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Do German Shepherds Like Water? Can They Swim?

Due to their adventurous nature, most people assume that German Shepherds are natural swimmers and have an affinity for water.

However, that’s not necessarily so.

Although some German Shepherd dogs (GSDs) take to water immediately, in general, they’re not natural swimmers and don’t possess a natural love for water.

The good news is that German Shepherds have great potential for learning and can be taught to swim, if you’re up to the challenge.

Once they master this skill, they may grow to thoroughly enjoy their times in the water.

Imagine the fun you could have at your favorite water hole or beach with your German shepherd swimming by your side.

Why German Shepherds Aren’t Natural Swimmers

German Shepherds are extremely versatile.

This high-energy breed is strong, agile and smart.

So why aren’t they natural swimmers? Simply put, they’re not bred to be.

German Shepherds are bred for protection and support and they have the qualities and traits for these fields.

They make great police dogs, military dogs, work dogs, guide and therapy dogs.

These fields require traits like strength, endurance, intelligence and speed, which German Shepherds possess in spades.

As swimming isn’t necessarily an essential skill for these fields, it’s not generally included in their breeding.

In contrast, dogs like Golden Retrievers and Labradors, which historically were bred to retrieve birds or other prey animals for hunters, are avid swimmers as the skill was an essential need for their field.

Even though German Shepherds aren’t specifically bred for swimming, with proper training, they can learn this skill and become excellent swimmers.

german shepherd in water

German Shepherds and Water

Although GSDs can learn to swim, their take on water is another story. Some German Shepherd dogs like the water – others do not.

Some are even afraid of the water. Their affinity for water depends a great deal on their water experiences as they were growing up.

Bad water experiences as a puppy could make Shepherds fearful of water in their adult years.

It’s important to remember that no two German Shepherds are exactly alike.

Every dog has its own personality and character which dictates his likes and dislikes.

Some German Shepherds feel comfortable in the water and will swim alone, with people or other dogs.

Others have no interest in the water or swimming. These dogs don’t make good candidates for learning swimming skills.

Some German Shepherds are actually afraid of the water due to negative water experiences in the past.

With patience and love, you can help your pup overcome his fear of the water so he can learn to enjoy this sport.

How Swimming Can Benefit Your German Shepherd Dog

Swimming is a great sport for both people and dogs.

Teaching your German Shepherd to swim is one of the best gifts you can give your pup.

Swimming offers physical, mental and emotional benefits for your dog – not to mention the pure enjoyment he’ll get from this activity for years to come.

Here are a few reasons why swimming is so good for your dog:

Full Body Workout

Swimming is an ideal exercise for dogs.

It provides dogs with a full body workout that burns calories, tones their physique and strengthens their muscles and joints.

If your pup is overweight, swimming regularly can help him get back in shape and stay fit.

Swimming can also improve your dog’s agility, mobility, flexibility and range of motion.

When it comes to swimming, dogs gain many of the same health benefits as people.

In addition to toning their body, swimming enhances your dog’s heart and lung function, improves circulation and increases his stamina. It’s a great way to help your dog stay healthy as he ages.

In addition, dogs don’t have to swim for hours to gain these health benefits.

Studies show that approximately one minute of swimming is comparable to four minutes of running for a dog.

That’s how much exercise swimming can provide.

Low Impact

Large-breed dogs like German Shepherds are prone to developing joint problems like hip dysplasia, which can make it difficult for them to run, jump or jog.

As swimming is a low impact activity, it’s a good way of keeping your pup active without worrying about putting undue pressure on his joints.

As dogs grow older, they’re naturally less active. Joint problems will further cut down their activity level.

Swimming can replace running, jogging or hiking in the mountains to keep your German Shepherd in shape as he enters his senior years.

Relieves Stress

Swimming is also a great sport for a dog’s mental health.

If your pup has a problem with stress or anxiety, swimming can help calm him down.

Swimming stimulates your dog’s brain to release “feel good” hormones in his body to help him relax.

Dogs, like people, go through situations that produce stress, fear and anxiety.

German Shepherd police dogs, guard dogs or even guide dogs may develop stress due to situations that occur on the job.

If your dog is feeling antsy by the end of the day, a five-to-ten-minute swim could help put him at ease. It’s also a great way to cool off in hot summer weather.


Arthritic GSDs or dogs undergoing post-surgery rehab can benefit from swimming sessions in a hydrotherapy pool at an aquatic therapy facility.

Warm water swimming helps relieve arthritic pain so your pet can move about more comfortably.

It also helps expedite healing for post-surgery recovery.

If you love the water and want to share water experiences with your German Shepherd pup, it’s worth your time and effort to teach him to swim so he can accompany you on your aquatic adventures.

With patience, understanding and love, your pup can develop swimming skills that enable him to enjoy waterplay to the full.

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National Canine Research Association of America