Can PitBulls Swim? – Everything You Need to Know

American Pitbulls have strong and dense muscles that make them overheat. But unfortunately, these same muscles prevent the Pitbull from taking a swim to cool down.

It is unfortunate for these amazing dogs not to have the ability to swim, and in this article, we will talk about it.

What Makes Dogs Good Swimmers?

Not all dogs are good swimmers, but those who are have characteristics just like the below:

  • Swimmer dogs naturally know how to paddle using all four legs; this technique is called a dog paddle.
  • Dogs have the instinct to keep their heads above the water.
  • Most dogs have a low center of gravity.
  • Some breeds, such as Labrador Retriever, have webbed feet, which work like paddles and favor them in swimming.
  • They have big lungs that help them hold their breath for a long time underwater.
  • Dogs have a fight-or-flight instinct that kicks in when they feel unsafe in the water. If you notice your Pitbull swimming to safety, it is its instinct at work.
  • Good swimming dogs are lightweight, helping them to stay afloat in water.

Labradors are the best swimmers, whereas Pitbulls are not.

Can Pit Bulls Swim?

Technically, all dogs can swim, and so can Pitbulls, but they are not excellent swimmers due to their dense muscles, large heads, and heavy muscles. Despite not being great swimmers, American Pitbulls can still enjoy swimming with you and doing water-related activities.

Pitbulls love playing in the water and appreciate the time spent with family on water vacations. If you love enjoying going to beaches, lakes, or other water holiday places, you should teach your Pitbull how to swim first.

If you are skeptical of getting a Pitbull because they cannot swim, you dont have to worry as they can learn quickly.

Factors Affecting Pitbulls’ Swimming Ability

You may be wondering what affects the swimming ability of Pitbulls so much and why can’t they swim naturally like other dog breeds.

Here are all the factors that affect the Pitbull’s ability to swim:

Made to Run, Not Swim

Please make no mistake; Pitbulls are not made for swimming because they were bred for a specific role. Almost all dog breeds were bred or domesticated to help humans in hunting, guarding, herding, etc., and some for entertainment.

In the case of Pitbulls, they have several purposes. Early Englishmen bred Pitbulls to partake in the bloodsport known as bull-baiting. In the now-illegal sport, owners threw these dogs in a “pit” with a “bull” (hence the name Pit-Bull).

Pitbulls would slowly take down or damage the bulls by biting and taunting them, and many would die. Compared to this, you have retriever dogs, such as the Poodle and Labrador Retriever.

These dogs were bred to retrieve shot games, often waterfowl from lakes, ponds, and other water bodies. So it’s no surprise these dogs are good swimmers.

If you look at the purpose of the Pitbull, they didn’t need the physical qualities of a good swimmer but needed a muscular body and large head to bite into bulls.

The Muscular Body of a Pitbull

Pitbulls have lean muscles that were essential for bull-baiting jobs in the past. Bull-baiting is no longer a sport, but Pitbulls still have those muscles. How do muscles become a disadvantage in water?

According to Scientific American, Muscle is dense than fat. In other words, dogs with the most muscular bodies and low body fat will have difficulty staying afloat. This may sound crazy, but it’s true.

So while dogs with more fat may struggle to swim due to fewer muscles, a dog with more muscle will have difficulty staying afloat. However, you can put these muscles to good use and teach your Pitbulls to paddle faster to propel quickly.

The Pitbulls’ large heads

One of the unique things about American Pitbulls is their enormous head. A large head makes these dogs so scary but also adorable and charming. But when it comes to swimming, this can be a huge setback, as a larger head means it is heavier too.

Due to large heads, pregnant Pitbulls often need a C-section during labor. According to Pet Central, C-sections are common in dogs with large heads and narrow pelvic areas.

Another issue with big and heavy heads is when Pitbulls swim, they are doggy paddling and need to keep their head above the water to know where they are headed and to breathe. A heavy head requires more energy to stay above water and quickly exhausts the dog.

Shorter Legs

Pitbulls have shorter legs, designed to keep giving them a low center of gravity and better friction while bull-baiting.

Now, shorter legs do not mean terrible swimming, but in the case of Pitbulls, the legs are made of muscles and gripping on land. In addition, short legs, in combination with heavy muscle mass and low buoyancy, are a perfect recipe for swimming disadvantages.

To stay afloat, an American Pitbull has to paddle twice as much as other dog breeds, exhausting the American Pitbull rather quickly.

Short Single Coat

In summer, your Pitbull will love jumping in and out of the water, but as soon as the temperature drops, your Pitbull is probably going stay away from water to avoid getting wet.

Unlike breeds built for water and have double coats or long coats, a Pitbull’s short, single-layered coat is not ideal for water except in hot temperatures.

In other words, the water overdoes its job of cooling the Pitbull and makes them lose necessary body heat rapidly.

How to Teach Pitbulls to Swim?

Pitbull may not have everything in its favor, but that does not mean you cannot teach it to swim. Some Pitbulls will love swimming more than others, so make sure to b patient and introduce them to water carefully.

Pitbulls are stubborn and willful, and when it comes to obedience training or teaching them to swim, they can take longer than other dogs. So always remember to use positive reinforcement and extra patience.

Here are the steps to teaching your Pitbull how to swim.

Get a Dog Life Vest

Adapting your Pitbull to wear a life jacket from a young age is important. Some owners said they sank like a rock when their Pitbulls first started. Getting a good quality dog life vest would be best to prevent this from happening and potentially drowning your Pitbull.

Life vests will give you peace of mind knowing that your Pitbull won’t easily drown, and the floating jacket will give your puppy confidence and a sense of security inside the water.

Introducing Pitbulls to Water

The next step is to introduce your Pitbull to water, and you will need to start this as early as possible. Pitbulls are less scared and more open to trying new things when they are in socializing phase.

The perfect place to start is in the bathtub. However, a small kiddie pool can do well too. In this small, safe space, you can closely watch the Pitbull and quickly get them accustomed to being in and around water. Take your time with this stage.

After your Pitbull gets used to being in the water, it’s time to introduce them to where the dog will swim. For example, if you intend to bring your Pitbull to the neighbor’s pool, you should take him there weeks and days before.

Let your puppy sniff around at the water. Pitbulls are inherently curious dogs who will likely check and examine the pool. You may have to get his feet wet during this stage. The point is to get them accustomed to visiting a larger body of water.

You are making good progress if you can get your Pitbull into the shallow end. But as I said, a Pit can be stubborn and may not want to go in. Never force your dog into the water; these dogs can be anxious and stressed.

Swim with Your Pitbull

Next, you’ll have to get your dog into the shallow end. The soundest way to do this is to get into the water with your Pitbull.

These dogs are known to be courageous, so there’s a fair chance they’ll go in with less fear if you’re in the water. But again, don’t push your dog in. When in the shallow end, call your Pitbull to come to you.

If they are progressing, you want to give plenty of positive reinforcement. Pitbulls respond best to positive types of training. And if you want, you can bribe your dog with treats.

Pitbulls have surprisingly great intelligence and can read human feelings quite nicely. They will detect if you start freaking out, so stay calm and composed while the Pitbull is in the pool.

They’ll more likely have fun if you’re having fun. Once they’re in the shallow end with their life jacket, you’ll want to get them into deeper waters slowly. In some cases, they’ll quickly reach you in the deep end.

However, other Pitbulls will require a bit more patience. Don’t force them, and let them go at their speed. Before you know it, your Pitbull will be swimming like a champion.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Teach My Pitbull to Swim?

Slowly introduce your Pitbull to water and swim him with; take preventive measures. Ensure your dog feels comfortable; slowly, he will start paddling and swimming independently.

How Do I Train My Dog to Love Water?

To train your dog to love water, here are a few quick tips for you:

  • Make bath time fun and memorable
  • Start with a kiddie pool
  • Jump in the water with your dog
  • Always know where your dog is
  • Invite a water-loving friend

How Often Should You Bathe a Pit Bull?

Pitbulls have a short coat with a single layer that does not need much grooming. You can bathe your Pitbull once a month in summer or every six months in winter.

But if your Pitbull gets dirty during play, wash him with lukewarm water and do not use shampoo on him.


American Pitbulls may not be the best swimmers, but they love to swim, so take your time and teach them. Pitbulls are stubborn but will get excited when they realize they are going on a fun activity.

If your Pitbull loves water, don’t keep him away from it and let him enjoy it. Find him safe alternatives to a beach, like a kiddie pool or a shallow stream.

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