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Can Shelties Swim? [Are They Naturally Confident Swimmers]

As a Sheltie owner, you may want to know whether you can let them swim. With a long, dense, furry coat, it’s only natural to wonder whether they can still remain afloat as it collects water and becomes heavy. Of course, we want to keep our dogs safe, so we need to be sure before we let them do anything that could them harm. This is why I have spent some time researching how this breed responds to, and fares in water. Here is what you need to know.

So can Shelties swim? Shelties can swim, and they generally enjoy doing so. However, they will require training and safe exposure from an early age. Many Sheltie owners report that their dogs did not take to water naturally and needed a slow introduction. Some shelties may never become confident in the water, even after gradual desensitization to the fear. Either way, close supervision and the building of confidence in your dog is essential.

There is no denying the indisputable benefits of swimming for dogs; if they can do so safely and are enjoying it.

While swimming comes naturally for most dogs and is not something that needs to be taught – some breeds do still need some direction. The Sheltie is one such breed in point.

It is with your time, persistence and patience, as it can be a very enjoyable and healthy exercise for a dog once they have found their form.

Swimming is an aerobic activity that tones and strengthens muscles with little impact on the joints. It is also an excellent bonding opportunity for dogs and their owners.

While many Shelties will inherently like the water, some are known to hate it. While this is the exception rather than the norm, you must be prepared for the fact that your dog might never like swimming. They should never be forced in such a case.

Thankfully, for these dogs there are plenty of activities that they can enjoy that do not involve water, and you can participate in these aswell.

Ultimately, whether your dog enjoys swimming is something you will need to find out for yourself.

Nonetheless, let us know take a closer look at the swimming capabilities of the Sheltie breed along with the process of teaching and some tips to make them a better rounded, more confident swimmer.

Are Shelties Good Swimmers?

Generally speaking, Shelties are not known for being good swimmers when compared to some breeds.

Some Shelties will go chest-high in a pond but not swim.

Some like to play near a stream and might even venture in, but this could be as far as they go.

Technically speaking, all dogs can swim, but generally speaking, Shetland Sheepdogs are not as fond of water.

So, if you decide to take your Sheltie to a body of water, they will require close supervision.

Dog life jackets come strongly recommended if your dog is to attempt swimming in deeper bodies of water. Especially in the beginning. You can get a great jacket on Amazon for this breed. This will support your dog, even when they tire.

Some owners will tell you that the Sheltie coat is not conducive to swimming. Its thick and will naturally carry a lot of water – dragging them down and tiring them out. This could be the reason why they don’t like to swim.

Other Shelties are more natural in the water and appear to be better at swimming. This tends to be in those that have had previous exposure and built their confidence over time.

For these, they can swim more confidently in in deeper bodies of water, be it a lake, pond, stream, or sea.

Going further, some Shelties will swim very well in a lake but not anywhere else. It could be that they were trained to swim in a lake and that they are confident only in familiar settings.

For this reason, it comes generally recommended to train your dog in various bodies of water. Ensure they have sufficient exposure to different settings, contexts and environments if you want your dog to be able to swim in them.

Its not enough to take your Sheltie to a body and expect them to be able to swim. Even if they appear proficient from previous experiences.

Do Shelties Like To Swim?

Shelties may or may not like to swim; it depends on the dog and their upbringing.

Swimming doesn’t come naturally to the Shetland Sheepdog as a general rule; so it is more likely they will be naturally hesitant to water.

However, if you teach your Sheltie from an early age to swim, they will tend to like it, but you must be consistent.

Its important that you teach your Sheltie pup to swim in many different bodies of water, to help them overcome their fear and to build their confidence.

You will be able to tell for sure that your Sheltie likes to swim if they jump right into a body of water and look relaxed.

Otherwise you will notice apprehension around water, or signs of stress when they are deeper than they want to be. They may be more frantic and hyperactive if they do not feel comfortable.

If your dog appears to not be enjoying the water, they will burn through their energy faster which can be dangerous. In this situation its best to get them out of the water.

If your Sheltie can swim and enjoys time in the water, then you are in for a treat. You can join your canine companion in the water. Swimming is a fantastic activity for your dog’s health; just one minute of swimming has the same benefits as four minutes of running for your dog.

Swimming strengthens the heart and lungs of your Sheltie; it decreases inflammation and increases metabolism.

Swimming improves circulation, which helps to keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy.

Finally, this exercise can help your dog lose weight; this should be good news to any owner who loves to give treats to their dog. It can be hard to control what your Sheltie eats, especially when he has such a cute begging face.

Since the water supports most of your dog’s weight, taking your Sheltie swimming will help them exercise for a longer time.

Your Sheltie will use a lot more of his muscles when swimming; this, in turn, burns more calories than taking him for a walk or playing fetch.

But, this is only true if your dog is capable and confident when swimming. If they are not it is likely to lead to stress which is not good for your dog.

Its important that your dog only swims where they feel capable. In this way, they should enjoy it more and get more out of it than not.

Teaching Your Sheltie To Swim

Your Sheltie’s like or dislike of water is determined largely by their genes and the environment in which they were raised.

Rivers, oceans, and lakes can seem strange and overwhelming to a sheepdog.

To help your dog overcome their instinctive fear, you must familiarize them with the water while they are still a puppy.

Gradual desensitization is the key, do not throw your puppy straight into the deep end as this could make your dog more fearful!

Getting a doggie life jacket will also work wonders for their confidence as it helps to keep them naturally afloat.

Just make sure that your dog has the chance to wear it for some time before they get into the water to ensure it fits appropriately and they get used to it on their bodies.

Consider the following steps in teaching your Sheltie to swim:

Build Your Sheltie’s Confidence

It’s first important to introduce your dog to the water in a comfortable and relaxed setting and environment.

This could be a kiddie pool or it could be a safe, calm beach where your dog does not have to contend with too many waves. They’ll also be able to find the depth of water they are most comfortable with and the sea can push them to shore if they did go out too far.

Your pup may whimper somewhat at first, but continue safely, and they will become much more confident. If you go in first, they will likely follow you in eventually.

Dogs are wired to follow their pack to avoid being left behind, and you are their pack leader whom they trust.

This way you are also close to them and can support them if required. But, if your Sheltie is too stressed, slow down the process and retreat back to land.

Be consistent, and introduce them to new bodies of water over time. Always remain close so your dog knows that you are there at all times.

Appropriate Depth Of Water

When the water gets below your dog’s chin, you can pick them up, and they will paddle their paws in the air.

Try lowering your dog back into the water – they might take off in his own accord.

Some Shelties might never confidently bound into the ocean, but teaching your puppy to swim gives them a better chance.

Make sure you supervise your Sheltie at all times, as their heavy coat can drag them down a lot.

Teaching An Adult Sheltie To Swim

It’s not impossible to encourage an adult Sheltie to swim.

The process of teaching a puppy to swim applies to an adult dog; however, It will likely take your adult dog longer to learn how to swim. Its a more gradual process requiring more positive exposure to the water.

The best time to encourage your Sheltie to take a dip in the water is on a hot summer’s day; when they are hot and need to cool down. this is when they will be more open to the water.

Tips For Swimming With Your Sheltie

If your Sheltie is not a good swimmer, you must take extra precautions when they are near a body of water.

Be cautious whether you are at the beach, by a lake, or by a swimming pool. Anybody of water, no matter how tranquil, can be very dangerous if your dog is not able to swim.

It is easier to keep your dog safe in a controlled environment – such as a backyard swimming pool as your dog will require supervision.

Apart from supervision, you can consider putting a fence around your pool, or restricting any access to bodies of water, as an added safety measure.

You could also add stairs or ramps to the pool, so if your dog falls in, they have the chance of making it out on his own.

You should invest in a lifejacket for your Sheltie, and whenever they are near water, be it at home or the great outdoors, put a doggie lifejacket on them.

Make sure that you get a high-quality, well-fitting lifejacket – like this one previously mentioned from Amazon, so that they can stay afloat should they accidentally end up in the water and cannot swim.

Also, be sure to not go too deep too soon! Let your Sheltie swim in shallow waters to begin with and only advance once they are showing signs of confidence and ability.

It’s also important to never force your dog into the water.

You need to ensure that they enter the water on their own accord and when they are most comfortable to do so. Using treats and toys can entice them in, but generally being patient and letting them decide is best.

Reserving energy in your dog is essential too. Never take them for a long walk beforehand, or ever let them enter the water when they are already tired.

Swimming requires a lot of energy so your dog needs to have plenty of it to stay afloat and get from a to b.

A canine first aid class is worth considering; there you will learn to perform CPR on your dog. If an emergency ever occurs, the knowledge you acquire in this class will give you the confidence to act fast.

You will learn to evaluate your dog’s breathing and pulse. You will learn to position your dog in a way that allows you to perform compressions and respiration without harming them.

Basic emergency knowledge could go a long way should any life or death situation arise with your dog.

Any situation can spiral out of control, and doing research can help in these situations. Hopefully, you will never need to use this knowledge. Nevertheless, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


All dogs can technically swim; however, the Shetland sheepdog isn’t known to be a confident swimmer.

The coat of this breed is weighty and gets weighed down a lot in the water – this can quickly tire your dog.

While many shelties do learn to swim well in time, you must know your dog well enough to understand their limitations.

Many Shelties have a lot of trouble when they are first exposed to water, and it’s essential to take the right steps in keeping your Sheltie safe at all times.

You may find that once your Sheltie is confident in one body of water, they might become very nervous if you try to make them swim anywhere else.

Some owners report that their Shelties appear to have an aversion to water altogether; be it even from wet grass. Perhaps they don’t like how it weighs them down. Either way, a dog has their preferences that we must appreciate.

If you do want your Sheltie to swim, you must help them and expose them to different bodies of water early on. Its best to do so as a puppy as it will be harder as they get older.

If you have the opportunity to take your puppy swimming in a safe environment, take it.

You may find your dog loves the water and will desperately try to swim whenever they can.

But, it is ultimately up to you as an owner to do all you can to support them. If you let your dog swim then you must be able and prepared to jump in and save them.

Thankfully, there are many places you can take your dog for a swim that is generally safer, and will keep your dog happy and in control.

Swimming is a gentle way of exercising that doesn’t put too much strain on the joints.

So if your dog shows interest and you are willing and able to help build their confidence in and around it; it is worth the time, persistence, and effort.

Interested in learning more about the Sheltie breed? My guides below are for you: