Where can I take my dog to swim?

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim?

So, where can I take my dog to swim?

I clearly remember asking myself that question during the hot summer months in Loudon County, Virginia.

That was back in 2012, when I was looking for ways to exercise my then dogs Missy & Buzz. They were two Boxer mixes from the same litter who shared their love for water.

Well, let me give you this spoiler alert: over the years, the pups went swimming many, many times in different bodies of water.

That said, I’ll share the following in this blog post:

  • Benefits of swimming for dogs
  • 3 places to take your dog swimming
  • What dog breeds love water
  • Small dogs that like to swim
  • How long should dogs swim for a good workout?
  • Water safety tips for dogs
  • Bonus: Water toys for dogs that float

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim?

Where can I take my dog to swim?

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

Benefits of Swimming for Dogs

Besides the obvious benefit of cooling our K9 friends off, water has several other benefits:

(1) It’s gentle on the joints.

That’s why it can be enjoyed by dogs of all age groups. It’s also a great way to lose weight for severely obese canines.

After all, it doesn’t apply the unusual pressure of weight on their joints while exercising on dry land.

(2) It’s also great for weight management!

The summer heat makes it challenging to provide proper exercise for Fido, but going for a swim is the perfect solution for this seasonal workout challenge.

(3) It’s great for building stamina.

Stamina is required by all those canines athletes who compete in agility and other doggie sports.

(4) Water is therapeutic

That makes it perfect for rehabilitation after accidents that cause spinal injuries or other physical limitations.

For example:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • OCD (osteochondritis dissecans = inflammation of cartilage or a bone in a joint)
  • Degenerative myelopathy (disease of the nervous system causing nerve damage)
  • Luxating patella (displacement of the kneecap)

Side-note: In order for water to reach its full healing potential, it needs to be warm, close to the dogs’  body temperature.

Here’s a word of advice regarding doggie cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Consult with your vet prior to taking your pup swimming, as she may be too weak for this activity.

Check out my blog post on hydrotherapy here – it features one of my previous doggie clients, Samoyed Bear.

For more information about hydrotherapy for dogs, please refer to the Association of Canine Water Therapy!3 Places to Take Your Dog Swimming

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: Lakes

Pro: Lakes are usually easily accessible and free to use.

Con: Potential dangers as far as location-specific wildlife and vegetation are concerned.

There’s dangerous snakes in many lakes throughout the US, as well as toxic blue-green algae, especially in stagnant bodies of water. It’s not actually algae but bacteria that looks like algae.

As a rule of thumb, I didn’t let the pups swim in stagnant waters and those that were super muggy or covered in what appears to be algae.

If you suspect that your dog has been in contact with water contaminated with blue green algae, rinse them off with clean water and immediately take them to the closest vet.

This CAN end deadly, so be careful!

Boxer mixes Missy & Buzz cooling off in a stream in Northern Virginia
Taking Wally swimming on a kayaking tour

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: (Dog Specific) Pools

Pro: Super quick access without having to drive anywhere!

Con: Your pup gets into contact with the chemicals your pool is treated with.

If you have a private pool in your backyard that your dogs can use, that’s awesome! Just make sure that it’s cleaned regularly to avoid contamination with blue green algae.

If you don’t have your own pool, do a Google search for “dog swimming pools near me”.

I took the pups to specific doggie pools both in Virginia and North Carolina.

They do offer the option of hosing down your pups with fresh water after their swim time, which is great to wash off the pool chemicals.

The only downside of those types of dog swimming pools is that they don’t allow owners to get into the water with their pups.

But I get where they’re coming from, it’s a liability thing.

Missy Getting Her Swim On At The Riverbark Pet Resort

At the end of summer season, the pups also got to enjoy swimming in the pool at our apartment complex!

Obviously, that was only once a year, but hey, it was free and a great opportunity for some doggie socializing!

Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz in the pool
Boxer mixes Missy & Buzz Swimming in the pool With doggie friends

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: The Ocean

Pro: Free water fun without any blue green algae

Con: Subject to specific times when dogs are allowed during summer/tourist season, salt water needs to be rinsed off afterwards.

Wally exploring the Adriatic Sea safely on a 30' check cord
Wally swimming off the island of Cres on a 5' bungee leash
Boxer mix Missy Enjoying A Walk At The Beach in NC
Missy oceanside in NC with her Ruffwear Harness that holds her collapsible water bowl.

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: What Dog Breeds Love Water?

There are so many dog breeds that are water dogs by nature, such as these water dogs:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Curly Coated Retriever
  • Flat Coated Retriever
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • English Setter
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Portuguese Waterdog
  • Spanish Waterdog
  • Newfoundland Dog
  • Standard Poodle
  • Barbet
  • German Shepherd
  • Schipperke
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Otterhound

Missy & Buzz didn’t fall into any of those breed categories as they were Boxer mixes, and Boxers aren’t exactly known for their love of water.

Goes to show that it doesn’t JUST depend on your dog’s genes but also on their respective preferences!

Small Dogs That Like to Swim

  • Beagle
  • Jack Russell
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • American Water Spaniel
  • Poodle
  • Mini Toy Poodle

How Long Should Dogs Swim for a Good Workout?

It depends on your dog’s level of activity, stamina and breed!

If you have a water crazy pup with tons of energy who’s a great swimmer, they can easily swim for an hour or two, with a few breaks.

On the contrary, if your pup’s not the best swimmer, you should let them swim less long, say 10-20 minutes at a time.

That said, most indoor doggie pools offer 30 minute swim sessions, so that’s a good average time to take your dog swimming, especially if they’re not used to it.

Unlike Missy & Buzz, my pup Wally is not a huge fan of the water, so his swim sessions usually only last a few minutes.

Essentially just long enough to cool off in the summer time.

There’s no point in taking him to an indoor doggie pool at all – he wouldn’t enjoy himself and it would be a waste of money, too.

So all that said, know your dog and use common sense when taking them swimming!

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: Water Safety Tips for Dogs

Now that I’ve offered several suggestions of places where you can take your dog to swim, here’s a few water safety tips for your pup(s):

1. Always supervise your dog’s swimming adventures

Don’t leave your pups alone while they’re in the water. You never know what could happen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You can still let them roam, swim and explore plenty on a long leash.

2. Have your dog wear their IDs and make sure the collar fits snug, yet comfortably

This simple safety feature may reunite you faster with your beloved dog should they go missing in swimming action ~ for whatever reason. 

They could, for example, be taken out into the ocean by a strong current.

This happens on a regular basis, and while it is of course concerning for their owner, lifeguards and beach patrols strongly urge owners not to go swimming after their dog. 

In most cases, the dogs are washed up ashore a few miles away from where they originated, while the majority of concerned owners who attempt to pursue their dogs end up drowning in the currents!

A different scenario could be caused by an unlocked gate ~ granted, a dog who enjoys swimming is not likely to run away from it. 

However, dogs are curious by nature and might be tempted by an irresistible smell on the other side of the pool gate, so always check the parameters of the swimming grounds before the splashing begins.

3. Always know what to do in case of an emergency

That said, have a doggie first aid kit (<– read my post about it here!) readily available.

One of my favorite first aid books for dogs is Amy Shojai’s First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats.

The first aid companion for dogs and cats by Amy Shojai

4. What to do when your dog drowns

If your dog drown, pull him out of the water and get him to dry ground.

There, hold or place him in an upside down position (depending on size) to get the water out of his body.

In extra-large breeds like Great Danes or Mastiffs where the upside down position is unrealistic to achieve (especially if by oneself), the dog’s head needs to be placed lower than the rest of the body. 

CPR may need to be performed if the dog’s heart does not continue beating after water came out of his system. 

This technique is described in Amy Shojai’s “The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats”.

She also gives the following tip for unconscious dogs who remain non-responsive to CPR:

“[…] Stick a needle or safety pin into the slit in the upper lip beneath your pet’s nose. Insert it down to the bone, then wiggle it back and forth.” (Amy Shojai, “The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats”, page 155).

A dog rescued from drowning needs to be kept warm on your way to the vet. You can achieve this by wrapping him in some blankets.

5. Make sure your dog takes breaks

Some dogs may ingest too much water, so regular swimming breaks are important. 

Water intoxication happens when too much H2O has been swallowed, and results in vomiting, lethargy, and pale gums.

Always offer fresh water during swimming breaks!

6. Consider a doggie life vest

If your dog goes swimming for the very first time in her life, make sure to have her wear a dog life vest.

Most doggie indoor pools offer them for free.

This will keep her safe until she gets used to the new activity.

The dog life vest should be neon for easy visibility with a reflective trim.

It should also feature a handle on top. That makes it easier to pull your pup out of the water if necessary. 

There are several options you can get your pup, for example:

Additionally, you may have to keep your dog on a leash ~ so always make sure to familiarize yourself with the local beach rules.

Missy with the Outward Hound dog life jacket

7. Are chemicals involved?

Even if you take your dog swimming at a specific doggie pool at a Dog Retreat, be sure to know how the pool is maintained, including the chemicals used for sanitation purposes. 

The chemicals at doggie pools are typically less harsh than the ones in human pools, but there’s still chemicals.

Also, if you have your own pool, make sure to use the proper filter that’s capable of handling your dog’s fur.

8. Give your pup a bath

Last but not least, give your pup a bath or at least rinse them off after their swim time.

That gets rid of sand (fleas), salt water, chemicals, mud and green blue algae, as well as chemicals!

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: Water Toys for Dogs That Float

Over the years, I’ve used quite a few different water toys, and while there’s a TON of options, the following are my favorite floating water toys for dogs:

Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim: Bottom Line

Swimming is refreshing, gentle on the joints and great exercise!

That said, make sure to always supervise your pup’s swimming adventures and take regular breaks.

Some dogs are better swimmer than others, for example Labradors vs Bulldogs.

Know what to do in emergencies, invest in a long leash and/or a doggie life vest as well as a few floating water toys for dogs, and you’re ready for water fun with your pups!

Does your pooch enjoy paddling in the water?

What are some of your greatest Dog Spa, Dog Beach, and Dog Lake finds?

As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!

Related Reading

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.







22 responses to “Where Can I Take My Dog to Swim?”

  1. Emma Avatar

    I so miss swimming every day and racing around on the beach when we lived in Germany, but I don’t miss all the baths. At least here in MN we don’t have poisonous snakes to worry about. Yuck, no creepy stuff, please. One reason we couldn’t live in a warm climate. Happy dog paddling!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      I miss the German coastline as well…part of my family lives there, and we went there all the time when we were kids. Sigh.
      We could definitely do without the post-swimming baths 😉

      1. Emma Avatar

        Where are they at in Germany? I was in St. Peter-Ording before moving back to the US. Mom lived down on Lake Constance and in Siegen too.

        1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

          They are in Rendsburg, so not too far away from Eckernförde! I was born in Hemer, so about 100 k from Siegen 🙂 It’s a small world, isn’t it!

          1. Emma Avatar

            Amazing! Do you speak German too then?

          2. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

            Na klaro 🙂 I’m actually not a native english speaker; German is my first language. My entire family lives in Germany ~ the only reason I’m here in the States is my (American) hubby Ian. We met when he was stationed in Heidelberg… 😉

  • Tenacious Little Terrier Avatar
    Tenacious Little Terrier

    Mr. N will wade but that’s about it. He swims very reluctantly.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Wading is still a great way to cool off 🙂

  • Kate Obrien Avatar
    Kate Obrien

    Swimming is such a great exercise, especially for our seniors. Unfortunately neither Jack or Maggie are big swimmers, but we hope to get them to Big Bear again this year for some swimming.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Our pups are still young, but their affinity for water & swimming should come in handy for their joints once they become senior K9 citizens 🙂
      Big Bear sounds phenomenal!! What a scenic location!

  • 2 brown dawgs blog Avatar

    Our dogs swim all of the time although they have not been in the water yet this Spring so our water training is a bit behind. Chessies are quite good swimmers having been bred to swim in the ocean to retrieve ducks. I am so glad we do not have to worry about poisonous snakes in the water here!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      That’s so awesome that your pups have swimming genes 😉 The potential water snakes in our neighborhood pond are the main reason why the pups will NOT go swimming in there. Which is a real bummer, as we pass it on our morning walks all the time ~ so close, yet so far…sigh.

  • MyDogLikes Avatar

    Looks like your pups love water just as much as we do at MyDogLikes! Such great tips to remind people of!

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you 🙂 Yes! If we lived closer we could arrange a puppy swim playdate at CoolBlue Conditioning you mentioned in your post! That place sounds fabulous!

  • Beth Avatar

    Great advice! Barley gets upset when the waves in the lake splash her toes, so I don’t think I’ll be convincing her to dive in any time soon–but I will absolutely keep these things in mind if I ever end up with a water-loving dog.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Thank you, Beth! Barley sounds like Buzz used to be a few years ago…he did not want anything to do with water ~ he was the complete opposite of his water crazy sister! Then we tried throwing one of his favorite frisbees into the water, and in he went, no questions asked…I guess he just needed the right kind of motivation 🙂

  • M. K. Clinton Avatar

    We don’t live where Bentley and Pierre have access to swimming. This summer they might get a small pool for the backyard.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Puppy pools are awesome ~ I’m so glad we got our hands on 2 hard plastic kiddie pools early this year, as they were all sold out when we tried desperately to get some last year (I believe it was June or July), and we ended up having to settle on an inflatable one…needless to say, it didn’t last very long 😉

  • Kimberly Morris Gauthier Avatar

    I would love to take our dogs swimming. We live about 20 minutes from the beach and plan to take the pack there this summer. We have to go early morning so that they can run and play without distraction or bothering anyone. One area of the beach is leash free, but we still prefer to be the only dogs on the beach.

    Only 1 of our dogs will swim, but they will all have a great time.

    Thanks for the tips.

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      How awesome that you live so close to the beach! Just running along it sounds fabulous to us.
      We would love that ~ we’re about 3 hours away from the NC coast, and one of our goals this year is to take our pups oceanside. They’ve been in rivers, streams, lakes, and pools, but haven’t enjoyed the ocean yet.

  • Elaine Avatar

    I was so surprised about the needle, safety pin procedure! I’m definitely going to get Amy Shojai’s book, it received lots of good reviews on Amazon too. I love taking Haley places where she can swim and I really wish there were more dog friendly pools that she could visit on a regular basis. Great article, Barbara! 🙂

    1. K9sOverCoffee Avatar

      Yes, that tip was definitely a new one for me as well! Good for you for getting her book, it is my go-to reference book for all types of dog (& cat) emergencies.
      Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

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