I have now been a proud owner of an American Bully for several months. My puppy Chester is growing so fast and learning so much. We have been working hard on his training and his socialization by getting him out everywhere I can and exposing him to different things. A visit to a local creek was his first exposure to water deep enough to swim, which raised a serious question.
Can American Bullies swim? As a general rule American Bullies can swim but are not natural swimming dogs. Their large muscular build, broad head, and wide chests can make swimming more difficult compared to other breeds. Some American Bully dogs swim well right away, while others require training.
When it came to my American Bully down at the creek he was a little hesitant. I had not planned for a swimming lesson that day so I just allowed him to be around the water and watch other dogs play and swim. He became more curious as the time went on and slowly began small attempts at wading into the water a little deeper each time.
I had never really looked into the swimming abilities of the American Bully before getting my dog. Based on his build I assumed he would not be a swimmer, but out of curiosity I decided to do some research and ask the American Bully community. This is what I discovered.
Image source – NorthXNorthWest Bully Co
Can American Bullies Swim? – A Poll
In my quest for answers to this question I reached out to a large Facebook group of American Bully fans with the question “can your American Bully swim?”. Going into the poll I assumed there would be a few that would answer yes, but the majority would be a big no. Boy was I wrong.
As you can see in the image above, out of 67 respondents to the question “Can your American Bully swim?” 56 responded Yes. 48 of which said their American Bully took to swimming quite easily.
American Bullies come in a variety of sizes and shapes, so this poll could be for some of the more athletic, longer limb American Bullies. Micro and Pocket Bully sizes might have a harder time of swimming than a classic or XL Bully.
Regardless of the size or shape of your American Bully, water safety is still your #1 priority. I have gone deep looking into water safety for my American Bully as I begin to teach him how to swim and have come out the other side with some great tips I follow and you should as well.
Water Safety Tips For American Bullies
Each of these tips is an important part of your American Bully’s swimming experience. Regardless of how strong of a swimmer you believe them to be it is important to always be safe. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, so keep these water safety tips in mind at all times.
Avoid Cold Water
Avoid letting your American Bully swim in really cold water. The sudden drop in temperature can create a state of shock or panic in your dog and cause them to struggle in the water. Even if the initial shock of the cold doesn’t phase them, prolonged exposure can cause hypothermia.
Test the water out before letting your American Bully take the plunge. If the water is far too cold for you to be swimming in, then guaranteed it is too cold for your dog. Most natural bodies of water will be a little on the cool side, so use your best judgement and look for signs of hypothermia and fatigue.
Signs of hypothermia in dog include:
- Low heart and breathing rate
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Stiffness of the muscles
- Pale and/or grey gums
- Lack of motor skills, including stumbling and lack of coordination
- Dilated and fixed pupils
- low heart and breathing rates
Always Be Nearby
Whenever your American Bully is around the water or swimming you need to be nearby. If your dog begins to struggle in the water or accidentally falls in the water, you should be within a few feet to help them.
It only takes a few seconds for a dog to panic and begin to struggle. When they go beneath the water’s surface you are racing against the clock to resurface them safely. Never leave your American Bully unattended or out of close proximity.
All dogs will react differently to water. My American Bully was curious, but very hesitant about going too deep. Let your dog take their time in learning to swim. Your American Bully might jump right in and begin to paddle, others might need a few days of gradually going a little deeper each time.
There is no rush, and you don’t want to force your dog in too quickly. You are looking to create a positive association with this activity, so make it fun for your American Bully. Encourage them, praise them, and allow them to move at their own pace.
Keep Swimming Sessions Short
Whether your American Bully is just learning to swim or is a seasoned veteran of the water, you should keep swimming sessions fairly short. Swimming is excellent exercise for your dog, mainly because it can be so tiring. The last thing you want is your dog reaching exhaustion in the middle of a swim.
Monitor your dog’s energy level and look for signs of struggling and fatigue. Take regular breaks, and don’t allow your American Bully to swim too far from shore. Especially after they have been swimming for a while.
Discourage Your American Bullies From Drinking The Water
Exercise like swimming will make your American Bully thirsty. The convenience of having water all around is not lost on your dog, but you shouldn’t allow them to drink the water. Whether in a creek or backyard pool, bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and other yucky stuff can be in the water and make your dog sick.
Bring fresh, clean drinking water to your swimming spot and make sure your American Bully knows that it is there. Stop them whenever they begin to slurp up the water and redirect them to their drinking bowl for something far cleaner and safe.
Watch For Wildlife
When swimming out at a lake, creek, or other natural body of water you are bound to come across some nature. Always be watchful of other wildlife in the area. Depending on the part of the world you live in this could range from birds, to large fish, deer, bears, alligators, beavers, wolves. Among many others.
Wildlife that come to the water for a drink, or live in the water can pose a threat to your American Bully. The opposite is true as well. Your American Bully could give chase to another animal and place themselves and the animal in a dangerous situation. Be mindful of your surroundings.
Always Wear A Life Jacket
Last but certainly not least is to always wear a life jacket. It is my firm belief that regardless of your American Bully’s swimming skill they should always be wearing a life jacket. The risk of accidents and potential fatal situations is drastically reduced by having them wear a life jacket when swimming.
For an American Bully you want to find a life jacket that will help keep their big heads above water. This requires a nice sturdy flap across the chest and neck areas to keep everything afloat. These are some great options for your American Bully.
Outward Hound PupSaver
Outward Hound Granby RipStop Dog Life Jacket
EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Life Jacket
American Bullies don’t appear to be dogs that would be able to swim. This was my belief at the beginning of my research. The big head, big chest, and stumpy legs are not the anatomy of a swimmer. Naturally American Bullies aren’t built for swimming, but what American Bullies are built for is a challenge and fun.
I have learned that an American Bully that enjoys being around water will learn to swim regardless of their physical build. Swimming for American Bullies is more of a determined personality trait than it is a natural ability, so it’s best to be prepared for a potential water dog.
My journey with my American Bully swimming has just begun, and like you I have come to the internet for answers to ensure he will be as safe as possible. These water safety tips provide you with a great foundation to begin your water adventures with your American Bully.
I hope to have an update on how my journey with Chester goes. There is a good chance by the time you read this I will have a video up on my YouTube channel of our progress, or lack thereof depending on what he chooses to do. Have fun and be safe!