Can Dogs Hold Their Breath? [How Long]

You may worry about your young dog when they jump into a pool or run into the ocean. Do they know they need to hold their breath? Are they swallowing gallons of seawater, and you don’t even realize it? 

All dog owners want to make sure their four-legged friend is a-okay during all activities, especially when it involves water. After all, how would we know whether our dogs might be gulping down water?

can dogs hold their breath
Can dogs hold their breath?

Keep reading to learn more about dogs’ breathing underwater, in addition to more information about puppies and their love for splashing around in the water. 

Can Dogs Hold Their Breath When They Go Underwater?

Yes! Dogs are able to hold their breath underwater. An instinctual survival response tells them to hold their breath when they submerge to go after a toy or simply decide to dive below the water. This natural response works in the same way as dogs closing their eyes as they hit the water. 

Mammalian Response

When your dog’s face becomes covered with water, there is an immediate bodily response. This physical response is known as the Mammalian Diving Response, and all mammals have this response when they enter the water. 

The Mammalian Diving Response is all about limiting the animal’s oxygen intake. So when mammals submerge underwater, their heartbeat slows to conserve oxygen, and their blood vessels narrow. This response allows oxygen to be a priority for your heart, brain, and other vital organs. 

This oxygen conservation is the reason your body feels tired after holding your breath for a long time. But the mammalian response keeps your body in action even without the flow of oxygen. 

chihauhua loves water
Some Chihuahua’s LOVE water and swimming

How Long Can They Hold Their Breath?

The average time that a dog can hold its breath is between five and eight seconds. However, some factors can make this time vary. For example, dogs with short snouts, like Pugs, will have a more challenging time holding their breath. 

Dogs with longer snouts could hold their breath for up to ten seconds. However, they will only do this if it is necessary. Like if theta re diving for a toy or other animal.

dog with red ball underwater
Dachshund retrieving a red ball underwater.

How Deep Will a Dog Dive?

The depth that a dog will dive down to has a lot to do with its breed. For example, dogs like Pugs or Bassets should never be left alone in deep water because they have low oxygen levels. On the other hand, certain breeds, like Newfoundlands, have a massive lung capacity and can dive down as deep as 15 feet.

As dogs age, it’s normal for them to lose lung capacity. So the younger your dog, the longer they will be able to hold their breath when they go underwater, and the deeper they’ll be able to go. Puppies can stay underwater for a bit longer because their lungs are still malleable and forming. 

dog jumping from boat into water
A dog jumping from a boat into the water. Lifevest for boating safety!

Can You Teach a Dog to Hold Its Breath?

No, this is a natural response you cannot teach. Even in human infant swim classes, the babies will automatically hold their breath and close their eyes as water covers their faces. This response is just something hardwired into all mammal brains. 

Many dogs are natural-born swimmers that love to frolic in the water, whether it’s an ocean or a swimming pool. Many dogs have an instinctual response to swim when they enter the water. Some breeds are naturally drawn to water and love swimming more than anything. 

dog grabbing a ball underwater
A dog grabbing a ball underwater.

Can You Teach a Dog to Swim?

Yes! If your dog doesn’t seem to understand the doggy paddle right from the get-go, you can work on it with them. Humans must learn to swim, as it does not come as naturally. But dogs usually pick up on swimming techniques faster than humans, so teaching your dog shouldn’t be too challenging.

Just be prepared to get wet!

poodle puppy swims in a pool
A Poodle puppy swims in pool. Some Poodles love water from puppyhood!

Teaching Your Dog to Swim

If you want your dog to be a water-lover like you, you can put some effort into teaching them how to swim. If the mere thought of teaching your dog to swim lets you worry, rest assured that dogs pick up on swimming faster than most humans. Below are some tips and steps to help you get your dog to be comfortable in the water and eventually develop into a strong swimmer. 

1. Start with a Lifejacket

It may look silly, but putting a lifejacket on your dog for their first swim lesson will offer you peace of mind. The last thing you want is for your dog to swallow too much water or start to sink to the bottom. Doggy lifejackets are not very expensive and easy to strap onto your dog, for at least the first swim lesson. 

Outward Hound Dawson Swim Blue Dog Life Jacket, XS
  • SIZING BASED ON GIRTH: Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Whether your dog is short and stout or long and lanky, there's a dog life jacket fit for them. Available in sizes XS-XL and featuring adjustable straps, we've made it easy for you to choose a size that supports them based on their girth measurement. We recommend sizing up if the dog's girth size is on the higher end of this size.
  • NOVICE SWIMMER-FRIENDLY: Made with high-quality neoprene side panels for comfortable buoyancy in the water and thermal insulation, this dog life vest will keep your pup safe, secure, and warm while testing out new waters!
  • SWIM WITH SAFETY: The Outward Hound Dawson Dog Life Jacket is designed using bright colors and reflective trim to provide better visibility while swimming. A buoyant front float support helps keep your dog's head above water.
  • SINGLE RESCUE HANDLE DESIGN: A top grab handle makes it easy to restrain and lift your dog out of the water and provides easy access for a rescue should they get into trouble.
  • PLAY IT SAFE: No pet accessory is indestructible. Do not leave with unsupervised pets. Remove and replace if damaged.
dog on a paddleboard
Chilling on a paddleboard. Wearing a life saver vest for floatation and safety.

2. Find a Quiet Body of Water

Dogs are easily distracted by everything. Try to choose a quiet and secluded body of water when you first start your doggy swimming lessons. If you are on a public beach with seagulls, children, music, other dogs, and lots of people, it will be hard to get your dog to focus on the task at hand. 

cavapoo puppy in the swimming pool
Don’t let the look fool you, many Cavapoo dogs LOVE the water (beach, pool, or lake)

3. Start in Shallow Water

Always start your swim lessons in shallow water. Forcing your dog to enter deep water over their head is a great way to instill a fear of swimming in them. Let them splash in the shallow end and adjust to the feeling of being underwater before making them paddle in any way. 

white chihuahua in a pool
Yes, Chihuahuas can swim!

4. Gradually Move to the Deep End

As your pup gets more comfortable in the water, you can progressively lead them into deeper water. The best way to do this is to allow them to walk into the deep water on their own with your encouragement. They should instinctually paddle with their legs. 

labrador swimming happily
Even strong swimmers need a break every now and then

So, Can Dogs Hold Their Breath? 

Next time you want to bring your pup to the beach or the pool, don’t worry about them inhaling gallons of water. Years and years of evolution have ingrained the instinctual response to hold their breath when they go below the water’s surface. So let your little pup splash around and enjoy the water!