Do Terriers Like to Swim? Swimming SAFETY for Pets in 2022

Dogs can be quite playful, and some are more than happy to swim while others can be absolutely terrified of the water.

If you’re a Terrier owner, you may be wondering if your little furry friend can spend summer in the pool with you.

So, do Terriers like to swim?

These playful and small dogs seem like they would be perfect little swimmers, but there are many different breeds of Terriers out there, and other factors that determine their aquatic proficiency.

Do All Terriers Like to Swim?

Terrier Approaching Water
Many Terriers love to play in the water.

In general, Terriers love to play in the water and have fun safely playing in a pool, lake, or stream. Never push a dog to swim, and consider using a dog life jacket for safety in deep water.

While most Terriers love to play in the water, this is different than swimming in deep water.

Not all dogs are confident to swim long distances, so never assume that your Terrier is an excellent swimmer.

When enjoying a pool party with your Terrier, be sure to get a pool float for dogs. This makes it easy for your dog to enjoy the water without fatigue, and they’re great fun too!

One breed of Terrier that’s quite fond of the water is the Kerry Blue Terrier. If you love to be on the water, this is a good Terrier breed to take along on your aquatic adventures.

However, not all Terriers are alike, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, you have American Hairless Terriers and Cairn Terriers, which do not like water.

These Terriers were bred for hunting and ratting, so they prefer digging holes and chasing small animals to any sort of water sports.

In general, a Terrier can really love the water, keeping in mind that many dogs have their own history and personality.

Some dogs may have suffered from some past trauma involving water that has stuck with them.

In that case, the fear of water spreads beyond just taking a bath. These dogs shouldn’t be forced into those situations and may require a total avoidance of large bodies of water.

Many owners choose to gently train their dogs to conquer their fear of water but never force your fearful Terrier into the water because you’ll make the fear worse and trigger aggressive behavior.

Are Terriers Good at Swimming?

Sure Terriers may love the water, but can they swim, or do they run the risk of excitedly jumping into the water, and then sinking like a brick?

That’s a legitimate fear for all dog owners.

However, certain breeds of Terriers can be natural-born swimmers! The Kerry Blue Terrier tends to be a natural swimmer as well as the Border Terrier. 

Some Terriers have thin wiry hair that repels water, preventing the dog’s fur from absorbing water and becoming heavy.

Terriers have shorter legs which makes it harder for them to swim even if they love it.

Since dogs mainly swim with their legs, hence the dog paddle, shorter legs can make swimming a lot more difficult. 

Something you also have to consider is the density of your Terrier. Since they are a smaller breed, if they are very dense, like a Bull Terrier, they will have difficulty swimming. 

On the other hand, an excellent swimmer is the Jack Russell Terrier, and they are one of the more playful and active breeds.

Do Terriers Like to Play in Water?

Terrier Swimming with a Red Frisbee
Terriers have high energy levels, making swimming excellent exercise.

If you have a breed of Terrier that loves to swim, you may struggle to get them out of the water! Terriers are playful, making them beloved companions in and out of the water.

Many Terriers were bred to be working dogs. In fact, the word Terrier can actually be traced back to the Latin word, meaning earth.

While not all modern Terrier breeds have a history in pest control, these small dogs are valuable specialists in hunting rodents and vermin.

Now, obviously, these dogs are rarely expected to chase around rats these days, but something they maintained over the years is the energy, and level of play that’s necessary for that job.

This means that they are active pups, and they love to play every chance they get. If your Terrier loves water, chances are that it’s going to have a good time swimming.

Can Terriers Drown?

Yes, your Terrier can drown! All dogs, no matter how skilled at swimming, and how in love with water, run the risk of drowning. 

Even though Terriers have a lot of stamina, they can wear out, and if a dog is exhausted in the middle of a body of water it can drown.

However, there are ways to protect your dog against drowning.

Read our related article on How to Keep Your Dog Out of the Swimming Pool. An unmonitored pool can be a danger for pets. Here’s how to keep your pet safe!

Swimming Lessons

Even for Terriers that enjoy the water, it’s always a good idea to teach your dog to swim. 

Some dogs are natural swimmers, but teaching your dog to swim can give you the comfort to know it really does know how to swim and is acclimated to water.

This is also good for those Terriers that love the water, but may not be naturally good at swimming.

You don’t want to deny your furry little buddy the opportunity to jump in and play, do you?

Life Jackets

The other option, to ensure your dog doesn’t risk drowning, is a life jacket. Yes, just like people, the life jacket can help the canine as well. 

A life jacket is especially good for those dogs that can spend a lot of time in the water playing.

It also allows them to spend even more time in the water, which is really fantastic!

All dogs should wear dog life jackets when boating because if they are knocked unconscious in an accident the life vest will keep them afloat until they are rescued.

Rest During Exercise

Plan on giving your Terrier a rest here and there.

It’s suggested that you don’t keep your dog in the water for longer than fifteen minutes at a time. Their first time in the water should be limited to five minutes.

Giving your Terrier a break will ensure that it can catch its breath, drink some water, and eat.

Sometimes a dog can get caught up in the moment, and not know that it needs the necessary rest to continue playing.

A dog that is running low on energy is more likely to get stranded in the water with the risk of drowning.

What Makes Terriers Good Swimmers?

Terrier Swimming in a lake
Teach your dog to swim with confidence so you can let him play safely in the water.

The thing that seems to make these dogs good swimmers is mostly their temperament. Since they are playful and energetic they love spending time in the water and swimming.

Part of it stems from the fact that they are an outdoor breed.

Different dogs are bred for different environments, and since these little guys were bred to hunt out vermin they are accustomed to the outside.

Terriers are small and agile, making them perfect for water play. Their legs may not allow them to be expert swimmers, but they usually have fun nonetheless.

The other factor is just their hair, as mentioned before. Many Terriers have a coat that ensures the water is repelled rather than soaking in the water making them heavy.

One Terrier that isn’t so lucky is the Scottish Terrier with its long and fluffy hair, which is a shame because the Scottish Terrier generally loves the water. 

Final Thoughts

We recommend that you give your Terrier some swimming lessons, give them a life jacket, and get out to the beach, the pool, or the pond.

They’ll be thankful for the new place to play, and if they’re one of the breeds that are made for it, they’ll quickly take to the water! 

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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