Collies Training

Can Border Collie Swim?

Border Collies are known for their intelligence, agility, and boundless energy. As a dog breed originating from the border regions of England and Scotland, they were initially bred for herding livestock. Given their exceptional athleticism and versatility, many dog owners wonder if Border Collies can swim. In this article, we will explore the swimming abilities of Border Collies, how to train them to swim, and important considerations to keep in mind when engaging in water activities.


Border Collies are highly active and intelligent dogs that require regular exercise and mental stimulation. While their primary talent lies in herding and working, these energetic canines can also be great companions for water-based activities. Before we delve into whether Border Collies can swim, let’s gain a better understanding of the breed as a whole.

Understanding the Border Collie breed

Overview of Border Collies

Border Collies are medium-sized dogs known for their striking appearance and keen intelligence. They typically have a well-balanced and agile build, allowing them to excel in various physical activities. Their high energy levels make them perfect for outdoor adventures and games that require mental engagement.

Physical characteristics

Border Collies have a double coat, which provides insulation and protection from varying weather conditions. Their coats come in a wide range of colors, including black and white, tri-color, and red and white. Additionally, their eyes are known for their intense gaze, which they often use to control and direct livestock.

Instincts and behaviors

Being a herding breed, Border Collies have natural instincts and behaviors that drive them to control and organize groups. These instincts also make them highly trainable, responsive, and attentive. However, their instinctive herding tendencies can sometimes manifest in situations that involve moving objects, such as children or other animals.

Can Border Collies swim?

Natural swimming abilities

Border Collies have a natural affinity for water, which can be attributed to their strong herding instincts. While not all Border Collies are natural-born swimmers, many possess the physical capabilities required.

Factors influencing swimming capability

Several factors can influence a Border Collie’s swimming capability. It’s important to take these factors into consideration when determining whether your specific Border Collie can swim:

  • Physical condition: Like humans, dogs’ swimming abilities can be affected by their physical condition. A healthy and fit Border Collie is more likely to swim comfortably than one with health issues or limited mobility.
  • Temperament: While some Border Collies take to water naturally, others may be more hesitant or anxious. Each dog has its own temperament and comfort level around water, so it’s crucial to gauge their individual preferences and proceed accordingly.
  • Early experiences: Early exposure to water and positive experiences can play a significant role in a Border Collie’s comfort level with swimming. If a dog had pleasant encounters with water during their puppyhood, they are more likely to develop a positive association with swimming.
  • Body composition: The body composition of Border Collies can vary. Some may have a denser build with a thicker undercoat, which can affect their buoyancy in the water. Dogs with a leaner physique and less body fat might find it easier to stay afloat.
  • Water confidence: Confidence around water is a crucial factor when it comes to swimming. If a Border Collie is naturally confident and curious, they may be more inclined to explore and swim in different bodies of water.

It’s important to remember that not all Border Collies are natural swimmers. Some may require additional support and training to feel comfortable in the water. Let’s explore how you can train your Border Collie to swim.

Training a Border Collie to swim

Introducing water gradually

To ensure a positive swimming experience for your Border Collie, it’s essential to introduce them to water gradually. Here are a few steps you can follow:

  1. Start in shallow water: Begin by introducing your Border Collie to shallow water, such as a calm lake or a kiddie pool. Allow them to explore and get comfortable with the sensation of water on their paws.
  2. Use positive reinforcement: Reward your Border Collie with treats, praise, and encouragement when they show interest in the water. This positive reinforcement will help them associate water with positive experiences.
  3. Gradually increase water depth: As your Border Collie becomes more comfortable, gradually increase the depth of the water. Allow them to wade in deeper sections while providing constant support and reassurance.
  4. Use toys and games: Engage your Border Collie in water-based toys and games to make the experience enjoyable. Toss a floating toy or play fetch in shallow water, gradually moving towards deeper areas.

Using positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful training technique that can help your Border Collie associate swimming with positive experiences. Here’s how you can utilize it:

  • Rewards: Offer treats, praise, and petting as rewards when your Border Collie exhibits swimming behaviors or shows progress in their swimming skills.
  • Verbal cues: Use consistent verbal cues such as “swim” or “water” to help your Border Collie understand the desired behavior. Repeat the cues during training sessions and reinforce them with rewards.
  • Patience and consistency: Training takes time and patience. Be consistent in your approach, and understand that each Border Collie learns at its own pace. Celebrate small victories and build upon them gradually.

Safety precautions

When training your Border Collie to swim, it’s vital to prioritize their safety. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Supervision: Always supervise your Border Collie while they are swimming. Accidents can happen, and your presence will ensure their safety and provide immediate assistance if needed.
  • Life jacket: Consider using a life jacket designed for dogs, especially when your Border Collie is still learning to swim. A life jacket provides buoyancy and gives you added peace of mind.
  • Safe water sources: Choose safe and clean water sources for your Border Collie to swim in. Avoid areas with strong currents, rough waves, or hazards such as sharp rocks or debris.
  • Gradual progression: Allow your Border Collie to progress at their own pace. Avoid forcing them into deep water if they are uncomfortable. Gradually increase the depth and distance as they gain confidence.
  • Exit points: Ensure there are easy exit points for your Border Collie to climb out of the water. Ramps or shallow areas can help them safely exit the water without difficulty.
  • Avoid exhaustion: Monitor your Border Collie’s energy levels while swimming. Dogs can tire quickly, especially when first learning. Provide breaks and rest periods to prevent exhaustion.

By following these safety precautions, you can create a secure and enjoyable swimming experience for your Border Collie.

Water activities for Border Collies

Once your Border Collie has become comfortable with swimming, there are various water activities you can engage in together. These activities provide both mental and physical stimulation for your energetic companion. Here are a few examples:

Fetch and retrieve games

Border Collies have a natural inclination for fetch games, and adding water to the mix can enhance the excitement. Play fetch with a buoyant toy or a floating disc in shallow or deeper water. This activity not only exercises their swimming skills but also satisfies their herding instincts.

Dock diving

Dock diving is a thrilling water sport that involves dogs leaping off a dock or platform into a pool or body of water. Border Collies, with their agility and athleticism, can excel in this activity. It provides an outlet for their energy and allows them to showcase their jumping abilities.

Water sports

If you’re an active water enthusiast, you can involve your Border Collie in water sports such as paddleboarding, canoeing, or kayaking. With proper training and safety measures, these activities can create a bond between you and your furry companion while exploring waterways together.

Signs of distress in a swimming Border Collie

While Border Collies are generally capable swimmers, it’s important to be aware of signs that indicate distress or discomfort in the water. Some signs to watch for include:

  • Excessive paddling or splashing
  • Whining or vocalization
  • Difficulty keeping the head above water
  • Fatigue or struggling to stay afloat
  • Panicked behavior or attempts to climb on others

If you observe any of these signs, it’s essential to take immediate action to ensure your Border Collie’s safety. Call them back to shore and provide assistance as needed.

Health considerations

When engaging in water activities with your Border Collie, it’s crucial to address certain health considerations:

Ear infections and prevention

Border Collies, like many other breeds, are prone to ear infections. Moisture from swimming can contribute to the development of ear infections. After swimming, make sure to dry your Border Collie’s ears thoroughly and consider using a drying solution recommended by your veterinarian to prevent moisture buildup.

Skin protection and sun exposure

Proper skin protection is important for Border Collies when engaging in water activities, especially during sunny days. Here are some tips to protect your dog’s skin:

  • Sunscreen: Just like humans, dogs can get sunburned. Apply a pet-safe sunscreen to your Border Collie’s exposed skin, such as the nose, ears, and belly. Opt for a sunscreen specifically formulated for dogs to avoid any harmful ingredients.
  • Shade and breaks: Provide shaded areas for your Border Collie to take breaks from direct sunlight. This will help prevent overheating and reduce the risk of sunburn. Encourage your dog to rest in the shade and offer fresh water to keep them hydrated.
  • Rinse after swimming: After swimming in pools or saltwater, rinse your Border Collie with fresh water to remove any chlorine or salt residue that can irritate their skin. Pay attention to the paws and underside as well.
  • Check for skin issues: Regularly inspect your Border Collie’s skin for any signs of irritation, dryness, or rashes. Promptly address any skin issues by consulting with your veterinarian.

Waterborne illnesses

When allowing your Border Collie to swim in natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, or ponds, there is a possibility of waterborne illnesses. To minimize the risk, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid stagnant water: Stagnant or standing water can harbor bacteria and parasites. Choose clean, flowing water sources whenever possible.
  • Vaccinations and preventatives: Ensure your Border Collie is up-to-date on vaccinations and preventive treatments for common waterborne illnesses, such as leptospirosis. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccinations and preventatives for your dog.
  • Avoid swallowing water: Discourage your Border Collie from drinking or swallowing large amounts of water while swimming. Ingesting contaminated water can lead to gastrointestinal issues.
  • Monitor for symptoms: Keep an eye out for symptoms of waterborne illnesses, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite. If you notice any concerning signs, seek veterinary care promptly.

By taking these health considerations into account, you can ensure the well-being of your Border Collie during water activities.


In conclusion, Border Collies can indeed swim, but their swimming abilities can vary from dog to dog. It’s important to consider their individual comfort level, physical condition, and early experiences with water. By following proper training techniques, providing safety precautions, and engaging in water activities suitable for your Border Collie, you can create a positive and enjoyable swimming experience for both you and your furry companion.

Remember to prioritize safety, monitor your dog’s well-being during swimming sessions, and address any health concerns that may arise. By understanding your Border Collie’s swimming capabilities and taking the necessary precautions, you can foster a strong bond and provide them with a fun outlet for their energy.

See also: How To Bath A Border Collie Puppy

FAQs about Border collies swimming

Can all Border Collies swim?

Not all Border Collies are natural swimmers. While some may take to water easily, others may require training and a gradual introduction to feel comfortable in the water.

Are Border Collies naturally good swimmers?

While Border Collies have the potential to be good swimmers, it depends on the individual dog. Factors such as temperament, early experiences, and physical condition can influence their swimming abilities.

How can I teach my Border Collie to swim?

You can teach your Border Collie to swim by introducing them to water gradually, using positive reinforcement, and ensuring their safety. Start in shallow water, provide encouragement and rewards, and gradually increase the depth as your dog becomes more comfortable. Always supervise your dog while they are swimming and use a life jacket for added safety.

Can I take my Border Collie swimming in the ocean?

Yes, you can take your Border Collie swimming in the ocean, but it’s important to consider the conditions and safety precautions. Choose calm and safe areas, avoid strong currents or rough waves, and use a leash if necessary. Rinse your dog with fresh water after swimming in saltwater to remove any residue.

How often should I take my Border Collie swimming?

The frequency of swimming sessions for your Border Collie will depend on their individual preferences and physical condition. Some dogs may enjoy swimming more frequently, while others may prefer occasional sessions. Monitor your dog’s energy levels and ensure they have proper rest and recovery between swimming sessions.

Can swimming help with my Border Collie’s exercise needs?

Swimming can be an excellent form of exercise for Border Collies. It provides a low-impact workout that engages multiple muscle groups, promotes cardiovascular health, and helps burn off excess energy. However, it’s important to supplement swimming with other activities to ensure overall fitness and mental stimulation.

What should I do if my Border Collie doesn’t enjoy swimming?

If your Border Collie shows reluctance or fear towards swimming, it’s essential to respect their comfort level. Forced or stressful swimming experiences can create negative associations. Instead, focus on alternative activities that cater to their preferences and provide mental and physical stimulation. Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and that’s perfectly okay.

In conclusion, Border Collies can swim, but their swimming capabilities can vary. By understanding your dog’s individual needs, providing proper training, and ensuring safety precautions, you can introduce your Border Collie to the joys of swimming. Remember to respect your dog’s comfort level and preferences, and always prioritize their well-being during water activities. Happy swimming!

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