force your dog to do anything if he or she really doesn’t want to.

Exposing Your Poodle to Water

It’s easy to start the process of getting your poodle to swim. Firstly, you need to expose your dog to water so if you have a beach, lake, or river close by, head there for your walks.

Make sure you go close enough so that your dog can try to get their paws wet. Exposure to the sound and sight of water is really important.

Don’t rush the process. There is no need to place your dog in the water straight away. Simply let them know of its existence so that they become familiar with it and do not fear it.

Start in Shallow Water

If you had never been in the water and suddenly you were plunged into deep water, you’d probably be a bit panicked. Deep water is quite intimidating for dogs initially too.

Start off by introducing your poodle to shallower water where he can touch the ground and be in the water all at once.

It’s also necessary to ensure there are no strong currents that might scare your dog or make it harder to swim.

Through this gentle introduction, your poodle will become accustomed to the feel of water while feeling safe and secure standing on the ground.

Help Your Poodle Into the Water

Your dog trusts you implicitly. If you show your dog that water is ok, they will be more successful. So, get yourself in the water!

Wade further out where the water becomes deeper and encourage your dog to join you. If you (the owner) is having fun, then the dog will have fun too!

With you there for reassurance, your dog is more likely to take to this new experience and will take to it like… a duck to water!

You might want to wait until the warmer months to try this! Otherwise, dig out your waders and head on right in!

Train Your Dog in the Water

You’ll want to train your dog in water, like you would out of water. You probably have some tricks up your sleeve for when you try and train your dog to do things.

But because Poodles are intelligent and great learners, this approach will make things easier.

Going into the water is just another thing you need to train your poodle to do so don’t forget the techniques you use when you’re on dry land. You will need to be patient and show your dog love and encouragement.

Make sure you praise your poodle at any opportunity and reward with treats if he is used to this recompense. This will help your dog to understand that this is something that you are trying to teach him.

With a timid dog, it might be useful to introduce your poodle to the water in the company of other dogs who already love being in water and swimming.

For example, Australian Shepherds love to swim – so maybe look for an Aussie friend? If your dog sees others having fun, being in water won’t seem as scary.

It Takes Time & Patience

Don't immediately throw your poodle in the water. It takes time and patience.

You need to be aware that different dogs will need different time spent on each of the steps. Some dogs might have to repeat a step and try again before they get swimming nailed.

Other dogs might not need to go through any of the steps at all before they’re launching themselves off a jetty! There’s no way to know for sure without trying.

What is really important is that you listen and respond to your dog as an individual. Don’t push him too far and respect his boundaries. The last thing you want is a dog panicking in deep water!

Dog drowning incidents do occur so take things extremely slowly, only moving on to the next step when both you and your dog are confident with the level you’re currently at.

If you’re really unsure and nervous, you can buy a life vest for a poodle. In fact, I’d highly recommend the Outward Hound Dog Life Jacket Vest.

It’s highly rated because it uses premium quality materials and breathable mesh. Plus it comes in many designs and patterns to match your dog’s personality!

For standard poodles, get a medium. Small for a miniature and extra small for a miniature and XXS for a toy. Refer to the size chart if you’re unsure.

Whatever the outcome of your swimming experience, whether your poodle is a natural or not, just remember that they love you no matter what and you should love them back.

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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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