Can Staffies Swim? – A Deep Dive Into Doggy Paddles

Staffies are very agile and athletic dogs with courage and tenacity for days. There is very little that scares a Staffy, and almost no challenge they are unwilling to face. When it comes to water sports many dogs excel. Some look as if they were born to be swimmers, but can Staffies swim?

As a whole Staffies cannot swim. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a notoriously bad swimmer due to the size and proportions of their bodies. Their short muzzle, large head, broad chest and short stubby legs make them very unsuited to be natural swimmers. 

Though there is video evidence floating around the internet to the contrary, no pun intended, this is the exception and not the rule. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier can learn to swim through carefully monitored training and practice. This process can take a long time. Staffies are not built to be swimmers by nature.

Why Staffies Have Trouble Swimming

My first scientific analysis of the swimming abilities of Staffordshire Bull Terriers involved an open hot tub cover. My Staffy loved to sunbathe on my parents hot tub cover, but one day when she went to jump up on the hot tub, the cover wasn’t there.

Sploosh! Right to the bottom of the tub. Luckily I was a mere 3 feet away and was able to scoop my Staffy up from the bottom of the tub in no time. The two things that struck me most about her quick dip was how fast she sank, and how no doggy paddle instinct kicked in. None whatsoever. This was evidence enough for me that my Staffy was not a swimmer at all.

Now sure there are videos online of Staffies swimming, some even very well. These outliers are either gifted dogs, or have been trained very well on the art of the doggy paddle. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, much like many other Bully breed dogs, just does not have the physiology to be great at swimming.

Thicc Body, Little Legs

The short muzzle of a Staffy has to be pointed upwards more than some more natural swimmers with longer muzzles like a Labrador Retriever. By having to point their nose and muzzle upwards to avoid inhaling water this forces their bodies down at an angle. Not ideal for swimming. In fact they are more positioned to sink.

Large broad heads are also a trademark of the Staffy. Keeping this big melon afloat with their short legs is near impossible. The short and stocky proportions of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is what makes them look so majestic. It is also what makes it very difficult for them to keep from sinking. Large heads, broad chests, and tiny legs are not a swimmers body type.

Do Staffies Like To Swim?

Typically Staffies do not like to swim. Their natural instincts, and perhaps own self awareness, will dissuade them from taking a plunge into unknown waters. This can vary from dog to dog however. Though Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not built to swim, some may actually like to swim once they learn.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is afterall a very smart and easy to train dog with a ton of courage. As some have found, once they have learned how to propel those thick bodies with those little legs, they can come to enjoy swimming. I still find this to be the exception and not the rule however. Most Staffies will avoid swimming and are more inclined to sit up on the beach or pool decks.

When you do have a Staffy that is keen on swimming you must exercise extreme caution. Any water that is deeper that your Staffy should be avoided, or heavily monitored by yourself. Even if your Staffy can swim, they may get tired very quickly from the extra effort it takes the breed to swim. This can result in them sinking real quick.

Do Staffies Like Water?

Generally Staffies do not like the water. Speaking from personal experience I know my Staffy hates the rain, despises taking a bath, and will step around puddles if she can manage. She has oftentimes refused to even walk in the rain, despite having bugged me all afternoon for her walk.

That being said there have been times where my Staffordshire Bull Terrier did in fact like the water. More accurately I think she was more interested in the smells, and being cool on a hot summer day.

I have taken my Staffy to the beach out on the West Coast a number of times and during low tide there are all sorts of interesting fishy smells for her to explore. On those occasions she is willing to traverse between the sand bars to follow a scent. So long as the water has not passed her belly.

This seems to be the cutoff point for my Staffy in the water. Once the water level gets to her lower belly she is not inclined to venture out further. She knows any deeper could throw her off balance and result in a deeper dip than she cares for.

On those hot summer days my Staffy loves water in the form of a kid’s pool, or a very shallow creek or pond. She is a black Staffy, and she gets hot in the sun very quickly. Laying down in the nice cool water brings out the full Staffy smile when we are out adventuring. On these rare occasions, she does like the water.

How Do I Introduce My Dog To Water?

Getting your Staffordshire Bull Terrier used to the idea of water is a good idea, even if you have no plans on teaching them to swim. Making backyard wading pools, sprinklers, and bathing a much more fun and enjoyable activity can be a great benefit to you and the dog.

Start slowly when your puppy is very young. Begin socializing your Staffy puppy to environments with very shallow areas of water. We are talking a few inches deep. Let them explore and splash around if they want. Never force them into the water, allow them to experience it themselves. Being around other dogs playing in water can also be good for your puppy to observe.

Backyard sprinklers or a kids wading pool on a hot day is a great way to build the positive association with water and your Staffy. Being able to play and stay cool in water will help them understand that being wet, and being near water can be great fun.

Manage your expectations with this as your Staffy may still avoid the water even when they are gently introduced. It is not something that is built into their DNA like other more natural water dogs. Your Staffy may always not like the water, and never want to swim, and that is perfectly fine. Giving them the opportunity to discover this on their own is what you are looking to achieve.

Training Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier How To Swim

As previously mentioned, you will need to manage your expectations on training your Staffy to swim. Training can help them to swim, but they will need much more practice and supervision while learning. If you Staffy seems so inclined however, and seems to really enjoy the water, these are a few tips.

Start slowly and in warm shallow water. Making this experience fun and enjoyable for your Staffy is going to be key. Play their favorite games, and let them splash and enjoy being in the water first before your move to anything that will require effort for them to stay afloat.

Introducing The Doggie Paddle

Once you have your Staffy accustomed to enjoying some shallow water you can move a little deeper. Getting into the water with your Staffy is going to be a must in my opinion. You need to exercise caution in this stage as they learn.

Hold your Staffy, or encourage them out to you so they begin to doggy paddle. They will need support and someone close by to give them a hand. I highly recommend using a life jacket for this stage of training. 

As your Staffy progresses and becomes better and better at keeping their head up and feet moving, you can let them swim on their own more. Again you should be very close by if they need help. The water should be deep enough for them to swim, but not so deep that they can sink out of your reach.

Practice this for a while until your Staffordshire Bull Terrier becomes comfortable with swimming, and you can begin to practice recall games to get them to swim out to you. Eventually you can work up to you being on shore and having them fetch and bring back a water toy. 

I cannot stress this enough though. Be extra cautious and always be monitoring your Staffy in the water. They can tire out very quickly and begin to struggle. You must be able to get to your dog if they start to lose energy and struggle.

Avoid cold water temperatures always. Staffies are very sensitive to cold and this can be a dangerous mix when in the water. 

Best Life Jacket For Staffordshire Bull Terrier

My Staffy can’t swim, nor does she want to swim, and to be honest I am fine with that. She is not built for the water. I am also very cautious and maybe overly paranoid about my Staffy being near water after the hot tub incident, so I bought her a life jacket whenever we are near a lake or deep body of water. If she accidentally fell in, she would at least float.

Taking those precautions with your Staffy, even if they can swim, are important for their safety. I highly recommend getting yourself a good life jacket for your Staffy to avoid an accident, or tragedy when visiting the lake this summer.

These are some of the best life jackets for Staffordshire Bull Terriers on the market. They are all highly rated, top quality and affordable life jackets.

Outward Hound PupSaver


Outward Hound Granby RipStop Dog Life Jacket


EzyDog Doggy Flotation Device Life Jacket


Outward Hound Dawson Dog Life Jacket


Queenmore Dog Life Jacket


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