A Real Fish Out Of Water: Can French Bulldogs Swim?

🦴 Updated on July 16th, 2023


Can French Bulldogs swim? Though their body shape isn’t conducive for swimming, you can still get your Frenchie acclimated to water through training. 

Most mammals are fairly good swimmers, and some unlikely ones are surprisingly good at it too. The camel and moose, two animals many don’t consider good swimmers, are actually skilled at treading water. 

However, the “most mammals can swim” assumption doesn’t apply to every mammal. French Bulldogs are no exception.

Because of genetic mutations and selective breeding, Frenchies have a distinct shape: short, stubby legs, an extremely short snout and a somewhat heavy, bulky torso. Each of these factors comes together to make a non-streamlined body shape designed for anything but swimming.

Why Can’t French Bulldogs Swim?

A Frenchie’s anatomy prevents it from swimming. They can swim in a basic sense; however, if left in the water for too long, they’ll quickly sink and drown since they can’t tread water normally.

French Bulldogs, over the centuries of breeding, are shaped like small, round packages of a somewhat ugly cuteness. Early bulldogs looked vastly different from their modern counterparts. 

Their heads were longer, their bodies became streamlined, and they possessed agile athletic bodies. During the 1800s and early 1900s, bulldogs changed to resemble what they look like today.

Breeders were seeking a more rounded nose, stubby legs and a large torso with legs placed to the side of the ribcage rather than below. All of these produced a short, squat dog who suffered several health issues.

French Bulldogs are smaller than English Bulldogs but share the same skeletal anatomy on a reduced scale. Standing only about 13 inches at the shoulder and weighing around 20 pounds, French Bulldogs originated from crossing toy English Bulldogs with local and imported rat dogs.

French Bulldogs Anatomy Explained

In the water, their squat shape is extremely inefficient. Their snouts are short, which restricts airflow. Most bulldogs have trouble breathing when on land, and the issue intensifies in the water. 

Because their necks are also short, most bulldogs have to tilt their heads far back to keep their head above water. Their pudgy shape isn’t aerodynamic at all. Since Frenchies have barrel-shaped bodies and short legs, they lack finesse in the water. 


Frenchies are naturally compact and muscular. Since muscle is denser than fat, which floats, they have no natural buoyancy. Each of the above factors combines to make a dog whose very design prevents it from being a good swimmer.

French Bulldog Life Vests

Despite not being good swimmers, some Frenchies enjoy swimming. Many dogs like the water and find aquatic exercise fun. However, many of these canines swim with the help of a doggy life vest.

Similar to a human life vest, a dog life vest fits around the animal’s upper body and often has a handle for the owner to grasp to help the dog through the water. 

Play It Safe
Outward Hound

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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Many times, humans use these life vests for dogs who travel on boats or paddleboards. Other times, vets utilize life vests during therapy sessions to help rehabilitate a dog with leg injuries.

Doggy life vests are relatively easy to find, and French Bulldog life vests often have an extra under-the-snout addition to help keep its head afloat.

French Bulldog Pool Floats

In addition to life jackets, doggy pool floats are another safe alternative. Some dogs dislike having a jacket around them, or perhaps you own a pool and don’t always want to gear up your little Frenchie. No worries, dog pool floats are just like miniature human floats.

You can easily set your dog on top of the float and either let it drift in the water, or you can hold it and steer your dog around. Owners should use floats more for a domestic pool setting so they can keep an eye on their dog without worrying the pet will drift into open water.

Do French Bulldogs Like Water?

Whether a dog likes swimming or not is up to the individual canine. Some breeds of dogs, such as the Labrador Retriever, Portuguese Water Dog and Newfoundland, love the water

Their main purpose was retrieving wild game or in some cases saving people in the water. These dogs have special coats that not only help keep them buoyant but also repel water.

Other dogs like the Siberian Husky, Akita and Shiba Inu generally dislike the water. But through desensitization and training, an owner can help any dog enjoy the water.

French Bulldogs are no exception, and if exposed to water from an early age, they can learn to associate water with fun. You can even teach a dog to sit on a paddleboard, surfboard or a boat. Some dogs can even surf on their own, including several bulldogs.

If your Frenchie seems apprehensive, take the training slowly. Introduce your Frenchie to calm water without any major distractions. Assure your dog that the water isn’t scary, and get in yourself. If you have another dog that likes water, you can use that canine to set an example for your French Bulldog.

When your French Bulldog shows no fear of the water, reward them with their favorite treat, praising words, and plenty of pets. If your Frenchie seems stressed, don’t be afraid to stop the session for the day. Always try to end on a positive note.

Acclimating Your Frenchie to Water

While French Bulldogs don’t have much prowess in the water, owners can acclimate them to water in various ways. Being proactive when your Frenchie is young is imperative. Don’t be afraid to take your French Bulldog to a dog-friendly pool or lake, or you can even set up a kiddie pool.

Once your Frenchie is acclimated to water in a calm environment, be sure to branch out and get the dog used to larger areas, such as a community pool. Gradually, you can work up to any type of situation with a variety of other dogs and humans!

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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.