Can American Bullies Swim? – The Truth You Need to Know

To keep up with the exercise needs of the American Bully, the owner must stay active and healthy. But you cannot be a swimmer and own an American Bully because swimming isn’t a strong suit of the American Bullies.

You may wish your dog would jump into the water and follow you or fetch the stick you threw. That would be a bad idea since American Bullies have trouble swimming.

To understand why American Bullies may have difficulty swimming, we should first understand why some breeds can probably beat Michael Phelps in a race without prior training!

What Makes Dogs Good Swimmers?

The anatomy of swimming dogs is the real reason they are such good swimmers. For a dog to be an excellent swimmer, it should have these three main features:

  • Long Muzzle
  • Light and Small Head
  • Long Legs

These physical features are important because a long muzzle and a small, lightweight head help dogs breathe while swimming in a natural posture.

And the longs are crucial for efficient paddling. Look at Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, and any breed that naturally loves water. You will see that these breeds have extra features to be better swimmers.

Some dogs even have webbed feet to better paddle and can hold their breath for a long time. Compared to this, the American Bully looks like a chump.

Can American Bullies swim?

No, American Bullies cannot swim naturally on their own. They are not built to swim like other dogs. You can teach your American Bully how to swim to survive, but it can never be a good swimmer, and there are good reasons.

The American Bully, like its ancestor, was not bred to be a swimming dog. Breeders originally bred the American Bully to become a family dog, which has stayed that way.

The American Bully is affected by the following reasons to become a bad swimmer:

Stocky Bodies

American Bullies have muscular & compact bodies, with most of the weight on their chests. When the American Bullies go into the water for the first time, his heavy chest will pull his head below the water’s surface.

To overcome this, your Bully will have to swim upright, which exerts most of their energy on staying afloat rather than moving around.

Short Muzzles and Neck

Although American Bullies’ muzzles aren’t as short as those of Pugs and Boxers, they are still shorter than those of Labrador Retrievers. Add that to a short neck, and your American Bully will have to exert significant efforts to keep its heavy head above water and breath.

Legs are not Long Enough.

American Bullies are not large dogs, but they are heavy, and they have muscular legs that are not very long. Their shorts make it difficult for American Bullies to paddle and move around.

With low paddling power, getting back to the land also takes longer. All of this drains the American Bully’s energy, and being unable to reach the land freaks it out and causes panic.

The Size of Your American Bully May Also Worsen the Blow

American Bullies exist in four official sizes. And here are their average heights according to the American Bully Kennel Club standards for American Bullies:

Breed size Male height (at the shoulders) Female height (at the shoulders)
Pocket 14–17 in (36–43 cm) 13–16 in (33–40 cm)
Standard 17–20 in (43–51 cm) 16–19 in (41–48 cm)
Classic 17–20 in (43–51 cm) 16–19 in (41– 48 cm)
XL 21–23 inches (51–57 cm) 19–22 in (48–54 cm)

Although the XL American Bully is the biggest, they are also the heaviest, so their height is no advantage.

Also, as I mentioned above, you need long legs to swim easily, and if you look at the Pocket Bully height, you will know, Pocket Bullies struggle the most.

How to Teach American Bullies to Swim

If your American Bully loves to play in the water, don’t kill the fun. He might not be built for swimming but he can overcome his anatomical shortcomings through training. Let’s see how.

Get a Life Jacket

Most dogs freak out when they try to swim for the first time. That experience can scar them for life, meaning they’ll never think about going anywhere near the pool, let alone inside it!

That’s why using a life jacket is essential. Your dog may still get nervous despite wearing a life jacket, but he’ll soon realize there’s nothing to worry about.

I like the Paws Aboard Dog Life Jacket. It’s easy to put on and take off, and it has a D-ring at the top to keep your dog on a leash; that’s extremely helpful if you’re swimming at a public beach. (FYI, some beaches and parks ban American Bullies on their premises, claiming that they can be “dangerous”)

It’s important to familiarize your dog with the life jacket you’ll buy before going into the water. Allow him to wear it for a couple of hours, and don’t forget to shower him with treats and attention.

Pick a Suitable Place

Ideally, you should train your dog in a pool where you can also swim and join in the fun. If you don’t have a pool in your backyard, search for shallow ponds or lakes. Rivers and beaches aren’t ideal for a first encounter because they can seem too intimidating for your dog. Plus, the strong currents will make it harder for him to paddle.

Carry Your Dog Into the Water

Never toss or jerk him into the water when introducing the dog to swimming for the first time. If he’s already scared, such behavior will only worsen the situation.

Instead, slowly carry your Bully into the water. Keep your hands wrapped around the dog’s chest and belly, but don’t squeeze; the goal is to keep your dog swimming horizontally.

If your dog seems distressed, take him out and let him rest for a while before trying again. Before moving to the next step, your dog should be completely comfortable inside the water.

Use the Leash To Guide Your American Bully Into the Water

While inside the pool, guide your dog into the water by gently pulling the leash. It would help if you stood right before the steps so your dog could walk inside the pool rather than jump. Once your Bully reaches you, let go of the leash to allow him to get out of the pool.

Repeat this process until your dog doesn’t seem to pull on the leash as you drag him inside.

Familiarize Your Bully Around the Pool

While standing outside the pool, gently push your dog into the water. Then, use the leash to walk your dog around the pool before you bring him back to the steps.

As you repeat this process, your dog will memorize the location of the steps, so he’ll know how to react if he accidentally falls into the pool when you’re not around.

Have Fun

Once your dog learns how to get in and out of the pool, it’s time to start having fun! Toss his favorite toy or ball into the water and tell him to get it. Or you can have him chase you to get his tasty treats.

As your dog builds the necessary skills, you may allow him to swim without the life jacket. But of course, the life jacket would be mandatory if you paddleboard with your dog in deep waters.


Unlike most dogs that love to play in the water and can easily swim, the Amerian Bully is not built for such fun. You can still teach your Bully to swim and enjoy the moment of swimming with your dog.

It is best to start early and positively so your dog will grow up adapted to water. Now you may be excited to see your American Bully swimming and want to push it to its limits; it is best not to.

Keep the swimming light and near shallow waters, and supervise the dog when swimming. Good luck!

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