Any dog with the word ‘Great’ in the name is going to be a very large breed of dog. Naturally, it leads to questions about what they can and cannot do, given their sheer size. But what about water and more specifically swimming? Is this something that they can instinctively do, or is it an activity that instead is somewhat dangerous and must be avoided? With safety always being of utmost priority, I decided to research into the Great Pyrenees breed and their abilities, preferences and tendencies for swimming. I’ll be sharing with you what I found here today.
So, can Great Pyrenees swim? Great Pyrenees can swim, although their preference to and ability can differ among the breed. Some can and like to swim, whereas others cannot and dislike the water altogether. Individual personality, consistent or early exposure to water, and training are factors that all play a role in whether a Great Pyrenees will and is capable of swimming.
The Great Pyrenees was originally bred to be hunters, then herding dogs for shepherds, followed by being French royalty.
Today, they mainly serve as modern-day companions that we know of and are familiar with now. Long gone are their days of hunting or retrieving.
With this history in mind, we only have to consider the environment in which they were initially bred for and the kind of capabilities that they needed for them.
Swimming, and access to large bodies of water for that matter, were just not typically part of their heritage and ancestry.
In fact, many Great Pyrenees will walk around water if given the chance, even if they’re willing to approach it to drink out of it. This is one of the clear signs that swimming is not a preference for them, speaking generically of this breed.
Beyond this, there are plenty of stories from owners of Great Pyrenees and the ways in which their dogs have avoided going in the water and will go around it, jump over it, or just avoid it all together.
With all this being said, you do see cases of Great Pyrenees swimming from time to time, and some seem quite content and confident.
So, let us know take a closer look at the swimming capabilities and preferences of the giant, Great Pyrenees breed, along with some recommendations and best practices if you wanted to take yours for a swim or teach them how to do so.
Are Great Pyrenees Good Swimmers?
The Great Pyrenees is not going to be giving dolphins a run for their money in a swimming race. There are dog breeds who are great swimmers and then there is the Great Pyrenees.
Being originally bred in the mountains, with no opportunity for swimming, it’s not surprising that this breed is not a water breed.
Also, the modern Great Pyrenees has pretty much lost his instinct for hunting, so they do not have a sense for retrieval either.
In addition to being mountain dogs, and because they are were mountain dogs, their size plays a severe disadvantage when it comes to swimming. The heft of their bodies and amount of fur naturally want to drag them down.
36-50 kg of body mass is not easy feet to maneuver – especially in a body of water that they are less familiar with.
As you can also imagine, it takes these dogs a lot more energy to stay afloat and keep their heads above water. In fact, this breed is not a high-energy dog.
Instead, they are more calm and less enthusiastic regarding activity, like many other herding and working dogs.
But again, all dog breeds can swim. For the Great Pyrenees – they just do not have the stamina to be able to swim far, or for long, especially at their full size. Size does not equal buoyancy in this case.
Do Great Pyrenees Like Swimming?
As a breed, the Great Pyrenees does not like swimming at all. Of course, you will always come across those that do like to swim, but the majority will go out of their way to avoid water.
This is not a breed that will be racing to go to the beach with you, but they will reluctantly go in the water if you go in and have them follow.
Even if your Great Pyrenees likes to swim, keep an eye on them when they are in the water and never leave them unattended as they could get into trouble quickly and not be able to raise their heads above the water level.
Should You Let Your Great Pyrenees Swim?
If your Great Pyrenees shows an interest in swimming, there is no reason to keep them from doing it. So, if it’s something your dog wants to do then you should let your Great Pyrenees swim.
Swimming could be very good for your Great Pyrenees as they could get some exercise without any weight on their joints.
The breed is known for having Patellar Luxation, Elbow Dysplasia, and Hip Dysplasia.
These conditions are not uncommon in large and giant breed dogs, all of which are aggravated by carrying so much weight.
Swimming is therefore a simple way to provide exercise without requiring use of these joints; it takes all of the pressure and weight away.
Equally, getting in the water is good for all dog breeds on extremely hot days. Many dog breeds don’t tolerate the heat as well as humans do, so the water is a great way for them to cool down quickly.
This is especially true of this breed, who carries a thick coat of fur all year around.
Teaching Your Great Pyrenees To Swim
If you know that you want to spend a lot of time on, or in, the water with your Great Pyrenees the best way to go about it is to get them in the water as young as you can.
If they get used to the water when they are really young, they have a better chance of liking, or at least accepting it when they’re older.
Never throw your Great Pyrenees into the water when you’re teaching them to swim or you’ll traumatize them and will have a much harder time getting them to trust you and the water. Not to mention it could be very dangerous.
Take your time and try to lure your Great Pyrenees into the water. You may have a better chance of getting them into the water if you introduce them to a lake or ocean first. Some dogs are afraid of stairs and have trouble with pools.
My dog, for example, loves the water but is afraid of stairs so we can’t get him into the big pool. He’ll go in the kiddie pool, or a large storage container filled with water, heck he’ll even go in the koi pond, though we try to stop him from doing that.
We want him to go in the pool, but the stairs are a bit of a barrier right now, though we continue to try.
When you eventually do get your Great Pyrenees in the water, let them know where the exit is, and that they are free to get out whenever they want.
If you take your dog boating and go in the water, watch for them to go back towards the boat, if they do, chances are they want out as they’re done.
Always stay with your dog, not only when they’re just learning to swim, but even if your Great Pyrenees is a seasoned swimmer.
This way you can ensure that you’re close by if they run out of stamina and are unable to get to safety on their own.
Be patient when trying to teach your Great Pyrenees to swim. There’s a good chance that it will take multiple attempts before your dog is comfortable with swimming.
Some dogs will never be comfortable with swimming and that’s just something you may need to accept.
Chances are this will be the case if you have an older Great Pyrenees that doesn’t have experience with swimming.
You can still try to introduce them to water, just be patient and don’t get frustrated with them if they back away.
Tips For Swimming With Your Great Pyrenees
Some tips for swimming with your Great Pyrenees, are the same tips that we would give for swimming with most dog breeds.
However, there are a few that we would like to emphasize with breeds that aren’t great swimmers, such as the Great Pyrenees:
- Get A Life Jacket – Getting a doggie life jacket for your Great Pyrenees could be beneficial, for both swimming and boating. Here is an excellent, cost-effective jacket from Amazon that is ideal for this larger breed.
- Never Force – Don’t force your Great Pyrenees to get in the water. If they aren’t interested, or show any kind of fear, leave them be and maybe try again another time. If they continue to show fear and aren’t even the least bit interested, it might be a sign to just accept that they will not become swimmers.
- Stay with Them – Don’t wander off, away from where your Great Pyrenees is swimming as they may need your help in a flash. Also, because of this, make sure that you are able to handle your dog, while they will be lighter in the water, they’re still the same weight as a man, coming in at 160 pounds. So, if you’re in deep water by a wharf or boat, ensure that you can lift them out of the water in case of an emergency.
- Reserve Energy – Because the Great Pyrenees doesn’t have a lot of stamina to begin with, you don’t want to tire them out before bringing them swimming. If you know that you’re going swimming later in the day and you usually walk your dog in the morning, on that particular day you should forgo your walk.
Great Pyrenees can swim but they’re not naturally good at it and as a breed overall, they don’t generally like swimming. This is a broad statement and there will always be those who go against the majority and who enjoy swimming.
If you start getting your puppy used to the water when they’re young, you have a better chance of them liking the water when they’re older, making them more agreeable to swimming.
On the other hand, you may have a hard time trying to get your older Great Pyrenees to go into the water and enjoy doing so.
When teaching your Great Pyrenees to swim, or at least enjoy going in the water, remember to have patience with them. Also, there’s a very good chance that it’s going to be a multi-step process and won’t happen the first time around.
Great Pyrenees don’t have a lot of stamina and this can cause a lot of problems for your dog when it comes to swimming, especially if they’re in deep water and are unable to touch the bottom.
Speaking of the deep end, ensure you have the strength to lift your dog to safety when you’re in the deep end if they encounter trouble staying above water.
Remember, the Great Pyrenees can range between 35-50 kg – this is a heavy dog that requires a lot of strength to support.
Your Great Pyrenees may never take to the water and you may need to accept that you won’t have a swimming partner in them.
Keep an eye on your dog, not just when they’re in the water to ensure they don’t get in trouble, but also when you’re teaching them to swim.
Watch their body language and if they show fear every time, you’ll just have to stop trying so that you don’t traumatize them.
Ultimately, there is not a definitive answer and it will vary by owner and by dog. Its something you will need to test and try. Just make sure you do it safely, and consider your dogs feelings throughout the process! Remember, safety should always come first.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.