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Are Golden Retrievers Water Dogs?

Are Golden Retrievers Water Dogs?

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. because of their great nature and stunning appearance. The breed is known for being energetic and intelligent, which is great for families that like to get outside and want to teach their dogs new tricks.

Golden Retrievers are also great swimmers. This can be excellent news for people with pools or that live near the beach or lakes. It is also great for hunters that want a breed that is known for its ability to retrieve waterfowl.

This article will explore the origins of the Golden Retriever breed and discover why they are typically great with water.


The History of Golden Retrievers

To get a better understanding of why Golden Retrievers are great in water, it is important that you look at the breed’s origins.

The Golden Retriever dates back to 1868. This is when Sir Dudley Marjoribanks bred a Tweed Water Spaniel called “Belle” with “Nous,” a Retriever with a wavy, yellow coat.

The litter produced four yellow pups named Crocus, Cowslip, Primrose, and Ada. These pups were subsequently mated with a selection of breeds, including:

  • Tweed Water Spaniels
  • Red Setters
  • Flat-coated Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers

The Golden Retriever’s foundation stock was created from the descendants of this breeding program.

The purpose of the breed was to be a bird dog, and it was popular for retrieving waterfowl. The breed’s good nature and trainability made it a great choice for hunting.

Their build and coat make them suitable as water dogs. However, the long coats do make them slightly slower in the water than other breeds.

If you’re yet to take the plunge and get yourself a Goldie, why not check out our guide on whether or not Golden Retrievers are good for first-time owners?


Why Are Golden Retrievers Great Swimmers?

After decades of breeding, the Golden Retriever is an instantly recognizable and popular dog breed. But what characteristics make it good for swimming?

The following attributes make Golden Retrievers great swimmers:

Active breed

Golden Retrievers are naturally active breeds that require lots of exercise. They typically require around 2 hours of exercise every day and swimming can be a great way for them to get this.

Powerful build

Golden Retrievers are typically considered to be medium to large-sized dogs. Their athletic build makes them perfect working dogs. Golden retrievers were bred for this specific purpose, and they have not lost this trait through breeding.

Breed characteristics

As well as their build, other characteristics make Golden Retrievers great water dogs. Their long legs make them excellent swimmers in comparison with other breeds.

Dog breeds like Bulldogs and Basset Hounds have short legs and dense bodies. This makes them poor swimmers. The long body and legs of a Golden Retriever are much better suited.

The long straight muzzle is also better suited to carrying waterfowl when swimming. If you compare this to flat-faced breeds like Pugs you will see exactly why the dog was bred this way.


Many dogs get weighed down or cold if they get their coat wet. Golden Retrievers have thick double coats that are perfect for regulating the dog’s body temperature. The coat is also perfect for swimming.

The double coat of a Golden Retriever works to keep the dog dry and warm in all conditions. The top coat is water-repellant and protects the thicker, wooly undercoat.

The thick undercoat helps to trap air and regulate body temperature. It can keep the dog warm in cold water.


Teaching A Golden Retriever To Swim

If you have recently bought a Golden Retriever puppy or are considering it, you might expect it to naturally take to the water. The truth of the matter is that not all Golden Retrievers love to swim.

Golden Retriever owners should take the time to introduce them to the water to minimize any potential safety concerns.

The following tips will help you to teach your dog to swim and are great if you have a Golden Retriever puppy or younger dogs.

Expose to water

Exposing the dog to water regularly will help it get used to it. This can be walking around lakes or on the beach. You could even use a shallow kiddie pool or bathtub with toys to help your dog get used to water and give it a positive association.

Doing this regularly will help to get your dog at ease with the sounds and smells. It will also let your dogs get used to getting their coats wet. The water-repellent outer coat of a dog will help to keep it dry.

Take it slow

You want your furry friend to enjoy swimming. Despite the Golden Retriever breed being originally bred as a water dog, taking things too quickly can put your dog off.

Some schools of thought encourage a sink-or-swim mentality to train your dog to swim. Most Goldens will not respond well to this method.

Letting them get used to water while encouraging them and playing with them will help it become an enjoyable activity for them.

Start shallow

Large bodies of water may appear daunting for your Golden Retriever. This is why starting them off in small paddling pools can be beneficial. If you are taking them on a walk along the beach, let them play in the swash.

This will let them know that they can enjoy splashing about before you take them fully into the water.

Lead by example

Having your Golden swim alone is no fun!

Getting in the water with your dog is another great way to encourage them. It means you can physically support them when they first get in.

Dog-friendly pools can be a great way to introduce your dog to water in controlled circumstances.

It will allow you to hold them as they get used to moving their legs in the water. You can then start to slowly give them some independence.

If you use a life jacket for your dog they will be able to float independently. This will allow you to slowly back off from them so they can swim toward you.

Support your dog

Physical and emotional support might sound a bit dramatic for a Golden Retriever swimming lesson, but it will help to put your dog at ease.

Even if your dog is wearing a life vest, holding them if they become distressed is important. They will grow in confidence knowing that you are nearby. Golden Retrievers like being around their people a lot, so having you nearby will put their minds at ease.

Not all Golden Retrievers swim but being there to support them if you try to teach them how will help to build trust.


Why Is Swimming Good For A Golden Retriever?

Most Golden Retrievers will take to swimming well, and this can be great news for owners. It means there will be a new way for your dog to exercise. It is also beneficial if the dog is a hunting dog and the owner wants it to retrieve waterfowl.

The following examples show why Golden Retrievers like water and how it can be beneficial for the dog:


Golden Retrievers are naturally energetic dogs that require lots of exercise. They need at least 2-hours of physical exercise a day, plus lots of mental stimulation.

Swimming can be a great way for Golden Retrievers to exercise and it will also help to work for different muscle groups.

Swimming can also be a great way for dogs with injuries to exercise. Walking and running can put unnecessary stress on already injured or inflamed areas. Swimming can reduce the pressure on these areas.

It can help owners introduce variety to their dog’s exercise routine.

Pain relief

As we mentioned, swimming can be a great way for injured dogs to get exercise without putting pressure on the injured areas. Likewise, dogs with existing conditions such as hip dysplasia or arthritis can also benefit from swimming.

Arthritis in dogs is a condition that can cause joints to become painful and swollen. It is caused by uneven and worn joint surfaces that cause the surfaces of the bones to rub against one another.

The joints thicken over time as additional bone is produced. This will cause pain when the dog tries to walk.

Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce pain and swelling, while joint supplements can minimize the risk of the condition in the first place.

If the condition worsens, some veterinarians may recommend surgery to improve the dog’s comfort levels.

Hip dysplasia is a condition that is common in dogs and affects the hip. It is when the thighbone’s ball is not fitting properly in the hip socket. This is caused by different growth rates.

Hip dysplasia in dogs can be treated by medication or surgery depending on the severity of the condition.

The pain and pressure caused by both these conditions can be eased by hydrotherapy. Exposure to water can allow the dog to move more freely without resistance.

This not only relieves the pressure of joint issues in dogs but can also allow them to exercise. A well-exercised dog will be able to sleep better and is at significantly less risk of obesity and obesity-related illnesses.

Cooling down in summer

The coat of a Golden Retriever is great for natural temperature regulation. However, even this wonderful coat may struggle in hot weather.

If the temperature is particularly high it can be difficult to safely take your dog out for physical activity. Most Golden Retrievers love cooling off in a pool, lake, or the sea when it is hot.

Exercise is essential for all dogs, especially energetic dog breeds like Golden Retrievers. Exercise in excessive heat can be extremely dangerous to dogs as they may suffer from heatstroke. Swimming can be a perfect solution to this issue on a hot summer day.


Are There Any Issues Caused By A Golden Retriever Swimming?

Letting your Golden Retriever swim regularly has many benefits. But it is equally as important to consider the potential issues. We aren’t talking about your dog shaking and soaking everyone nearby, though this can be frustrating. The main issue that can be caused is swimmer’s ear.

Golden Retrievers are at risk of swimmer’s ear because of the way they are built. They naturally have floppy ears that hang down and minimize the airflow required to fully dry inside. This can lead to bacterial growth and ear infections.

Because the ear canal of a Golden Retriever is L-shaped, it means the dog might struggle to shake the water free.

Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa can cause hearing issues and itchiness. If the condition goes untreated it can also become painful.

The best way to minimize the risk of this is to clean the dog’s ear after swimming. Cleaning your dog’s ear should be a part of any good grooming routine, but it should also be done anytime your dog was in water.

Using an ear-cleaning solution to clean your dog’s ears will minimize the risk of infection. You should avoid using Q-tips as this can push dirt or wax further into the ear.



Do all Golden Retrievers like water?

The majority of Golden Retrievers love water, but every dog is different, and some might not be keen on swimming.

If your Golden Retriever is not keen on water, you can try to gradually introduce them to water to see if it is something they can take to.

The steps advised in this guide can help your Golden Retriever learn to love swimming, but it is important not to push it if your Goldie is adamant.

What water temperature is best for a Golden Retriever?

A Golden Retriever will be equipped to cope with most water temperatures. The thick double coat that is water repellant will protect it from cold water for significantly longer than a human could withstand.

It is generally accepted that prolonged exposure to water below 35°C could cause hypothermia. Because of this, it is important that the dog doesn’t stay in cold temperatures for too long.

Does eating before or after swimming cause problems for dogs?

Dogs should eat at least 2 hours before swimming. This is true of any form of exercise because of the risk of bloat.

Bloat can cause a build-up of gasses in the dog’s stomach and cause it to twist. This can restrict blood flow and can be fatal.

You should wait around 1-hour after exercise before you feed your dog. This will allow their stomach muscles to relax and for them to calm down.

How long should I let my Golden Retriever swim?

Most dogs will enjoy swimming for between 15 and 30 minutes. You will be able to judge how tired your Golden Retriever is and whether it is still enjoying itself.

Swimming can be more taxing for dogs that usually only walk, so it is important that you don’t let them overdo it.

Even if your dogs wear life vests, you should pay close attention to how tired your dog is getting, especially if it is in the sea.

Where is best to take a Golden Retriever swimming?

If you want to take your Golden Retriever swimming it is important you find the best place. Dog-friendly swimming pools are perfect because they are more controlled than lakes, rivers, or the sea.

If you take your dog wild swimming, be sure to check the area doesn’t have any predators like alligators. It is also important that your dog has good recall so it doesn’t swim too far out.

If your dog is at the beach, you must be extremely careful of tides and swells as even the strongest swimmers can get into difficulties.

If your dog gets into difficulty in wild water, it is essential that you are aware of the risks before entering the water. Never let your dog in fast-flowing rivers or choppy seas.


Final Thoughts

All in all, Golden Retrievers are loyal, good-natured and intelligent dogs. They are great with kids and easy to train. They also love to swim, making them perfect for families that love the outdoors.

Golden Retrievers are typically good swimmers, but that doesn’t mean every single one will enjoy swimming.

If your dog shows an interest in the water you can teach it to swim and use it as a great way for them to get exercise.

Water can also be a great way for dogs with joint pain or conditions to enjoy some relief. It is brilliant for them to get some much-needed exercise without exacerbating the issue.

Golden Retrievers were bred to be water dogs, and they are built well for swimming. Their coats offer them additional protection from the water.

If you are interested in finding out more about Golden Retrievers or would like information on other water dogs, visit our homepage. We have created detailed guides on all dog breeds to help you with any information you may need.