Can Boston Terriers Swim? [Guide]

When summertime rolls around, it’s natural to want to take your Boston Terrier to the lake, beach, or pool with you. So, it might get you wondering—can Boston Terriers swim?

Most Boston Terriers enjoy the water and are excellent swimmers. However, various factors come into play with their swimming abilities, including their health and any history of trauma they may have.

can boston terriers swim
Can Boston Terriers swim? Do they LIKE water?

I’ll help you understand what your Boston Terrier can—and can’t—do when it comes to swimming, as well as how to prepare them for a safe swimming experience.

How Far Can Boston Terriers Swim?

Boston Terriers can swim about two laps in a standard-sized swimming pool without stopping to rest on land.

Although Boston Terriers are typically good swimmers, they’re small dogs. Therefore, you can’t compare how far their tiny legs can take them compared to larger dogs.

a small brindle and white boston terrier looks up at the camera
A small brindle and white Boston Terrier looks up at the camera.

Characteristics That Prevent Boston Terriers From Swimming Far

Although Boston Terriers who don’t have a negative history around water will typically enjoy swimming, they have characteristics limiting the amount of time they can spend there. Below are some of the most common features that prevent Boston Terriers from swimming farther.

No Webbed Feet

Did you know that some dog breeds, such as Labradors and Poodles, have elastic webbing between their toes? Unfortunately for Boston Terriers, they only have between ½ – ¾-inch of this webbing, and it’s not as flexible. As a result, they can’t glide through the water as well as certain other dog breeds.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

Boston Terriers fall under the brachycephalic dog breed, meaning that they have short snouts and scrunched faces. These features result from poor breeding practices, and it causes tissue buildup in the nose and throat that can make it more challenging for Boston Terriers to breathe. As a result, they’re not able to swim for as long.

Other Health Conditions

The Boston Terrier breed also commonly suffers from other health conditions that can impact its swimming ability. For example, patellar luxation is a condition that causes the knee cap to come out of its groove. Hemivertebrae is another common issue, which is the result of defective vertebrae in the tail bones, causing nerve dysfunction and wobbliness.

Adventurous Spirit

An adventurous spirit can help and hinder the Boston Terrier’s ability to swim. While it can give them the confidence to jump in the water, it can also get them in trouble if they’re determined to fetch a toy or chase a duck that’s too far out of reach for them to arrive by paddling.

The Boston Terrier’s high energy exercise requirements and tendency to be a little… hyper – can result in your Boston overdoing it and needing extra rest.

How to Teach a Boston Terrier to Swim?

Now that you know the answer to “Can Boston Terriers swim?” is “yes,” you might be wondering how to teach them to swim. 

The good news is that your Boston Terrier should naturally pick up on this sport. However, it’s crucial to give them a positive experience around water by following the steps below.

Boston Terrier trip to the beach
Boston Terrier first trip to the beach.

Step 1: Don’t Let Them Swim Too Young

The safe age for letting a Boston Terrier swim is 4-6 months old. If you introduce your puppy to water before this age, their muscles and bones won’t have enough development to handle paddling through the water.

Step 2: Encourage Them to Play in Puddles

Puddles are an excellent way to get your Boston Terrier adapted to water. If you understandably don’t love the thought of your puppy coming into your house a muddy mess after playing, create a makeshift puddle for them at home instead.

Step 3: Walk Them Along the Edge of Water

Walking your Boston Terrier on a leash close to a pond or lake’s shore is another excellent way to familiarize them with water. While they might be afraid at first, use positive reinforcement techniques until they’re comfortable wandering in a few inches of the water.

Step 4: Introduce Them to a Kiddie Pool

Kid-sized plastic pools are an excellent way for your Boston Terrier to learn to wade or swim in the water. When you fill the pool, keep the following items in mind:

  • Ensure the temperature is comfortable for swimming
  • Gradually add water as your dog becomes comfortable
  • Always monitor them around the pool

The downside to kiddie pools is that, unlike lakes and ponds, your Boston Terrier may not be able to climb out of the pool if they can’t touch the bottom. For this reason, it’s extra important never to leave your dog alone when they’re swimming.

Step 5: Support Them While They Learn to Paddle

Paddling should come naturally to your Boston Terrier, but it doesn’t mean they won’t sink a little at first. So, I recommend gently supporting your dog’s belly when they’re in deep enough water to swim. Once they seem to have the hang of paddling, slowly release your hold until they stay afloat.

Step 6: Take Them to Larger Bodies of Water

Now that your Boston Terrier is comfortable swimming in small bodies of water, it’s time to let them paddle in larger bodies of water. Remember, Boston Terriers can’t swim indefinitely, so make sure you keep an eye on them so that they don’t paddle out too far.

Tips for Keeping Your Boston Terrier Safe While Swimming

Introducing your Boston Terrier to swimming can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. So, to help you be the best dog parent possible, below are some tips.

Boston Terrier on the lake
A Boston Terrier standing near the lake.

Acknowledge Your Dog’s Comfort Level

Forcing your Boston Terrier to swim when they don’t want to or are too afraid can turn into a deadly situation. Therefore, you should never force your Boston Terrier to swim. Furthermore, if you rescued your Boston Terrier, water could be a trigger for them due to an abusive past.

So, observe your dog’s body language—if they’re scared, don’t force it.

Give Them a Safe Swimming Space

A body of water may look safe on the surface, but many items can turn a nice day at the pond into a nightmare. Alligators, snapping turtles, and thick seaweed can hinder your dog’s paddling, leading to devastating consequences. Therefore, be sure only to let your dog swim in safe bodies of water.

Remain With Your Dog at All Times

You should treat your Boston Terrier as you would a child around water. Therefore, always keep a watchful eye on them when they’re swimming. That way, you can also stop them from venturing out too far from the shore. 

Put a Lifejacket on Them

If you’ll be boating with your Boston Terrier, it’s crucial to put a well-fitted lifejacket on them. There are horror stories of dogs accidentally falling into the water without their owners realizing, so a life jacket literally makes the difference between life and death.

Be Mindful of Your Swimming Habits

If you plan on swimming with your Boston Terrier, be aware that you can likely swim longer than they can. However, because of how dedicated this breed is, your dog might push himself to stay in the water longer to be with you. Therefore, either go back to shore or hold your Boston Terrier so they can catch their breath before swimming again.

Are You Ready to Take Your Boston Terrier Swimming?

So, can Boston Terriers swim? Yes, Boston Terriers are excellent swimmers, and most will be happy to jump in the water on a hot day.

However, it’s important to gradually introduce your dog to swimming if they’ve never done it before. Furthermore, only let your Boston Terrier swim if they want to and ensure they stay close to shore, given that they can only swim the length of a swimming pool and back.