Do Labradors Like To Swim?

When the day is hot outside, nothing feels better than a refreshing swim. And if you are the parent of a Labrador, you may be wondering do labs like to swim? Swimming could be another way to keep them entertained and change up their exercise routine. 

Do Labradors like to swim? Yes, Labradors are natural swimmers who enjoy taking a dip in lakes, streams, and even pools. They are genetically designed to adapt well to the water. They have webbed toes to propel them and short but insulating fur to keep them warm, without weighing them down. Your Lab will likely need little coaxing to go into the water and may even jump in on their own. 

There is no question that you love your dog and want what’s best for them. This means you need to know whether they will enjoy swimming, how to introduce them to it, and how long a good swimming session for them will last. In this article, you will learn exactly why Labradors like to swim and how to get them started with this great form of exercise.

Why Should You Listen To Me?

I have owned my lab for 14 years, and from the time she was little, we have found ways to  introduce her to things she will enjoy, such as the water.

Getting my Lab, Bear, into the water, turned out to be one of the best things that we could do for her, especially as she began to age.

When her joints became sore,  swimming was a way for her to continue to exercise pain-free to help maintain her weight and keep her respiratory and cardiovascular system healthy.

In this article, I will help you better understand what we learned about our Lab’s physical and personality traits that drew her to the water and how to turn it into an effective form of exercise.

Bear the black Labrador
My black Labrador, Bear

Do Labradors Like To Swim? 

Do Labradors like water? Yes. 

They enjoy the water, which can make it easier to bathe them and also allow them to enjoy activities such as swimming

Labradors were bred to be the perfect water dogs. They are born with a double coat and short fur. The double coat provides them with the extra insulation they need if the water temperature is cooler, and the short fur helps to keep them warm but does not provide extra weight when they are swimming. 

Labrador dogs can trace their ancestry to the dogs of the North American Indians. The  descendants of these dogs were used by the settlers of Newfoundland to hunt and rescue people from cold water

After the Europeans adopted the breed, they began to use them to work with Portuguese anglers due to their familiarity and ease with the water. They could even help corral networks of fish as well as rescue overboard fishermen. 

Do Labradors Know How To Swim?

Not only are labs physiologically bred to enjoy swimming with their webbed paws, double coat, and short fur, but they have the personality traits that make swimming enjoyable for them.

They are considered sport dogs, which means they enjoy being active and getting exercise whenever they can. This can mean they have a lot of energy as well, and as long as that energy is directed towards physical activities, they are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors at home. On top of that, labs love to play and interact, and if they see the family enjoying a dip in the water, they are excited to join in with the festivities. 

In the video below, Dog Trainer Stonnie Dennis emphasizes that you don’t need to teach your Labrador to swim: it should come naturally.

Why Do Labrador Retrievers Love Water?

Labs love water because it’s an activity that can burn a lot of their energy as well as tone their muscles and gently exercise their joints. And when you combine swimming with a game of fetch, it’s a Labradors idea of heaven!

Throwing sticks or balls at the beach for your Lab to retrieve from the water will likely become one of their favorite activities. 

This can be true especially when it is hot. Like humans,  Labs get hot when working out in warm temperatures and the cool water allows them to work out longer without getting overheated. 

And one of the most compelling reasons that Labs like water is the fact that it is in their genes. They are descended from dogs who loved the water and were used in water rescue situations. This is the reason you will find that even small Lab puppies will try to jump right in when they are around water. Their genetic code draws them to it.

do labs like to swim
Combining fetch with swimming is a great activity for your Lab

Want to know where to take your dog swimming? Read this article.

Do All Labradors Love To Swim? 

You would be hard-pressed to find a lab that does not enjoy swimming. 

You may not even realize that your lab enjoys the water until they run into, or in the case of mine, they run off the end of the dock to go fetch a ball. 

That being said, if your Lab is a rescue dog and has experienced some sort of trauma involving water or swimming, they may develop an aversion to it.

If you notice this behavior, there is likely some underlying reason, and it is best not to push it. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t get them used to water to make baths less stressful, but maybe avoid swimming until they show that they are again interested in it.

Are Labradors Good Swimmers? 

Now that you know labs like to swim, you may want to know how good a swimmer they  actually are. 

Labs are not only good swimmers, but they are also considered fast swimmers.  

Their webbed toes help them to swim more rapidly. Their short fur also makes them more streamlined in the water. 

How Fast Can A Labrador Swim? 

Labradors can swim over three miles an hour. This is extremely impressive when many dogs look like they struggle to simply keep their head above water. 

But this speed can also cause a problem with a dog that is not trained. They can get out far in the water pretty quickly. This can make it dangerous, especially if they are swimming in a lake that has a lot of boating activity or large lakes where they may not have the energy to return. 

So until you have them trained to come when they are called, it is best to keep them by you when swimming. Train then to come outside of water first, like shown in the video below.


Labs can swim fast and even dive. That makes them the perfect breed for the dog sport of dock diving.

How Long Can A Lab Swim For? 

Beginning swimmers should only swim for ten-minute sessions, working up until they can tolerate a 30-minute session. 

As with humans, your dog will reach a point during swimming where they could become fatigued, making it harder for them to swim and possibly too difficult for them to return to shore. 

Even though they know how to swim without being taught,  just like humans, they have to work their stamina up for longer swims. 

30 minutes is the most that they should swim before the risk of fatigue can set in, and it is also the amount of time they will need to get an effective workout

This doesn’t mean they can’t spend an afternoon at the beach. They will simply need to take breaks after each swimming session. 

At What Age Can Lab Puppies Swim?

Your lab puppy will be ready to swim after approximately eight  weeks. By this point, they will have begun developing the physical muscle strength that they need to swim, but you should start them off in shallow water

By about three months old, their strength will be mostly developed, and they can begin venturing out in deeper water. If you want to know if puppies can swim in a pool, read our article here.

Important Safety Tips When Taking Your Labs Swimming 

It is important to remember that when labs are young, just because they have mastered the skill of swimming, it does not mean they are completely aware of all of their surroundings. 

Exiting pools safely

If you have your lab swimming in a pool, you should always make sure that they know where to get out and how to navigate the steps to get out. Otherwise, they  can become panicked, trying to climb out on a wall that they can not get up. 

Clean water

If you are taking them swimming in a lake or pond, always make sure that the water is clean. If it  is not clean enough for you to swim in, it would not be clean enough for them. 

Being more visible on a lake

Also, if they are swimming in an inland lake, it may not be a bad idea to put a life jacket on them. 

While they will not need it to stay afloat, the bright colors can alert a boater or jet skier to their presence. Otherwise, they may be too hard to see and can become injured. 

Peace of mind

You can’t always keep an eye on your dog when they are swimming, especially if your dog is in a large expanse of water like The Great Lakes or out in the ocean. Even dogs who are strong swimmers will not be able to handle rough currents or high waves. Again if it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them.

For peace of mind, we recommend a life jacket (see below) or a  4-foot long waterproof lead that you attach to yourself. You might also want to buy a waterproof dog collar to go with the lead.

Product NameFeaturesPrice
Outward Hound Granby life jacketSuitable for beginner dog swimmers. Fits any dog with five sizes available. Has handles for you to hold your pup up (good for training your pup in water) or grab him suddenly. Comes in bright colors so you can see your dog in the water.Check out the price from Amazon here
Ruffwear K9 float coat life jacketLess expensive option. Six sizes ensure you will find the best-fitting, comfortable option for your dog. Three colors available. Has one grab handle. Has a reflective edging too for extra visibility.View the latest price on Amazon here
do labradors know how to swim
Wearing a life jacket not only makes your Labrador more visible but also provides you with peace of mind about their safety in the water

Monitor their energy levels

No matter where you have them swimming, you should always monitor them for signs of fatigue  or overexertion. If they seem to be struggling, moving slower, or panting more than normal, they  may have worked out too much and be in need of assistance. 

Remember Labradors can swim for a maximum of 30 minute blocks: they need rest breaks in between.

Best Water Toys For Your Labrador

Combine fetch with swimming, and your Labrador is in doggy heaven. Here are some great toys to accompany a swim. All these toys float.

ItemBuy on Amazon.com
Best floating frisbeeAir Dash Frisbee or Ruffwear Hydro Plan Floating Disc
Best toss, tug and float toy for the poolChuckit Amphibious Bumper Dog Toy
Best floating ballChuckit Kick Fetch Toy Ball 
Best teach-your-puppy-to-swim floating toyKurgo Skipping Stones

It’s A Wrap

Swimming can be not only a great form of exercise for your lab but also an enjoyable social  activity you can do together. Whether they are puppies or older, swimming is easy on their joints 

and allows them to work out all of their muscle groups. Just be sure to watch their signals and  keep them safe to make swimming a pleasurable activity for all.  

Like Labradors? So Do We!

Labrador Retrievers make great outdoor companions. If you enjoyed reading this article, we have two other articles that may interest Labrador owners:

Author - Pamela

Pamela has been fortunate to have canine companions most of her life. her dog Pi, aka Camp Dog, is the latest in a long line of wonder dogs. She is very experienced with basic obedience training and road-tripping, biking, hiking as well as camping with doggos. She has lots of friends that share her passion for dogs, from AKC show dogs to skijoring-crazy stray mutts, and everything in between.

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