Splash Those Paws! Can Australian Shepherds Swim? Do They Like Water?

🦴 Updated on July 5th, 2023


When I first got my first Australian Shepherd, Luke, it was all fun and games. It still is, however, after a few days a worry started to brew in my mind. 

My place has a pool on the patio, a big one, and I wasn’t going to be able to take care of Luke 24/7. The very thought of Luke drowning in my absence had me without sleep.

Although most dogs can easily or even instinctively make their way through deep and not-so-deep waters, Luke was only a puppy when he came into my life and I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Can Australian Shepherds swim? It can vary from one animal to another, but most Australian Shepherds will take to the water quickly and figure out how to swim on their own.

Do Australian Shepherds Like Water?

Australian Shepherds are the result of mixing Collies, Basque Shepherds, and other breeds. This medium-sized dog was a popular option for herding. Their strength, endurance, and agility make these dogs ideal for working on ranches.

Do Aussies like water? While water isn’t part of their natural environment, new experiences are crucial for keeping these intelligent and active dogs stimulated.

Whether an Australian Shepherd enjoys the water can vary from one dog to another. Typically, most dogs who discover open bodies of water at a young age will genuinely enjoy swimming and splashing around.

If you introduce an older Aussie to the water, they may have a bit of anxiety at first that you’ll need to work on.

Are Australian Shepherds Natural Swimmers?

Breeds like Portuguese Water Dogs, Labrador Retrievers, or Irish Water Spaniels are natural swimmers since their ability to swim is one of the traits breeders look for in these dogs.

Do Australian Shepherds swim? Aussies are working dogs and breeders typically select individuals for their ability to herd cattle. These dogs aren’t natural swimmers, but their athletic abilities and drive to experience new things mean they can learn to swim easily.

Plus, their intelligence means they will usually figure out how to swim by themselves and enjoy the challenge.

Do Australian Shepherds Have Webbed Feet?

As puppies, most breeds have webbed feet. These connective tissues between the phalanges can be an advantage for digging, swimming, and walking in mud.

Most dogs will lose their webbed feet as they grow up. A few breeds retain this feature, including Newfoundlands, Poodles, some Pointers, and others. 

Webbed feet that don’t disappear after a few weeks are typically a birth defect, but breeders have been able to isolate this trait and create breeds with webbed paws that make them strong swimmers.

Australian Shepherds don’t have webbed feet. However, their paws give them some advantages in the water.

Aussies have strong paws with an oval shape. Their paw pads are thick, and they have a pronounced toe arch. These features allow Aussies to trot and run over a wide range of terrain with ease. It also helps them change direction quickly.

Due to the oval shape of their paws and the long arched toes, Australian Shepherds have paws with a larger surface that comes in contact with water, which is an advantage for swimming.

It’s possible to see an Australian Shepherd’s webbed feet, but it would indicate that your dog isn’t a pure breed.

Can Australian Shepherds Learn How to Swim?

Aussies are smart dogs and learning how to swim is well within their abilities. If you can introduce your Aussie to water while she’s a puppy, she will probably figure out how to paddle on her own. It might take more encouragement for an older dog to learn how to swim.

Some dogs will figure out how to paddle right away and will build up confidence as they spend more time in the water. Others will need more training to get there.

How to Teach Your Australian Shepherd How to Swim

Your Aussie will need a dog life jacket or another type of flotation device. It’s important to keep your pooch safe in the water, and a good dog life jacket will also help them gain confidence.

Play It Safe
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Outward Hound life vest is available in four color options: orange, pink, yellow, or camo. Its design incorporates dual safety handles to restrain your dog or remove them from the water during an emergency. 

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You should start with a shallow body of water. Your first step should be to encourage your Aussie to get into the water, for instance, by throwing a toy. Playing a game of fetch where your pooch gets to splash in the water is a fun way to get them used to this new environment.

Getting in the water with your pet is a great way to make them feel safe and encourage them to swim. The paddling movements should come naturally to your dog once they start splashing in deeper water but be ready to support your pooch if they don’t figure out how to make these movements right away.

How to Introduce Your Australian Shepherd to Water

Ideally, you should introduce your Aussie to water while she is a puppy. Puppies are eager to try new things and find new experiences incredibly fun and exciting.

Your dog will gain confidence in the water and will probably figure out how to swim almost right away if you can find a shallow body of water and turn this first swimming lesson into a fun experience.

For older dogs, you might need to introduce water more progressively. Splashing around in a kiddie pool can be a fun way for your Aussie to discover water.

Benefits of Swimming for Aussies

Australian Shepherds need around an hour of exercise each day. These dogs will thrive if you can provide high-intensity exercises, such as chasing a Frisbee or playing with other dogs.

Swimming is a great way to help your dog get the exercise and stimulation she needs. It can also introduce some variety into your exercise routine. Remember that Australian Shepherds are intelligent dogs and new experiences are important for providing the mental stimulation they need.

There are other benefits to swimming:

  • Swimming is an activity that burns calories and can help with weight management.
  • It’s also a great way to release stress and nervous energy, which can become an issue in Shepherd dogs who don’t get enough stimulation.
  • As your pooch gets older, swimming can help with arthritis and other health issues.
  • Swimming will help your dog stay active without being a high-impact exercise. It can be beneficial for older dogs or dogs who are recovering from an injury.
  • Swimming can help with hip dysplasia, which is a common health issue Aussies can experience as they get older.

Australian Shepherd Swimming Safety Tips

Are Australian Shepherds good swimmers? These dogs generally learn fast and become strong swimmers thanks to their athletic build. However, there are a few tips you should follow to keep your pooch safe when swimming:

  • Choose the right spot for swimming. Avoid areas with deep water and currents, even if your Aussie is a strong swimmer.
  • Swimming pools with a shallow end are generally safer, especially if your dog is still learning how to swim.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and get in the water with them. Aussies are playful dogs and they might decide to chase a toy or another dog without realizing how deep the water is getting.
  • Make sure your dog can get in and out of the water by herself. Avoid pools that only have a ladder.
  • A dog life jacket will help your Aussie stay afloat, even if they get tired. It’s a must-have accessory anytime your dog is near a body of water.
  • Learn to perform canine CPR in case of an emergency.

There are many interesting smells and sights at the beach, pond, or lake, but remember that not everything is safe for your dog. If you leave your Aussie off-leash, make sure they have excellent recall training.

You should watch out for algae and dead fish that can make your dog sick. Fishing hooks can also be dangerous. Don’t let your dog drink salt or chlorine water and rinse her fur thoroughly to prevent irritation. It’s also important to clean and dry her ears to prevent ear infections after swimming.

Fun Australian Shepherd Water Activities

Do Aussies like to swim? Most of them do. You can make this activity even more enjoyable by introducing different games:

  • Get a splash pad to help your pooch cool off on warm days.
  • A kiddie pool filled with your dog’s favorite toys is a great way to help them become more familiar with water.
  • Spend a day at the dog beach. Your dog will get to run around, splash in the waves, and make some four-legged friends.
  • A game of water fetch will help your Aussie gain confidence in the water. If you have an athletic dog who is also a strong swimmer, use a Frisbee instead.
  • Have your dog chase you in the water. It’s a fun game that will encourage your dog to move around in the water, and it also allows you to remain close by.
  • Playing tug of war in shallow water will make this familiar game even more exciting.
  • If you and your dog are adventurous, try paddleboarding, kayaking, or even surfing with your four-legged companion.


Read on for more safety tips about letting your Aussie swim.

Are There Any Downsides to Swimming for Dogs?

Swimming can be dangerous if you don’t supervise your dog or let her swim in deep water. Otherwise, the main risk is ear infections since water can get trapped in the ear canal.

How Much Time Should Your Dog Spend in the Water?

It depends on how much experience your dog has with swimming and on the water temperature. Limit swimming to 15 minutes if your dog is still new to being in the water and call your pooch back after 30 to 40 minutes if they have more experience.

Is It Safe to Swim in a Pool?

Swimming in a pool is generally safe, but chlorine can irritate your dog’s skin and eyes. You should rinse the pool water thoroughly from your dog’s fur and limit the amount of time they spend in the pool.

Do Australian Shepherds like to swim?

Most of them do, but some dogs can feel anxious about this new experience.

Wrap Up: Can Australian Shepherds Swim?

Can Australian Shepherds Swim? Even though these dogs aren’t natural swimmers like other breeds, they are smart and athletic dogs who can learn how to swim easily. 

The key is to start teaching them early, go slowly, and let them build confidence in the water. Luke has so far, and I’m sure your furry friend will do as well.

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Picture of Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Our talented copy editor Jennifer ensures all doggie info published on our site is accurate, clear, and perfectly suited for pet parents of all experience levels. When not reading and writing about dogs, Jennifer enjoys playing with her own pets at home.