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Can Mastiffs Swim? Training & Safety Tips

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Neopolitan Mastiff on pier in Italian mountains

While some dog breeds may enjoy the occasional dip in the water, other breeds hate getting wet. Generally, Mastiffs are not natural-born swimmers because they were not initially bred as water retriever dogs. Nevertheless, they can learn how to swim with early and proper training.

Some Mastiff dog varieties feature web feet which help them improve their swimming ability, though they will need more assistance and patience. In this article, we will look at the importance of teaching your dog how to swim and the safety precautions required for your Mastiff to swim safely.

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Do Mastiffs Like Water?

Generally, Mastiffs love to drink water, with some even consuming more than a gallon a day. Besides drinking it, they are not huge fans of water in relation to big water bodies and as far as swimming is concerned.

They are water-shy dogs, and they hate having any contact with water, and this includes even taking a bath. Thus, even though they can swim once they have been trained to, it is usually out of necessity, especially if they find themselves in water that is too deep for them.

That said, teaching your Mastiff how to swim can be beneficial. Despite popular belief, swimming is not just a leisure activity but a vital life skill that every dog should learn. It could be very devastating for you and your family if your prized Mastiff was potentially the next victim.

Fortunately, you can prevent your dog from drowning by simply taking some time off your busy schedule to teach your Mastiff this important life skill. Moreover, teaching your furry friend how to stay afloat and paddle in water can help lengthen its overall body endurance.

tibetan mastiff dog in the river
Image By: Khalangot Sergey L, Shutterstock

The 3 Ways for Training Your Mastiff to Swim

With a lot of patience and resilience, your Mastiff will eventually love being in the water. Perhaps the best place to teach your furry companion how to swim for the first time would be in a pool. As the owner, you get to have more control over the surroundings and what is happening.

Below is a simple guideline for teaching your Mastiff to swim.

1. Introduce Your Mastiff to the Pool

Among the most effective way of getting your Mastiff accustomed to large water bodies is to allow it to accompany you to the pool and hang around for the day. You can create a positive impression of the pool area by giving him toys, pets, or even treats. This will make your Mastiff associate being around the pool with a rewarding experience.

Help your dog feel more comfortable, relaxed, and unthreatened by sitting or walking around the pool and splashing water with your feet.

2. Guide Your Dog Into the Water

When you notice that your Mastiff appears more relaxed and curious about the pool water, you can then proceed to get it into the pool using a ladder or stairs. But first, get into the pool to encourage him to follow suit as well as assure him that everything will be alright because you are already in the water.

Using his front paws, slowly guide him deeper into the pool water until all the feet are submerged. Remember to praise him for his courage and bravery by saying words like “Good girl” or “Good Boy”.

3. Allow Your Dog to Paddle in the Water

As your Mastiff ventures deeper into the pool, place your hands on his chest for support. You must assure the dog that everything is safe and okay so that he doesn’t panic.

As your dog paddles in the water, their instincts may prompt them to swim and get out of the pool. However, ensure that you divert your dog back into the water once you both reach the pool’s edge. Verbal cues may help your dog understand what is expected of him.

You can also uplift your dog’s spirit while learning to swim by adding some of their favorite toys to the pool. Simply throw the toy for a short distance and encourage your Mastiff to go into the pool after it.

Divider 2The 8 Tips for Making Swimming Safe for Your Mastiff

Since dogs are land animals, they are not naturally buoyant and can tire easily while swimming. Therefore, it is wise to plan and take some safety precautions to keep your Mastiff safe while swimming.

1. Don’t Keep Your Dog in Water for Long

You should only allow your Mastiff to spend a maximum of 10 minutes in the pool. There are many potential dangers associated with a dog spending too much time in the water. This includes water toxicity which happens when your dog swallows too much water. Though rare, such an event can cause brain damage and, even worse, death.

2. Ensure Your Dog Wears a Floatation Device

A life jacket will help protect your dog from drowning. It keeps it afloat, making it easy for it to hold its head up above the surface for easier breathing while in water.

3. Always Stay by Your Dog’s Side

A lot of things can go wrong while in large water bodies, and you need to be present and alert in case of a worst-case scenario. Furthermore, since Mastiffs are sensitive, you can show them how much you appreciate their effort by simply being right next to them in the water.

4. Do Not Take Your Dog to the Deeper End of the Pool

Since your dog is learning how to swim for the first time, keep in mind that it is still in the adjustment phase. Therefore, you should consider building and developing your Mastiff’s confidence by sticking to the shallower parts of the pool. After the dog is comfortable enough, you can proceed to the more challenging pool areas.

5. Check Water Temperature

If the pool temperature is comfortable enough for your body, it will be ideal for your dog as well. But since Mastiff dogs tend to overheat quickly, lukewarm water would be suitable. If learning how to swim during the colder months, dry your Mastiff as soon as he leaves the pool to prevent hypothermia.

boy sitting with english mastiff dog beside the lake
Image By: Vira Sivachuk, Shutterstock

6. Provide Access to Fresh Water

While swimming, your dog may innocently take a sip of the adulterated pool water to quench his thirst. However, you can prevent this by guiding him to a freshwater source. This will discourage your Mastiff from drinking chlorinated water.

7. Remember to Rinse Your Dog After Swimming

Swimming pool water tends to have chemical substances like Chlorine. If you let your dog dry off without rinsing, it can easily cause damage to his skin and coat. Fortunately, you can use mild shampoos to get rid of all chemicals used in the pool.

8. Use Sunscreen to Protect Your Mastiff From UV Rays

If the pool lacks a shaded area to rest after swimming, apply dog-appropriate sunscreen on your dog’s coat to prevent it from getting scorched by direct sun rays. Also, do not forget to apply sun protection on the dog’s nose.

little boy with english mastiff sitting
Image Credit: Vira Sivachuk, Shutterstock

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While all dogs may love to drink water, not all of them love swimming in it, and the Mastiff is no exception. Some Mastiff breeds, like Bull Mastiffs, may be genetically predisposed to thrive in water; however, some, like the English Mastiff, have to be trained before they can attempt to swim in lakes, rivers, pools, and even seas.

Granted, Mastiffs may prefer to stay dry and away from water but training them how to swim is a vital skill that can even save their lives in case of pool accidents. Just make sure you have safety precautions in place before introducing your furry friend to pool water.

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Featured Image Credit: Vitaly Titov, Shutterstock

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