How Long Should a Dog Swim For a Good Workout?

Now some dogs love water and some don’t.

My little Max loved paddling in the water. But my other dogs,  Lucy and Latte, could not stand getting their paws wet!

Swimming kept Max nice and cool in hot weather. But there was another big benefit… swimming was a great form of exercise. In his old age, Max never suffered from arthritis or joint issues so I am a great supporter of swimming improving a dog’s mobility.

But I always wondered, how long should Max swim for a good workout?Allow your dog to swim for 15 to 20 minutes per session. Swimming for this duration is equivalent to a fast run outdoors.

Before you go for a swim with your dog, you need to know everything there is to know about dogs and swimming as well as get the answers to the most commonly asked questions. So that’s our focus for this article.

5 Health Benefits of Swimming for a Dog

Here are five health benefits of swimming for a dog.

1. Improves overall health

Did you know that just one minute of swimming equals to four minutes of running outdoors?

Like running, swimming offers several health benefits:

  • Decreased inflammation
  • Strengthened the heart and lungs
  • Improvements in circulation
  • Increased metabolism
  • Keeps your dog’s coat and skin healthy
  • Improves strength and overall tone of your dog’s muscles because your dog uses every major muscle in their body to move against the water resistance.

2. Decreases the pressure placed on joints and tendons

Your dog can swim freely in the water without placing stress on their joints and tendons.

When your dog is swimming in the water, the water takes most of your pet’s weight. In return, the water supports their body and alleviates their skeletal system from the pressure of jarring impacts that can happen when they exercise on the surface.

Additionally, when dogs swim, they move in a different way than they do on land, resulting in an improved range of motion. If the vet has diagnosed your dog with a joint disorder, swimming will be a beneficial workout for him.

3. Relieves stress

Swimming can improve your pet’s physical health and mental well-being.

Dogs require mental stimulation to help them stay sharp. Swimming is great for dogs who cannot workout with a leash, as it allows them to release all the buildup energy without feeling restricted. It also helps them sleep better.

4. Alleviates pain

Dogs experiencing pain should swim in warm water. Warm water speeds up the recovery process by improving circulation, strengthening joints, promoting blood flow, warming up muscles quicker, and decreasing the risk of injury.

For dog owners who do not reside in a warm climate or have a heated swimming pool in their home, you can visit rehabilitation facilities with heated swimming pools.

5. Aids weight loss

For overweight dogs, exercising on hard surfaces like footpaths is difficult, as it tends to overwork their stressed muscles and joints.

Swimming for overweight dogs is perfect, as the water supports most of their weight. It helps them burn calories and improve their metabolic rate. It also reduces their risk of injury. Combine swimming with a balanced diet to help your dog lose weight and then maintain it.

What Dog Breeds Are Best Suited to Swimming?

Born to swim

The following five dogs love to swim because they are built for swimming. If you’d like to know if German Shepherds can swim, check out my article here.

1. Labrador Retriever

Originally bred for retrieving game in the lake, the Labrador Retriever is an excellent swimmer. They just love the water so much so that convincing them to get out will not be an easy task.

Lab Retrievers can even retrieve in frozen conditions on ice!.

Is a Labrador an inside or outdoor dog generally? Find out by reading this article.

2. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever or Chessie, a large gundog, is another breed that was bred for retrieving game in the water. They have a wavy coat and a stronger temperament, making them excellent swimming dogs.

3. Newfoundland

Newfoundland, a breed from Canada, is a water rescue dog. They are huge and strong, thus making them an ideal choice as a drafting dog.

4. Portuguese Water Dog

Portuguese Water Dog is exactly what you think it is — a water dog from Portugal. In Portugal, anglers used the dog to herd fish into their nets and retrieve lost and broken tackle.

5. Lagotto Romagnolo

An Italian breed, Lagotto Romagnolo, also called the Lake Dog of Romagnolo, its homeland, is a gun dog for hunting ducks.

6. Poodle

So I owned 3 poodle cross dogs. 2 out of 3 were not fond of water but Max loved the water. Poodles make good swimmers as they were bred as water retrieving dogs. Here’s a photo of Max in action.

My little Max in the swimming pool
My little Max in the swimming pool. Not his best photo!

Reconsider swimming with these breeds

The following five dog breeds typically don’t like to swim either because of some specific physical traits or a general lack of enthusiasm. However, there are exceptions to every rule!


Chihuahuas, small in stature with a huge bark, hate water. They prefer being alone with their owner on dry land than in the water.

Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier may show attitude if you take it near water. Romi the Yorkie in the video below is very tentative with the water, preferring to use their owner as a surfboard!


Pugs do not love the outdoors or taking a dip in the water. The mere thought of swimming in the water is terrifying for them. The reason they see the outdoors as their enemy is due to their face being flatter and their noses being more pushed than other dogs. This condition, called brachycephalic (airway obstructive syndrome), can lead to some breathing problems. This physical trait is not ideal for swimming.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu may not like the water because once their fur gets wet, it can take days for them to get completely dry, as they have a lot of fur.


Pekingese are adorable little dogs that loathe water. Do not take them for a swim because this breed is too dignified and sophisticated for water.

Advantages of Swimming for a Dog

Here are four advantages of swimming for a dog.

Burns off excess energy

Most dogs have a lot of energy. All this built up energy can make them restless. Give them an opportunity to burn off excess energy by taking them swimming. When they return, they will fall sound asleep and so will you.

Just be careful not to over-exercise your dog when swimming. That’s why you need to ask the question “How long can a dog swim for a good workout?” And that time period varies between 10 to 30 minutes depending on your dog’s level of fitness and familiarity with swimming.

Decreases boredom

If you do not properly entertain dogs, they will get bored, and you do not want a bored dog, as they will act out of boredom. By taking them swimming, it will stimulate their brain the minute they enter the water.

Helps older dogs live longer and healthier

For older dogs, getting the proper amounts of exercise is difficult because they have weak joints. Swimming, being a low-impact exercise, is perfect for them, as it places less stress on their joints. It also reduces any pain your dog may be suffering from by improving their blood circulation and strengthening their weak muscles.

Helps dogs stay cool in the summer

Dogs only sweat in areas where there is no fur, thus making it extremely difficult for them to stay cool on a sunny day. By taking your dog for a swim, you are not only helping them exercise but also cooling them off.

I understand you may be tempted to leave your dog in the water for as long as possible during very hot weather. However, please stick to my guidelines on how long should a dog swim for a good workout. This is roughly 10 to 30 minutes of exertion.

Disadvantages of Swimming for a Dog

Here are some disadvantages of swimming for a dog.

Chlorine in the swimming pool

A few hours in a human swimming pool with chlorine will not cause lasting damage to your dog, but it will irritate their nose and eyes.

After their swim, wash your dog thoroughly to prevent the chemical from drying out their skin and fur, and then dry him off well. You can also put leave-in conditioner to prevent the chemical from stripping their fur of its natural oils.

Drinking too much water

Even though it may be difficult to prevent your dog from drinking too much water while swimming, you can take preventive measures in the event they fall sick.

The water in the swimming pool contains chemicals required for sanitizing and drinking too much of it can give your dog an upset stomach.

If your dog falls ill, you should reduce the chemical level in the swimming pool by installing a mineral purifier.

Getting an ear infection

Swimming in the water puts your dog at risk of contracting an ear infection. Even if you clean and maintain your swimming pool, it can still have germs and bacteria. With dogs having a sensitive ear canal, it can result in an ear infection.

You can minimize the risk of an ear infection by cleaning and drying your dog’s ears after swimming or cleaning out their ears using deodorizing ear wipes.

How Long Should a Dog Swim For a Good Workout?

Drum roll…how long should a dog swim for a good workout if they are a beginner? They can swim only for 10 minutes with each visit to the water increasing their stamina.

How long should a dog swim for a good workout if they are a confident swimmer? They can swim for 30 minutes, which is the industry standard.

How Often Can My Dog Go Swimming?

You can take your dog swimming once each week to start with (if they are not used to it).

Once their stamina builds up, you can take your dog swimming three to four times each week.

Once your dog becomes a pro swimmer, you can take your pet swimming every day.

However, you should never force your dog to swim.

Swim Safely

swim safety tips for dogs
Swim safety tips for dogs

For other tips, read this article from petMD.

Related Questions

How long can a dog tread water?

It depends on your dog and their stamina. Some dogs can swim for more than a mile while some for even more than that. Your dog’s breed also comes into play. If they are natural-born swimmers, they may swim further distances for longer.

What is the ideal water temperature for dog swimming?

The ideal water temperature for taking your dog for a swim should be about 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the season.

My dog is sore after swimming, what should I do?

If your dog has become sore or stiff after swimming, this will usually go away after one or two days. This is especially true for dogs that rarely use their muscles. Just like if you go to the gym and use weights and you haven’t done this for a long time, you will develop Delayed Muscle Onset Soreness (DOMS). Dogs are the same (read this article here). They may hobble around a bit, not be as mobile as usual and sleep alot of more.

If they continue to experience soreness and stiffness, you should contact your vet. Usually, after swimming the third or fourth time, their body becomes used to it and these aches disappear. When these aches disappear, the dog becomes fit.

What to do when your dog is tired after swimming?

After the first few times your dogs goes for a swim, their recovery period should shorten with each swim session.

After each swim, you can assist your dog’s recovery by:

  • Providing adequate fresh water to drink after swimming. Don’t let your dog drink the water from the swimming pool, lake or river.
  • Refueling your dog with a healthy and nutritious meal at home
  • Accepting that your dog may need extra rest and sleep, especially if swimming is a new activity in their exercise regime.

Can a dog over-swim?

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for a dog. Just like with any exercise, too much of a good thing may be bad for your dog. That’s why a good question to ask is “How long should a dog swim for a good workout?” Check with your vet.

Don’t overwork your dog during their swim sessions, as that can cause lethargy and fatigue. Prolonged soreness and stiffness along with behavioral changes is a sign that you are overworking your pet.

For instance, if they look forward to swimming each day, but suddenly show no interest in it, you know that they are tired. On the days that they do not feel like swimming, do not force them to get into the swimming pool or any body of water.

Where can you take your dog for a swim?

We’ve written a great article that details places like public pools, rivers, lakes and so on.

Which swimming pool would you recommend for my dog?

If you want to give your dog their own swimming pool in your backyard, I would recommend one of four pools you can read about here. We did alot of research on pools to find the best one.


Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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