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Can Basset Hounds Swim? Here’s How to Teach Them

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

basset hound dog standing in water

There are many misconceptions about dogs, one being that they are all natural swimmers. While most canines can swim, some breeds aren’t physically capable of swimming unaided or for very long. The Basset Hound is a prime example of this. Although they can technically swim, their short legs, large head, and broad chest make it difficult for them to swim properly for a long period of time.1

Therefore, many Basset Hounds are wary of water. This doesn’t mean you can’t teach your dog how to swim, but you will need patience and a few handy tricks to make sure your Basset Hound is safe at all times.

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Can Basset Hounds Swim?

Like most dog breeds, Basset Hounds can swim, but they do tend to struggle with the action. One of their biggest problems is their body shape.2 Not only are their legs too short to be useful in the water, but their back end is also more likely to sink due to the length of their body. The lower their back end sits in the water, the harder it is for them to swim.

While their long, floppy ears don’t affect their ability to swim, they can be susceptible to nasty ear infections for your Basset Hound.3

Do Basset Hounds Like Water?

Although Basset Hounds were originally bred as hunting dogs, they were never intended for water retrieval like certain water-loving breeds were. The Basset Hound and other hound breeds were used for tracking scents over dry land. While they might have encountered the occasional stream or large puddle, jumping into a lake or river to retrieve a bird wasn’t something that they were bred to do.

Basset Hounds are generally warier about water than many other hunting dogs. They might be able to swim and you might be able to convince them that splashing around in water is fun, but most Bassets dislike water.4

If you’re looking for a water-loving dog to join you on your boating adventures, it’s best to find a different breed. Unlike the Basset Hound, most breeds that love water are also strong swimmers and won’t require as much help when in the water.

basset hound dog standing on a rock near river
Image By: Tania Medina, Unsplash

The 6 Tips for Teaching Your Basset Hound to Swim

Physical limitations aside, a Basset Hound can learn to swim, and you can teach them yourself if you’re patient enough. You’ll likely never manage to teach them to love the activity as much as a water-loving breed, but you can at least give them confidence around water. This will help them feel more comfortable even if they’re not the best swimmer.

You do need to consider their body shape and make allowances for their natural wariness around water. The following tips are a good place to start if you’re trying to teach your Basset Hound to be more confident in the water.

1. Put Them in a Canine Life Vest

No matter how successful you are with your canine swimming lessons, Basset Hounds are never going to be strong swimmers. Swimming unaided might even freak them out, so a canine life vest can help here.

It will keep them afloat if they get tired, and the best canine life vests are fitted with a sturdy handle so you can easily lift your dog out of the water if necessary. It will also help them stay horizontal because it will hold up their back end in the water.

Every time your Basset Hound is near water—even if they’re unlikely to jump in—putting on their life vest will ensure that they stay safe. Even with a life jacket, though, you should never leave them unattended and always be ready to help if necessary.

2. Don’t Force Them

Many Basset Hounds dislike water simply because they’re not predisposed to splashing around. They are naturally wary of water, so making the experience as pleasant as possible will ensure that your Basset Hound learns to enjoy it.

Never force your dog to swim if they’re scared or simply not in the mood. If your Basset Hound enjoys the activity, they’ll be more willing to try again next time. You should also consider the possibility that your Basset Hound might never take to water as much as you hope. In this case, find another activity that they can enjoy instead.

3. Start Slow

Introducing your Basset Hound to water needs to be done slowly to ensure that they have a good experience with water every time. Some dogs will take to water quickly, while other Bassets will never enjoy the activity. Either way, you need to do each step carefully.

Try climbing in the pool before coaxing your Basset Hound in, and start in the shallows. Even if you only manage to entice your dog to stand in a kiddie pool full of water, celebrate each success, no matter how small it is.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of pushing your dog too fast if they’ve had a string of successful swimming ventures. You need to go at their pace and take a step back if they ever start acting nervous or scared.

woman petting a basset hound dog at the beach
Image By: Taryn Elliott, Pexels

4. Use Treats

Basset Hounds are stubborn and can be difficult to train because of this. Knowing which rewards work the best will help, and food is often a good way to get your Basset’s attention. Using your Basset Hound’s favorite healthy treats to entice them to go near water, especially if it’s their first time, can help them see it as a good thing.

5. Invite a Swimming Buddy

Learning something new is always more fun with a friend. Basset Hounds are pack-oriented and love to be around other dogs and people. Introducing your Basset to swimming often goes smoother if they have a more experienced canine showing them what to do.

Invite a friend who has a dog that loves swimming so they can help your Basset Hound feel comfortable. Never leave either dog unattended by the water, though. Even experienced swimmers can get into trouble.

woman sitting with two basset hounds near a wading or swimming pool
Image Credit: IsabellaO, Shutterstock

6. Supervise Your Basset Hound

You should never leave a dog unsupervised around deep water, even if they don’t have a problem swimming. Things can go wrong incredibly quickly, and your dog might not realize that they’re getting tired if they’re having too much fun.

For your Basset Hound, supervision is even more essential due to how much trouble they can have in the water. You need to be close by to make sure they don’t get hurt.

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Short legged and long bodied, Basset Hounds aren’t built for swimming and are often wary around water. Although the breed can swim, it’s not recommended, and they often need help and supervision.

If you’re frequently around water with your Basset Hound, make sure to invest in a canine life jacket and always stay close to your dog. Teaching them how to swim will help them be more confident around water, but some Basset Hounds will never be as comfortable swimming as water-loving breeds are.

Featured Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

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