Can American Bulldogs Swim? – Things to Consider

Most small breeds in the brachycephalic group are known to be lousy swimmers. But with a bigger build such as an American Bulldog, we can’t help but wonder, can American Bulldogs swim? In this post, I discussed this topic, so you’ll know what to do whenever you’re bringing your dog near bodies of water.

Just remember that whatever breed you own, putting on a life jacket or floatation device on the dog is still the best move.

Can American Bulldogs swim?

can American Bulldogs swim

American Bulldogs are larger than their other Bulldog cousins. They can grow up to 28 inches tall and 120 lbs. heavy. This is a far cry from French Bulldogs that only have a maximum height of 12 inches.

So more muscles mean better swimming, right? Not exactly.

While American Bulldogs are muscular, their bodies are also stocky. This means that much of their weight is concentrated on the torso. Such anatomy makes it hard for them to float properly.

Nevertheless, American Bulldogs can still swim. However, don’t expect them to be as enthusiastic as a Golden Retriever.

Remember that American Bulldogs were bred as farm dogs. They were tasked to herd cattle and hunt wild animals. For their size, they were surprisingly agile and nimble.

However, it’s rare for American Bulldogs to step on the water in such a scenario. They may have been to ponds or lakes, but they aren’t always big fans of swimming.

But here’s the catch: American Bulldogs have webbed feet. There’s a thin membrane between their toes that creates a seemingly webbed look. It helps them have a better grip on the ground, but it will also come in handy while swimming. But then again, American Bulldogs aren’t ducks.

American Bulldogs can swim, but not for long periods

To be fair, American Bulldogs can swim well, especially if they are trained for it. However, they can get tired fast due to their weight. Also, they have short legs that can get sprained while paddling in the water.

Moreover, American Bulldogs have an unideal center of gravity on their bodies. This means they find it hard to keep their heads up on the water. Doing so is also tiresome, not to mention that their short snouts don’t buy their faces extra distance off the water surface.

To be safe, don’t assume that your American Bulldog can swim. Also, forget about the myth that all dogs are born with the ability to swim even if they haven’t been trained for it. Always take precautions like the points I listed below.

How to teach an American Bulldog to swim

While American Bulldogs aren’t good swimmers, you can still teach them to do well on water. This will also keep your dog safer in case it gets pushed to a swimming pool or off a lake deck.

To help you introduce your American Bulldog to swimming, here are the steps you can take:

1. Choose shallow waters

With my American Bulldog, I first used a kiddie pool to introduce him to the idea of swimming. From there, we went swimming in an actual pool and then on a lake. For nervous canine, the bathtub will come in handy since it’s a more familiar place.

It’s best to keep your dog leashed when going into the water. You should also be on the water to hold and control your dog. I suggest starting on the stairs of a pool.

If your doggo is nervous, you can lure it with treats. Make sure that you reward the canine for every step it takes closer to the pool or lake.

2. Use a toy

Once your dog is calmer on the water, you can encourage it to paddle by luring the dog with its favorite toy. Try placing it about a foot away from your American Bulldog and see if it will swim toward the object. Once the doggo reaches the toy, reward it with a treat.

3. Keep sessions short

American Bulldogs can get tired of swimming easily, so make sure that you keep each session short. Also, schedule the swimming lessons during cooler hours of the day.

4. Keep it fun

The trick to encouraging your dog to swim is keeping the experience fun. Shower your American Bulldog with treats and end the session even before your dog shows signs of stress.

Be patient because Bulldogs take longer to get used to swimming. I suggest desensitizing your dog to water at a young age, so it will be easier to teach the canine how to swim.

5. Be your pet’s lifeguard

Expect your American Bulldog to panic on its first attempts to swim. With that, you should stay close to guide your dog as it tries to swim.

Never step away, even for a second. Can you imagine leaving an infant on the water? That’s the same with a dog that’s just learning how to swim.

6. Use confidence builders

Your American Bulldog will be scared to enter the water, but you can fix this by teaching the dog where to exit. I suggest training on a pool ramp or shoreline. This way, you can show your dog the way out.

Through this, you can make your dog more comfortable swimming. It will take days, but remain patient until your American Bulldog understands the process.

7. Have an after-swim routine

Similar to obedience training, it’s important to have something to look forward to after the swimming lesson. It could be a high-value treat or playtime. This will teach your dog that swimming is actually a rewarded experience.

Tips to keep your Bulldog safe while swimming

Safety should always be your priority when teaching or taking your American Bulldog to a swim. Before you get into the water, make sure that you get these checked:

1. Put on a flotation device

Whether your American Bulldog is a good swimmer or not, you should always put on a life jacket on the dog. You’ll never know when strong currents or leg cramps could happen. Besides, most lake authorities will not allow a dog to get into the water without any life jacket.

Get your dog a life vest that will keep its face afloat all the time. You can check our top 3 picks here.

2. Don’t let the dog drink pool/saltwater

Dogs are like kids; they will surely try to take a sip from the ocean or swimming pool. You should prevent this from happening.

Ocean water is extremely salty, which can trigger canine diarrhea and dehydration if drank in large amounts. Meanwhile, pool water contains chlorine, which is a toxic substance.

Also, always pay attention to your dog. When visiting a beach or a lake, it’s quite easy to lose track of your pet. Still, it’s important to keep an eye on your American Bulldog in case accidents occur.

3. Always rinse after swimming

After swimming, you should rinse your dog’s body with freshwater. For my Bulldog, I always bring a gallon of tap water, so I can rinse him before we head home. Take note that you should also rinse your dog, even it only swam in the pool.

If your dog swam on dirty water, consider giving it a quick bath. This is to wash away potential pathogens that got into the dog’s skin.

4. Update your dog’s preventatives

Lakes, rivers, beaches, and ponds have one thing in common: they are a cesspool of potential infection. Leptospirosis is the most common concern, which can be prevented through a vaccine.

Aside from that, make sure that your American Bulldog had an updated flea and tick preventative. Outdoor settings are the most common sources of infestation, so you should never take chances.

5. Check for blue-green algae

Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae is toxic to animals and humans. It’s usually found on flatwater like ponds and lakes. If you see these algae washing into the shore, you shouldn’t let your dog – or even you – swim in it.

Even if your dog didn’t drink the algae-infested water, it could still irritate their skin. This is something to keep in mind as Bulldog breeds are quite notorious for skin problems.

6. Mind the temperature

During a hot day, it’s not a good idea to take your American Bulldog outside. Although swimming may help them cool down, there’s still a risk of overheating.

The best alternative here is to let your Bulldog soak in your bathtub. You can also use a large basin to help the doggo cool down during the summer season.

7. Stay away from anglers

If you’re visiting bodies of water, make sure that Bulldog will be swimming away from fishing areas. An angler may end up hooking your dog instead of a fish.

Most of the time, lake authorities designate fishing areas, so it should be easy for you to check.

8. Keep your pool covered

Many dogs have drowned in their owners’ outdoor pool because it’s left uncovered. When no one is at the pool, make sure that you put a sturdy cover on top of it. And if it’s not going to be used for months, it’s best to drain the water.

If you’re using a pool cover, choose one with a draining top. This will prevent deep rain puddles from forming and potentially drowning a small puppy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I leave my dog in the water?

A: It’s advisable to keep your dog supervised while swimming. This is whether your dog is wearing a flotation device or not. Similar to kids, accidents can occur on your dog, and you must be around to intervene.

Q: Can I take my Bulldog swimming on a hot day?

A: Swimming on a hot day is a good idea to cool down, but you have to be careful for your Bulldog. On a hot sunny day, the water can be warm, which isn’t ideal for this breed. Bulldogs find it hard to cool down on warm water, and the hot environment temperature will just make it worse.

Q: What dog breeds can’t swim?

A: Technically, the likes of Dachshunds, Pekingese, Boxers, and Basset Hounds find it hard to swim. This is due to their short legs and heavy bodies that make it difficult for them to float normally. American Bulldogs are also not the best swimmers.

Q: Is it safe to let my American Bulldog swim in the pool?

A: As long as your American Bulldog is wearing a flotation device, it can swim in the pool. You should also watch out for the chlorine content of the water, which may irritate the canine’s skin. Most of all, you should be around to supervise your dog because your Bulldog may find it hard to get off the pool if it wants to.

Q: At what age can puppies start swimming?

A: In general, puppies can start swimming by the age of 10 weeks with close supervision. However, American Bulldogs may take longer as their bodies are yet to achieve the ideal growth for swimming. It’s best to wait for about five months before introducing your American Bulldog to open waters.

Final words

Can an American Bulldog swim? Yes, this breed can still swim, but they are certainly not made for deep waters. Always supervise your Bulldog whenever you’re taking into the water, whether it’s a pool or a lake. Also, teaching your dog to swim is important to boost its safety around bodies of water.

How is your American Bulldog as a swimmer? Have you encountered any problems? Share your thoughts below!


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!