Wondering if your chihuahua can swim? In short, yes, they can. All tiny dogs can dog paddle when in water.
Do they even like to swim though? What are the pros and cons of teaching your chihuahua to swim? Can you get them to overcome their fear of water? Are chihuahua’s built to swim?
We’ll cover all these topics and end with instructions on how to teach your chihuahua to swim and overcome their fear of water.
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Table of Contents
Is It Safe To Let A Chihuahua Swim?
Yes, all little dogs naturally dog paddles in the water. This is true of all quadrupeds or four-legged animals. Watch this awesome quick video of an elephant swimming using the dog paddle method. Maybe it should have been called elephant paddling?
Do Chihuahuas Like To Swim?
Not at first. Most small dogs have a natural fear of water. They can be trained to overcome this though.
Of course, all dogs are individuals too. You just might have a chihuahua that loves water. You’re in luck!
Most will need training. We’ll cover training further below.
Swimming Dangers for Lightweight Dogs
Lightweight, small dogs have some negatives working against them when it comes to swimming. You’ll want to be aware of these when teaching your chihuahua to swim. Plus it’s good for you to know to keep your dog safe.
- Small dogs have small paws making dog-paddling harder
- Tiny dogs have small legs making it harder to get in and out of pools, kayaks, steep banks, and impossible to get on docks.
- Small dog syndrome – Tiny dogs frequently have small dog syndrome which means they perceive themselves to be bigger than they actually are. You see this when they try and defend their ground against bigger dogs. If swimming with a bigger dog they could get aggressive or feel like they should be able to swim as bigger dogs can.
- They have small bodies with greater surface area. Why does that matter? They lose heat faster and can’t maintain cold body temperatures. Chihuahuas come from the desert! Think of all the cold northern breeds you know that like to swim in cold water – Huskies, Newfoundland, etc. They are larger with longer hair and bigger paws. Newfoundlands were actually bred to rescue people who went overboard in cold waters.
- They have short hair – harder to stay warm in cold water along with the above
- They have a natural fear of water – you can overcome this with training
- Small dogs tire easily – Long deep swims are not recommended
Top 5 Benefits of Teaching Your Chihuahua to Swim
While lightweight dogs and chihuahuas initially may not like water, there are benefits to teaching them. Here’s our top list of why we think you should teach your chihuahua to swim.
- Improves confidence – anytime you can help your chihuahua overcome their fears will make them stronger (and happier) and give them extra confidence
- Happier Chihuahua – you get more options of fun outdoor things to do with your chihuahua. This gives them a diverse happier life.
- Perfect Activity to Improve Health and Fitness – swimming is a completely different exercise than walking or running. It works with different muscles.
- Burns more calories – They’ll naturally burn calories just being in cool water. This helps keep them fit. Who knows, maybe they’ll even live longer!
- Softer on joints – This is good exercise for older chihuahuas. It’s not as hard on older arthritic joints as running or even walking.
Can Chihuahuas Swim? – The Final Verdict
Yes, as you can see chihuahuas and lightweight dogs definitely can swim. With some training, they can overcome their fears. Some may even learn to love it.
Now without further delay let’s dive into training!
Training Chihuahuas To Swim
Teaching your chihuahua to swim takes some time. Expect to spend a few days on this.
Here’s the instructions step by step:
- Do it when it’s warm out and using warm but not hot water. Hot tubs work great for this as you can completely control the temperature. Remember, small dogs and chihuahuas lose heat easily.
- Make sure they have an easy way to get into and out of the water. Attach or build a small ramp with good traction. You want them to have complete autonomy and decide on their own to get into or out of the water.
- Attempt to get your chihuahua onto the ramp using treats. Have patience as this may take time. Do it step by step. Reward them with treat and praise for even coming to the edge of the ramp. Then do it again when they step on the ramp.
- Bring them further and further onto the ramp. More treats and positive praises.
- Eventually, use the stay command on the ramp. Treats and praise.
- Go slow. Don’t push them too far or too fast. Never throw them in the water. This will just build their anxiety and they’ll hate it.
- Next, get a flotation device with a hard surface. A large plastic growing tray for young veggies works well. If you can cut and add a non-stick yoga mat to the bottom. The hard surface plus the non-stick yoga mat gives them sure footing. They’ll get more confident faster this way.
- Repeat the steps above with treats and praise to get them to go onto the float. You can also skip this step if you want and just go swimming directly from the edge of the ramp.
- Watch the video below to see the floating part of the training in action. It’s impossibly cute so we had to include it. Again, the float step isn’t really needed. If you plan to kayak or boat with your chihuahua this step will get them used to the feel of a boat.
- The last step is to go from the ramp to direct swimming. We recommend using a life vest. There are a lot of great life vests for small chihuahuas. It will allow them to fully swim and learn to stop paddling and just float.
- With their life vest on repeat the ramp training. They’ll need to get used to walking around in the vest. They won’t like it at first but you want them to get comfortable with it. I never talk my chihuahua kayaking without it. Again, they tire easily and get cold. A life vest helps keep them warm and keep them floating if there’s ever a problem.
- Also – never place them directly in the water! Even with the vest, this will cause anxiety. They must choose to come in and out of the water. That’s the only way to build confidence.
- Praise and treat as they go down the ramp with the vest on.
- Then get them to come into the water. Praise only. You don’t want them to choke!
- Get them to go further and further into the water. Pull them up and give them a treat so they don’t choke.
- Rinse and repeat till they are comfortable. Again, the big part of training is getting them comfortable in the water and a life vest. Chihuahuas naturally know how to dog paddle. It’s overcoming the fear of the water that you have to help them with.