Do dogs have a love for the water that extends beyond just paddling? While it’s widely known that most dogs have a natural ability to swim from a young age – the question of whether dogs can dive underwater is a little more complex.

To clear things up and provide a comprehensive answer, I have decided to explore the topic of canine diving in this article.

Can Dogs Dive from Birth? An In-Depth Look

It is well-known that many dogs have a natural ability to swim, but the question of whether they can dive is not as widely understood. Just as most dogs instinctively start paddling when they get into deeper water, many can also naturally hold their breath underwater.

In particular, the dog breeds that are already considered good swimmers are also better divers. How long a dog can hold its breath underwater is not known. It should be enough for a few seconds.

However – it should not be compared with the kind of diving we know from humans. For comparison: While untrained humans can dive up to six meters deep, dogs can only manage up to two meters underwater.


Why can Dogs Hold their Breath Under Water?

The answer lies in their natural diving reflex, which is an instinctive response to being submerged in water. As soon as a dog dips underwater, their windpipe closes automatically to prevent water from entering their lungs, causing breathing to cease. Additionally, their heartbeat slows down to minimize their need for oxygen.

You can observe this reflex in action even when your dog is drinking, as their snout is often underwater. This instinct is present from birth and doesn’t need to be learned.

Animal photographer Seth Casteel has captured this fascinating aspect of canine behavior in his famous underwater photos of dogs and puppies, which can be purchased as a book or calendar on Amazon.

Please Note: That this reflex can become dangerous if a dog panics, such as if they fall into water accidentally or become overexerted during play. In these situations, the dog may try to breathe reflexively underwater, putting them at risk.

Read also: How long can Dogs hold their Urine?


Every dog is able to hold its breath underwater and they don’t inhale underwater by accident except when they panic. It’s basically the same as it is for us humans. As long as the dog remains calm underwater, it will hold its breath.

However, since diving requires good swimming skills, most dog breeds rarely really dive. Although almost all dogs can put their head under water for a short time, most prefer to have their head above water.

What Dog Breeds are Good at Diving?

When it comes to diving abilities – certain dog breeds are naturally equipped with physical traits that make it easier for them to move in and under water. These traits include long legs, a long snout, webbed paws, and a large lung volume.

golden labrador retriever diving

Here are some of the breeds that are known for their diving prowess:

Labrador RetrieverGolden Retriever
Irish Water SpanielSpanish Water Dog
Curly-Coated RetrieverBoykin Spaniel
SheepdogOtter Dog
Flat-Coated RetrieverEnglish Setter

These dogs – especially those who are not afraid of water and enjoy swimming – often like to put their head underwater and even dive completely. If you have one of these breeds and they enjoy the water, they may have a talent for diving just waiting to be discovered!

Underwater Struggles: Breeds Not Cut Out for Diving

While some dogs have the physical attributes that make them natural divers, other breeds may struggle in the water. Dogs with short legs, an elongated body, and a short neck are not well-suited for swimming and often have difficulties when it comes to diving.

Here are some of the breeds that are not good swimmers and therfore will unlikely dive underwater:

PugsBull Terriers
Basset HoundsCorgis
DachshundShih Tzus

Dogs with shorter snouts can have a harder time breathing and holding their breath, making diving a challenge. While larger breeds tend to be better swimmers than smaller breeds, there can still be significant individual differences even within a breed.


Labrador and Golden Retrievers are well-known for their love of water and their exceptional swimming and diving abilities. These breeds are anatomically suited for the water, making them natural swimmers and divers.

Want to see if your own furry friend has a talent for diving? A simple test can be performed by throwing their favorite toy into the water. If they go searching for it and retrieve it, then it’s a clear sign that they have the skills and enjoyment for diving.

Read also: Gagging without Vomiting in Dogs: What You Need to Know and How to Help

Can You Teach Dogs Diving?

Diving with your dog can be a fun and exciting activity, but it takes training to get there. Here’s a simple three-step process to help teach your dog how to dive.

Dog Scuba Diving

Teaching Your Dog to Dive: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Habituation Phase

Before your dog can dive, they need to be comfortable in the water and swimming. This habituation phase is all about gradually getting your dog used to the water.

The earlier your dog is introduced to water, the easier this process will be. For young dogs, this phase may only take a few days, while older dogs may need several weeks.

Start by getting into the water yourself and entice your dog with toys and treats. Never force them into the water. Best you aim for 20 minutes of training – at least three times a week.

Step 2: Dive Phase

Once your dog is comfortable jumping into the water and swimming, it’s time to start diving. To help make this process easier, have plenty of treats and underwater toys on hand.

Start with shallow water (about 70 cm) and gradually increase the depth. Encourage and reward your dog with treats and praise for their efforts.

Step 3: Reward Phase

If your dog is already comfortable swimming and diving – it’s time to phase out the treats and rely more on verbal praise.

Freshwater lakes are the best option for diving training – but a pool with low chlorine content will also work. The sea or salt water is possible, but salt can irritate the eyes and some dogs may swallow a lot of water at first. With time and patience, your dog will be diving like a pro.

Teaching a Dog How to Dive – Be Patient and Start with Water Acclimation

Before diving into training, it’s important that your dog is comfortable in the water and able to swim. Once they have a solid foundation, you can use underwater toys and treats to encourage them to dive.

How Long and How Deep Can Trained Dogs Dive?

Humans have impressive diving abilities, with the average person able to dive up to 6 meters without training. With proper training, depths of up to 12 meters are common, and the world record for freediving without equipment is an astonishing 214 meters.

For dogs, the picture is different. Untrained water dogs typically don’t dive deeper than 2 meters. However, with training, they can potentially dive up to 4 meters.

A man from Florida made headlines by training his dogs to dive for lobsters. He noted that the hind legs posed the biggest challenge, as the instinctive paddling motion caused dogs to descend slowly when diving. It took him years to teach his Labrador retrievers to use their hind legs more actively.

Compared to humans, dogs can hold their breath underwater for a much shorter time. This is because humans have the advantage of being able to consciously take a deep breath, exercise on the water’s surface, make slow movements to conserve oxygen, and use flippers.

The Limits of Canine Diving: 6 Feet and Beyond

Water-savvy dogs are typically capable of diving up to 6 feet without training. With the right training, they can potentially reach depths of up to 10 feet.

However, it’s important to note that compared to humans, dogs are limited in their diving abilities.

Ensuring Safe Dives and Swims for Your Furry Friend

Dogs love to play in the water, and it’s a great way for them to stay cool and have fun in the summer months. To ensure their safety, here are some tips for diving and swimming with your furry friend.

  • Drying with Towel: After a swim, dogs naturally shake out their fur, but it’s still important to dry them off with a towel, especially their ears. Excess water in the ears can affect their sense of balance.
  • No Forced Fun: If your dog has had bad experiences with water or is still inexperienced, don’t force them to swim or dive. This also applies to stressed dogs, as they may panic and have trouble holding their breath. Never force a dog’s head under water.
  • Take some Breaks: Dogs can’t judge distances or their own strength, so it’s important to take breaks and not overexert them.
  • Diving Toys: Heavy toys that don’t float on the surface are best for diving, such as rubber tubes filled with sand, durable balls, or strong ropes. Avoid using stones, as they can harm your dog’s teeth in the long run.

Dogs have an instinctual ability to hold their breath underwater and dive, but this process can’t be controlled like it can in humans. Always supervise your dog when they are in the water to keep them safe.

Supervising Your Canine Companion for Safe Swimming and Diving

Dogs have an instinctual ability to hold their breath underwater and dive, but this process can’t be controlled like it can in humans. Always supervise your dog when they are in the water to keep them safe.

Read also: What to Expect When Your Dog Has Eaten a Tick: Consequences Explained

Categories: Dogs


Dr. Orika Mosquera

Hello, I am Dr. Orika Mosquera Lopez graduated from the free university of colombia sectional Barranquilla as a doctor and surgeon. I work as a General Practitioner with Experience in the Emergency Department, Hospitalization and External Consultation. I love pets, i have 2 cats, Bagheera and Nhala and one Yorkshire Terrier called Princess. I care a lot about the well-being of my animals


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