While many breeds love the water, Siberian huskies rarely show the same kind of fondness for it. In this article, I’ll explain the facts behind why huskies aren’t water dogs and how you can make your husky start to enjoy the water and even swim!
After researching extensively and asking other Husky owners, I found out some interesting information and will share that with you here.
Why Most Huskies Can’t Naturally Swim
Most Siberian Huskies can’t swim until given a few practice lessons. This is because Huskies were never required to swim as they lived primarily on land in icy and snowy conditions. Swimming would have been avoided at all costs.
So we know that they don’t naturally like swimming, but WHY is it that Huskies, a very athletic, exercise-loving breed can’t really swim very well.
Huskies are not natural swimmers because they came from Eastern Siberia and were used to help the Chukchi Tribe with their nomadic lifestyle.
At no point was swimming ever in their daily routine. In fact, swimming would have meant imminent hypothermia.
The Chukchi Tribe needed heat and warmth to survive in arctic conditions so, for thousands of years, the Siberian Husky would never have swum. Not only would it have been too cold, but it’s likely due to the freezing conditions, there was never really any water present, just ice, and snow.
Since the Husky was never taught how to swim, this skill never passed down during the breeding process and is still why Huskies are not great swimmers today. Fortunately, we can teach our Huskies to swim and we’ll cover that below.
Do Huskies Like Swimming?
A lot of people naturally assume that Huskies are capable swimmers, and this is a fair assumption. Huskies are very athletic, strong, and love physical exercise, so you would think they love to swim.
The truth is, Huskies are not good swimmers, and there are many other breeds that have the natural ability to swim much better. For the most part of my life, I had two black Labradors and you could not stop them bounding into the sea to go for a swim.
The beach Husky I live with, merely looks at the ocean, sometimes sits in it, but absolutely never goes for a swim. Even when all the other dogs are swimming.
Despite not being great swimmers, Huskies do like to splash around and play in a shallow paddling pool, especially in hot weather. This is a great way to help keep your Husky cool if the weather becomes quite hot.
The good news is that you can teach your Husky to swim, and once you do, they will likely love it. This will all be covered below.
Update: I recently read an article about swimming with your dog outdoors otherwise known as wild-swimming. I thought the article made some excellent points and I highly recommend checking it out before venturing off to the coastline or local lake with your husky.
Why Are Huskies Afraid Of Water?
If you’re a Husky owner, you’ve probably already asked this a few times!
Commonly, Huskies display some level of fear of water, and this can be explained fairly easily.
Why are Huskies afraid of water?
For thousands of years Huskies never learned how to swim, nor did they experience or encounter bodies of water. Other than when drinking it, water is mostly unknown to them and for Huskies, it’s natural instinct to be hesitant or afraid of bodies of water.
Just like us, if you know of someone who cannot swim, despite them already knowing what the ocean is, they are still typically afraid of going near or in the ocean. This is basic survival instincts that affect us and our Huskies.
How to Teach Your Husky to Swim
This may prove to be difficult at first, but if you follow some simple steps, your Husky will be swimming in no time.
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One important thing you must make sure is that your Husky starts off by wearing a doggy lifejacket. This will allow them to feel comfortable and will keep them safe during the process.
There are many great inexpensive options on Amazon, this is one particularly recommended by other owners: Outward Hound Dawson Dog Life Jacket
Teaching Your Husky to Swim: 4 Simple Steps
Before steaming in, it’s best to spend a little time around the pool allowing your Husky to get used to the water they will soon be getting in.
⭐ Step 1) After your Husky has their lifejacket securely on, start at the shallow end and encourage your Husky to come with you. Wait for them there and help them in. Do not force anything, you don’t want your Husky to build negative associations.
⭐ Step 2) It’s likely your Husky will splash around in the beginning and come to you, that’s ok. Use one hand to support their chest or hold their lifejacket and verbally reassure them.
⭐ Step 3) Make sure your Husky is using all four legs to swim. If you notice only the front two paddling, gently touch their back legs and this should trigger them to start moving.
⭐ Step 4) Let them get used to this activity, then get out of the pool. Reward them and make a fuss after it’s all over.
Remember, although your Husky doesn’t realize, they can actually swim, it’s instinctual and your Husky will not sink, especially with the lifejacket.
Encouraging Your Husky to Enjoy Swimming
It’s important that your Husky gets used to water early on as it could end up being problematic for you as the owner.
Throughout walks or hikes, there could be a river or stream you need to cross. On top of this, bath time is another important time to get wet and it’s much easier if your Husky enjoys this moment rather than fearing it.
Here are some ways you can start introducing water if your Husky is a little afraid:
1) Get a paddling pool
Nows the time to get a paddling pool, even if you don’t have kids! This is a great way to initially introduce your Husky to a body of water.
Only on a hot summer day do this (a cold wet husky is not a happy husky). Fill up the pool but keep it VERY shallow, just past your ankles is enough. Your Husky will be more inclined to investigate if they only sense a shallow amount. This is instinctual and your Husky will know the difference between deep and shallow water.
2) Don’t use super cold water
This goes for the paddling pool and any other time you introduce your Husky to water, like bathing or with the shower.
It’s more pleasant for your Husky if the water is warm or room temperature. Huskies are great at handling the cold, but this is when they’re dry! Your Husky will build a positive association with water if they aren’t shocked by the temperature.
3) Get in the water yourself
Time for some fun. This works best for the paddling pool. After filling the pool up to your ankles, throw a few boiling kettles of water in there to raise the temperature up. Now YOU need to get in. This will likely blow your Husky’s mind and will excite them dramatically.
Huskies love to follow their owners and you being in the pool yourself will allow your Husky to feel confident and safe and with a little encouragement, they will likely enter.
Once inside, reassure your Husky and it helps to bring in their favorite toy to distract them from the fact they’re standing in water. With time, your Husky will become used to the water.
If you aren’t somewhere where you can use this paddling pool method. Then you’ll have to introduce them in a slightly different way.
- Try filling up a bowl or bucket of warm water, and bring it outside with your Husky.
- Have them close to you playing with their favorite toy.
- Gently pour some of the water on their back. They may initially panic, this is normal. Just reassure them and distract them again with their toy.
- Repeat this process a few more times then stop.
By distracting your Husky with their toy, you are diverting their attention away from the water, which they supposedly do not like. With time, your Husky will become used to water without really even realizing it.
It’s important you only do this a few times as you don’t want your Husky to become fed up or irritated. This will lead to negative associations with water.
Things Not to Do When Teaching Your Husky to Swim:
Knowing what to do is of course very important, but it’s equally important to be aware of things you should not be doing. Here are a few:
- Do not stay too long in the water. It’s a new experience for your Husky and it should be kept short. Huskies can also get cold quickly when in water.
- Do not let your Husky get too tired. If they appear to be getting tired or fatigued, stop the activity for today and resume another day.
- Do not leave your Husky unattended. Until your Husky is a competent swimmer and at least 1 year old (when they’re considered an adult) never let your Husky go unattended around bodies of water.
Other Key Points to Remember:
Here are some important things to remember while teaching your Husky how to swim:
- You must be patient. go slowly and do not force your Husky to get in the water.
- Always wash your Husky off after swimming. Whether you do this in a pool with chlorine or a lake it’s important to rinse off any dirt or chemicals.
- Dry your Husky. It’s important that after rinsing, you try to dry your Husky as much as possible. This will avoid getting cold and will prevent skin issues.
A popular question we receive from this article is “Can Huskies swim in chlorinated pools?” The answer is yes they can and it’s the perfect environment to teach your Husky to swim. You must rinse them off after each time, and then dry them.
Here’s a great video that demonstrates a great way to manage your Husky puppy in the pool safely.
Hopefully, after reading this article you have an actionable plan to help your Husky get used to the water, and eventually learn to swim.
Remember that safety is the most important part of this process. Go slowly and safely.
If you have any helpful comments about your Husky learning how to swim, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!
Other Articles to Check Out:
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The Difference Between Alaskan and Siberian Huskies
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If you would like to support My Happy Husky directly and have an easy to read and entertaining guide for training your husky puppy, check out my book The Husky Puppy Handbook on Amazon. All purchases are greatly appreciated.
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