How FAST Can a Dog Swim? [Records]

It’s no secret that dogs are great swimmers. Well, most dogs are good swimmers. 

When you look at a dog in water, you might wonder how fast it can go. Surely some dogs are faster than others, and there must be a few world records or top speeds on record. 

how fast can a dog swim
How fast can a dog swim? [Records]

We’re going to look at these questions today and answer the question “how fast can a dog swim?” once and for all. Let’s dig in. 

What Is The Average Speed for a Dog to Swim?

Across most breeds, you can expect the dog to move at around one or two miles per hour in the water. That’s roughly the same as the speed at which a human swims. 

People swim around one or two miles per hour on average. Olympic swimmers might reach speeds of five miles per hour or more. 

dog swimming in pool
A Husky swimming in a pool

The thing with dogs, though, is that all breeds are built a little differently. Those differences give them a lot of variety in swimming speed. Some dogs were bred as swimmers and had webbed feet to help them glide through the water. 

Others aren’t as gifted. A Teacup Yorkie, for example, might paddle at incredible speeds only to move at less than one mile per hour. 

What to Expect at Peak Performance?

Unfortunately, you won’t find a dog racing at the speed of Michael Phelps. Most dogs hover around the one or two miles per hour mark. 

It might be possible to breed dogs that would eventually become fast swimmers. We bred for webbed feet, size, demeanor, strength, and other abilities, so it makes sense to think that a superior swimmer could come around. 

There’s not a lot of need to breed for swim speed, though. Further, dogs aren’t bred for specific purposes as often anymore. Most purpose breeding happens for hunting, police, military, or shepherding purposes. 

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

Why Can’t Dogs Swim Very Fast?

Most dogs can’t move too quickly because of their physical limitations. The position of their legs to their bodies makes it difficult for them to glide through the water. 

Humans have a wide range of motion that lets us propel easier. Even dogs bred to swim can’t swim quickly.  

Instead, dogs with webbed feet like Newfoundlands were bred for strength and comfort in the water. Newfoundlands needed to pull fishnets out of the sea. Nets of that nature are very heavy, especially with fish thrashing inside them.  

The Newfoundland, then, needed to be a strong breed rather than quick. 

That strength comes in handy in rescue situations as well. A Newfoundland will readily hop into the water and provide a platform for a human to rest on while they swim to safety. 

Why Are Most Water Dogs Bred to Swim?

Most of the swimmers in the canine family were bred to retrieve game like waterfowl or fish. Most of the time, the game is dead before the hunter needs to retrieve it from the water.  

When a dog catches waterfowl or fish, it needs to be confident entering the water and savvy enough to find the game once they hop in. Dogs like Labradors, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Boykin Spaniels easily maneuver through the water. They also love to get in whenever they get the chance. 

Those are the qualities that hunters and fishermen look for in a companion dog. You just need a pup that’s ready to do whatever it takes to get the game back to you. Most of the chasing and speed-related activities happen on the ground rather than in water. 

hunting dog
Hunting dog catches a waterfowl.

Are There Any Dogs That Can’t Swim?

It’s important to note that some dogs shouldn’t spend time in or around the water. Even though all dogs came from wolves (natural swimmers), the transition didn’t always make these animals good swimmers.

A lot of the breeding done has made dogs less capable in different environments. Take pugs, for example. 

Pugs are built to be cuddly and cute despite all of the consequent health issues. Their snouts are flat on their heads and their heads sit low to their bodies. The result?

It’s very difficult for a pug to keep its head above water while swimming. Its short legs also pose a challenge in terms of speed. Pugs can swim, but they shouldn’t ever be left alone to swim in lakes or pools without supervision. 

The same is true for Bulldogs even though they’re a little better at swimming. Dogs like Dachshunds are poor swimmers as well, even though they don’t look like it. 

The Dachsund has particularly short legs to its body. Another honorable mention for “worst swimmer” is the cute and floppy Basset Hound. 

Basset hounds are heavy as a result of dense bones and excess coating. They also have very short legs and too much skin to deal with. The result is that Basset Hounds can’t maneuver through the water for very long without struggling. 

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

Need More Doggy Insights?

So, how fast can a dog swim? Typically, around one or two miles per hour. If they’re in hot pursuit of the game, you might see a slight jump in speed for a short time. 

There’s a lot more to learn about the quirky traits and personalities of dogs, though. We’re here to help! Explore our site for more insights into the world of dogs, different breeds, and much more.